With the official opening of Chula Vista Brewery on May 5th, the City of Chula Vista finally has the central, Third Avenue brewery it's been hoping for, to help revitalize its downtown village.
294 3rd Avenue, Chula Vista
For brewery founders Tim and Dali Parker, the goal is a little simpler: open a brewery in their neighborhood. "We wanted something in our community," explains Tim Parker, a homebrewer who's been planning the brewery for three years. "We just felt like Chula Vista was missing something, and we wanted to bring it to the neighborhood."
The couple has been living in Chula Vista since 2003. They own property, raise kids, and cherish their ties to the community. "We're pretty much very involved," he says. "We don't ever plan on leaving."
It's a pretty strong sentiment. While Dali grew up locally, Tim moved to San Diego with the Navy, which he joined expressly to leave Chicago's notoriously dangerous South Side. "I was born and raised in the projects," he recalls. "I wanted to get away from that type of environment."
Parker remains on full-time active duty, 2 years shy of his 20-year pension. So while he had the location and the will to start a brewery, he needed an experienced head brewer to make it all come together. Ultimately, he managed to talk veteran brewer Russell Clements out of a self-imposed retirement.
Clements had paid his dues as part of Marty Mendiola's award-winning team at Rock Bottom's La Jolla brewpub, before being promoted to head brewer at Rock Bottom's thrice-as-busy San Jose location, where he had to work 60- to 80-hour weeks to keep up with demand.
Exhausted from that, he returned to San Diego and joined Ballast Point as it opened its 150-barrel Miramar production brewery, which tired him out for a different reason. "We brewed a lot of Sculpin," he recalls. "Then we started brewing a lot of Grapefruit Sculpin. And I realized that I wasn't a large production facility brewer."
He left when Constellation Brands bought the company and thought he was done making beer. "I got burnt out," he says, "so I took about a year off to spend time with my daughter and explore options other than brewing."
But when he met with Parker, he felt rejuvenated by the offer to enjoy creative freedom to make small-batch beers in a five-barrel brewhouse, in a family-friendly location, and still have quality time to be present as a dad. But, he adds, the appeal of working at a neighborhood brewery, in a previously underserved area, cinched it.
"The opportunity to come to Third Avenue in particular," Clements says, "was like a wide-open slate." He proudly notes his Ruby red ale (named for his daughter) was the first beer brewed on Third Avenue. However, while he plans to continue making it, the beer menu will usually adapt to local taste and feedback, rather than test-market beers for wide release.
Which jibes with the Parkers' vision. "I'm more focused on this community than the masses," Tim Parker says. "They've got other breweries that can do that."