San Diego has surpassed the 140-brewery mark and seems likely to hit 150 by the end of the year. With that much competition, breweries have found creative ways to attract customers, ranging from hosting donut-beer pairings to yoga classes. Or, in a couple of cases, stand-up comedy.
3801 Oceanic Drive, Oceanside
"When you're off the beaten path you have to have stuff going on," says Mike Trogan, a partner in Midnight Jack Brewing Company. Barely a year in business in an east Oceanside business park, Midnight Jack draws a regular after-work crowd with its beer but routinely schedules activities in the evenings to keep up a crowd, including movie nights, live music, and DJs.
One of those DJs, Johnny Herrera, also books gigs as a stand-up comedian, and approached Midnight Jack about adding a comedy night to the calendar. Since December, he's staged a Hairlarious Comedy night every other Thursday at 7 p.m., booking a lineup of comics, including a recognizable headliner — comedians known from television shows and cable stand-up specials.
"I bring people who have been on Comedy Central, HBO, Showtime, Fox," Herrera says, joking that when the comics find themselves performing on the floor of a warehouse, inside a business park, they wonder, "What the hell? Am I here to perform, or am I here to work?"
However, he adds, "Once they see me warm up the crowd, they warm up to telling jokes inside a brewery…. It's a good crowd."
688 Marsat Court, Chula Vista
Midnight Jack wasn't the first to offer comedy nights. Fifty miles south, at the opposite end of the county, Chula Vista's Bay Bridge Brewing has hosted a weekly comedy night every Friday at 8 p.m. for the past year.
"People come for the show, and it's one of our most fun nights," says Bay Bridge co-owner Jim Shirey. His brewery also resides in a business park, and he says comedy has been a big evening draw, bringing in a mix of curious locals and comedy regulars.
The Bay Bridge night is staged by Comedy Heights, which has been producing stand-up comedy events around San Diego for the past six years, including a longtime Saturday-night show at Twiggs coffee shop in University Heights. Jim Shirey caught on to the idea of bringing in Comedy Heights due to a personal relationship.
"My wife used to do stand-up with this production company," he says, “so I hired them to put on the comedy show."
Comedians Al Gavi and Maria Herman produce and host the Comedy Heights shows, bringing fresh material each week to supplement a lineup of local comics, and an established headliner — also career comedians with their own TV stand-up specials, including guys like Mark Christopher Lawrence, Patrick Deguire, and recent winner of the Last Comic Standing television competition, K-von.
"We get a regular, packed audience," says Herman of the Bay Bridge show, noting that, as word has gotten out about the good humor of their no cover, no drink-minimum crowds, comedians throughout Southern California have sought time on the brewery stage.