Groundswell Brewing Co., formerly of Grantville, has officially made the move to Santee. In mid-February, the beer company hosted an opening event at the 12,000-square-foot, 30-barrel brewhouse and tasting room left behind by Twisted Manzanita Ales & Spirits when it abruptly went out of business last March. While Groundswell's 1700-square-foot Grantville tasting room remains open and serving beer, that beer has been made in Santee since January 14.
6304 Riverdale Street, Grantville
The move represents massive growth for Groundswell, which quickly outgrew its original, three-barrel system after opening in 2013. "It's probably 20 times what we could produce in Grantville," says Groundswell president Kevin Rhodes. "We pretty much outgrew [that space] after three months."
Since that time, Groundswell contract brewed at other locations, including URBN Street Brewing, another East County brewery that closed last year. While Groundswell gained a new head brewer out of that relationship — URBN brewer Calloway Ryan now leads the Groundswell team — the situation underscored the fact that contract brewing only provided a temporary solution. "With this business," Rhodes says, "you have to have that capacity to grow into it. And if you don't have it, you get stifled and stuck in a space."
Consequently, his wife and business partner Christianne Penunuri started pursuing expansion opportunities, around the time Twisted Manzanita went into bankruptcy. In May, its lender took all of its brewery and distillery assets to auction — but none of it sold.
"We couldn't make the financing happen fast enough," says Penunuri, explaining why Groundswell didn't make a bid for the space at auction. However, they approached the bank afterwards and were able to make a deal for the equipment. The space was another matter.
"The vision of the landlord was, Buy the equipment and get out of here!" Penunuri recalls, noting the Santee property owner was leery of leasing to another brewery tenant. "The heavy lifting we had to do was convince the landlord that we would be good tenants and to give it a try again." They succeeded, and by avoiding having to move the equipment and construct a new space to support it, they potentially saved more than a year of construction costs and permitting headaches.
Instead, Groundswell Santee has hit the ground running. The company plans to begin releasing its core beers in cans by this summer, and Rhodes is working to secure a distribution deal to send beer out of San Diego. It's also expanding its breadth of beer styles, hiring brewer Brent Donovan from Toolbox Brewing to help develop a sour and barrel program.
Groundswell also took possession of the adjacent 3000-square-foot suite where Twisted Manzanita established a craft distillery. Rhodes says plans for the still remain up in the air — he may launch a joint venture, work with someone else on an alternating proprietorship, or sell it outright. His first order of business is to get his new brewery firing on all cylinders.
"It was bigger than we thought we needed," Rhodes concludes, "but it's given us a plateau to grow for five to ten years."