San Diego Brewing Co. has the front suite — facing El Cajon Blvd. — in the Craft by Brewery Igniter complex in North Park.
The latest brewery to open in North Park represents one of the city's oldest brewing companies. San Diego Brewing Co. has been operating as a brewpub in Grantville since 1993, and its sister restaurant, Mira Mesa's Callahan's Pub & Brewery even longer. "We actually brewed there in 1990 originally," recalls Lee Doxtader, who cofounded both restaurants with business partner Scott Stamp. "We were the second brewery in town after Karl Strauss."
8111 Mira Mesa Boulevard, San Diego
After 23 years adhering to a brewpub model, San Diego Brewing has finally ventured outside of the restaurant business to open a dedicated production brewery and tasting room. It soft-opened January 4th in Craft by Brewery Igniter, the three-suite turn-key brewhouse complex that is also home to Eppig Brewing and the soon-to-open Pariah Brewing Co. Although San Diego Brewing is far from a newcomer to the local brewing scene like its neighbors, this expansion clearly signals a new direction for the longstanding business.
10450 Friars Road, San Diego
"We're originally restaurateurs," Doxtader says, noting that, when they launched their businesses in the early 1990s, serving beer in tasting rooms wasn't the standard. "It was always a brewpub," he recalls. "Nobody was doing what's being done everywhere now in town. This model hadn't really been established, so we went along the 'regular' lines of a brewpub."
23-year-old San Diego Brewing offers a well-designed space, despite being new to the dedicated tasting-room model.
Head brewer Jeff Drum has made the move from the brewpub's seven-barrel brewhouse to brew in North Park's brand new ten-barrel system. "It's much more efficient," Drum says. "It's quieter — I like that." Drum will produce the company's core beers on the new system, including the brewpub's best sellers: San Diego Amber and the San Diego IPA, a reigning gold-medal winner at the San Diego International Beer Competition.
Since the Callahan's brewhouse has been dormant for a few years, the Grantville brewpub has been providing beer to both restaurants, where production has barely met demand. "Between Callahan's, SD Brewing Company, and even limited accounts, we would have a hard time keeping up," Drum adds, noting he's been producing about 750 barrels annually. "I could make 800 barrels and sell it right over the bar at those two places."
The expansion will free up beer for distribution to outside accounts while opening up the Grantville system to expand the brewery's offerings. Drum's longtime assistant brewer Jared Davis will take over there, reviving retired beers, like its hefeweizen, and introducing new styles, such as a weizenbock. In the meantime, Drum will have room to grow a barrel-aging program, and for his partner Cary DiNapoli to increase kombucha for kombucha production — served on draft, even on nitro, at the new location.
In such ways, Doxtader anticipates the move to North Park will test the waters for San Diego Brewing's growth, including eventual plans to bottle and can for retail distribution. "It enables us to try a few different things and see how it's going to work. The goal, if this all plays out, is to establish our own bigger facility, probably in more of a manufacturing area."
That said, the move is bolstered by decades of experience. "We've kind of been doing this for awhile," he notes, "so what we're doing is kind of a refinement of what we've been able to sell in the past."