Back in 2006, when John Scheri first moved to Oceanside, he found quite a different beer scene than the one he'd just left in his native New Jersey. The former auto mechanic has been brewing at home since 1992, but he’d never even heard about a homebrewing contest before the move west. "I started entering, and then ribbons started coming in," he recalls. So, eight years ago, he and his wife Kathy decided to get into the beer business.
"My thought was to start out on home-brew scale and have a small place," Scheri says. "Just a little something to get into the business." He envisioned a slight upgrade over his hobby rig — maybe a three-barrel system in a 50-square-foot space that he could work nights and weekends. "I thought that since I was able to keep my day-job that there wouldn't be a big financial burden on us to keep the brewery going."
An injury forced Scheri to put that project on hold, and in the time since, he and Kathy watched San Diego's beer market grow exponentially. Then they started to think bigger. They took a few business classes, crunched some numbers, and launched Midnight Jack Brewing Company in March with a 15-barrel, 6000-square-foot brewhouse in Oceanside.
The vast tasting room sits atop a west-facing facing bluff about four miles from the coast. The large industrial park space features a long bar, picnic-table seating, skylights, and windows, with games to play and plenty of space to welcome children and dogs. Since its soft opening in March, the Scheris' say word-of-mouth has made Midnight Jack a regular after-work destination for employees in the area's surrounding business parks.
Kathy has noticed a lot of repeat customers working their way through everything on the tasting room's 14 taps (3 nitro), and asking if there's anything new. "They're constantly looking for a rotation," she says, noting the brewery is happy to oblige. "Every time they walk through the door there's a surprise."
That's because John likes to spend time getting creative on his ten-gallon pilot system. Without using extracts, he's recently produced small batches of s'mores flavored stout, a toasted-coconut porter, and IPAs made with hops he can't get in large quantities, including Azacca and Kohatu varieties. One small-batch beer has already proven popular enough to move into regular rotation — customers have come back asking for more of a hoppy wheat beer Scheri calls Tropoweizen.
3801 Oceanic Drive, Oceanside
Midnight Jack is named for Scheri's grandfather, who, family lore suggests, ran an underground brewery during Prohibition. The brewery has remained in soft-open mode since March but has plans to grand open July 4th weekend with 28 taps, taking advantage of the new state law allowing breweries to serve beer during special events in their parking lots. Since theirs faces the coast, it will have a clear view of Oceanside's fireworks show.