North Park's status as a beer hub gets a major boost in the next few months as a trio of turnkey breweries leasing from HG Fenton's Brewery Igniter program begin to go online. Three ten-barrel brewhouses have replaced stripper poles at the old Ten's Showclub location on El Cajon Boulevard, and the first opens to the public November 2nd.
3052 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite C, North Park
Eppig Brewing joins an incredibly prolific craft beer block. As Eppig cofounder Todd Warshaw points out, "Once this building fully opens, there will be ten tasting rooms within a quarter mile."
Technically, Eppig's a new brewery, but for a couple of reasons it doesn’t feel that way. First of all, the Eppig name revives a 19th-century New York brand, owing to the family history of Warshaw's wife, Stephanie Eppig. But moreso because the couple teamed up with a pair of brewers previously employed by one of San Diego's most successful beer businesses.
Back in late July, an exodus of top brass from Ballast Point overshadowed the departure of brewers Clayton LeBlanc and Nate Stephens. Ballast employees number 43 and 49, respectively, these guys were hired well before major expansions pushed the employee count over 700.
They met working on the bottling line before moving up into respective brewing positions: LeBlanc at Scripps Ranch, and Stephens experimenting with R&D brews at Ballast Point's Little Italy brewpub.
The timing of their departure from Ballast Point — the same week as head brewer Yuseff Cherney and founder Jack White left the company — was pure coincidence. They'd already agreed to take an ownership stake and control of the brewhouse at Eppig.
"We kind of saw the good and the pains that come from all that growth," LeBlanc says of the time at Ballast Point, "and always had an idea about what we would do if it was our own place."
Now at Eppig, he continues, "We're both on our hands and knees, hoses and stuff spread around, and it's hot and sweaty. It's literally the equivalent of a day we might have had [at Ballast Point], but in a sense, it's our sweat now."
"It is cool to have autonomy as far as everything that we are going to produce," echoes Stephens, though he's more accustomed to working a two–man brewhouse. "In Little Italy, half the time I was there it was just me."
Among hundreds of recipes Stephens developed for Ballast's pilot program were the original version of Mango Even Keel session ale, and a buzzed-about, nitro-poured, chocolate and beet-infused golden oatmeal stout called Red Velvet. He hasn't brought any of these recipes to Eppig, but he hasn't needed to. "I always feel like I can improve on something," he says, "so I wouldn't have anyway."
Instead, he and LeBlanc launch Eppig with a balance of crisp West Coast beers and traditional German styles that have its namesake family excited. "There hasn't been Eppig beer packaged and ready to serve in more than 80 years," Stephanie Eppig says. "That was crazy-special for us."