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Alta Brewing's no-get-rich-quick scheme

"The focus is really just do killer beers, not reinvent the wheel."

Alta brewing's tasting room is dominated by this mural by local artist Gloria Muriel.
Alta brewing's tasting room is dominated by this mural by local artist Gloria Muriel.

New breweries in San Diego join a crowded field. With over 150 brewhouses at work in the county, there's a growing sense that the time has passed for startup breweries to achieve the scope of success enjoyed by Stone Brewing, Green Flash Brewing, and Ballast Point.

Place

Alta Brewing Company

1983 Julian Avenue, San Diego

That is, if they're in it for the money. That's less the case with Alta Brewing, which started pouring beer for the public in Logan Heights this week. According to brewer and cofounder Brett Stampf, Alta's business plan isn't about getting rich in beer.

"At some point I'd like to think I have enough money to have a sustainable lifestyle," he says, "but if I can maintain this existence for the rest of my life, I'm cool. I don't need to make a million bucks."

Stampf has worked in beer since 1995, including time brewing at Stone, Green Flash, and another craft-beer success story out of Delaware, Dogfish Head Brewery. However, whenever one of these companies made the leap from a small regional brewery into a large production facility, he decided to move on.

"I don't want to go corporate," he says. So, while Green Flash grew into a 250-barrel brewhouse in Mira Mesa, Stampf went a different way, moving on to brew on a ten-barrel system at La Jolla Brewing Company.

When he started working out a business plan for Alta more than two years ago, he reasoned that pursuing a business model that relies on distribution creates the need to expand wider while selling beer cheaper. He partnered up with John Bull, a general contractor who worked on La Jolla Brewing, as well as structural engineer Josh Gilko and architect Christopher Bittner; the group decided to focus on a neighborhood brewery model that means moving smaller volume at higher margins by selling beer directly to tasting-room customers.

"Someone's going to capture retail profitability, so why not us?" says Stampf. "Why not be in front of customers building our relationships? Selling kegs for 600 bucks instead of 200 through a distributor and running around, having a sales force, a larger footprint in the world."

That model meant opening in an urban neighborhood rather than an industrial park. "No, there's no culture, no art in places like that," Stampf says. "And down here there's all of that."

Built into a back corner of Logan Heights art gallery and events space Bread & Salt, Alta Brewing serves the resurgent community around adjacent Barrio Logan. The five-barrel brewhouse and breezy little taproom extends to an open lot behind the building that's tabbed for additional retail development.

While Alta Brewing hopes to expand into another neighborhood tasting room or two down the line, for now, Stampf says, "The focus is really just do killer beers, not reinvent the wheel."

Stampf adds that the five beers brewed for the August 8th opening — a stout, pale, brown, gold ale, and IPA — are meant "to capture as many palates in five glasses as possible."

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Alta brewing's tasting room is dominated by this mural by local artist Gloria Muriel.
Alta brewing's tasting room is dominated by this mural by local artist Gloria Muriel.

New breweries in San Diego join a crowded field. With over 150 brewhouses at work in the county, there's a growing sense that the time has passed for startup breweries to achieve the scope of success enjoyed by Stone Brewing, Green Flash Brewing, and Ballast Point.

Place

Alta Brewing Company

1983 Julian Avenue, San Diego

That is, if they're in it for the money. That's less the case with Alta Brewing, which started pouring beer for the public in Logan Heights this week. According to brewer and cofounder Brett Stampf, Alta's business plan isn't about getting rich in beer.

"At some point I'd like to think I have enough money to have a sustainable lifestyle," he says, "but if I can maintain this existence for the rest of my life, I'm cool. I don't need to make a million bucks."

Stampf has worked in beer since 1995, including time brewing at Stone, Green Flash, and another craft-beer success story out of Delaware, Dogfish Head Brewery. However, whenever one of these companies made the leap from a small regional brewery into a large production facility, he decided to move on.

"I don't want to go corporate," he says. So, while Green Flash grew into a 250-barrel brewhouse in Mira Mesa, Stampf went a different way, moving on to brew on a ten-barrel system at La Jolla Brewing Company.

When he started working out a business plan for Alta more than two years ago, he reasoned that pursuing a business model that relies on distribution creates the need to expand wider while selling beer cheaper. He partnered up with John Bull, a general contractor who worked on La Jolla Brewing, as well as structural engineer Josh Gilko and architect Christopher Bittner; the group decided to focus on a neighborhood brewery model that means moving smaller volume at higher margins by selling beer directly to tasting-room customers.

"Someone's going to capture retail profitability, so why not us?" says Stampf. "Why not be in front of customers building our relationships? Selling kegs for 600 bucks instead of 200 through a distributor and running around, having a sales force, a larger footprint in the world."

That model meant opening in an urban neighborhood rather than an industrial park. "No, there's no culture, no art in places like that," Stampf says. "And down here there's all of that."

Built into a back corner of Logan Heights art gallery and events space Bread & Salt, Alta Brewing serves the resurgent community around adjacent Barrio Logan. The five-barrel brewhouse and breezy little taproom extends to an open lot behind the building that's tabbed for additional retail development.

While Alta Brewing hopes to expand into another neighborhood tasting room or two down the line, for now, Stampf says, "The focus is really just do killer beers, not reinvent the wheel."

Stampf adds that the five beers brewed for the August 8th opening — a stout, pale, brown, gold ale, and IPA — are meant "to capture as many palates in five glasses as possible."

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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