It’s Friday night on Third Avenue in Chula Vista, and it’s no easy decision where I’m going to drink beer. Looking south from E Street, I see lots of activity, evidenced by a squadron of food trucks doing brisk business outside nearly every drinking establishment. As I cruise the block, all the craft beer hubs are brimming with quality brews and buzzing with that first night of the weekend energy. I could eeny-meeny-miny-mo, or just visit whichever one has Corazon de Torta parked out front.
I order a chipotle meatball torta from the food truck and do just that, stepping into Chula Vista Brewery. It’s a great call on both counts.
294 3rd Avenue, Chula Vista
The city’s namesake neighborhood brewery has barely been open 15 months, but early on its weekly Good Friday promotion effectively got this block party started. Each week, the brewery invites a resident DJ and the food truck, and a crowd shows up to clink glasses of house beers over a groovy, party tune soundtrack. The vibe is contagious. The music draws you in, and even as you leave it makes you want to keep the night going.
It helps that those beers have been made well from day one, an achievement that has not gone unnoticed outside of Chula.
During last year’s Great American Beer Festival, the small brewery was recognized by one of the nation’s largest craft brewers, Boston Beer Company, better known as the brewer of Sam Adams beers. It chose Chula Vista Brewery to participate in its annual “Brewing & Business Experienceship,” wherein experienced brewers, business, and marketing teams from the large brewery share advice and resources with the startup to help it grow.
A couple months ago, brewery co-founder Tim Parker and head brewer Russel Clements were invited to Boston to meet with Sam Adams founder Jim Koch and collaborate on a beer with its longtime brewer, David Grinnell. Clements reports the West Coast-style pale ale they brewed on Boston’s 20-barrel pilot system was based on the recipe for Chula Vista’s pale ale Beautiful View (the English translation of chula vista).
Two key differences were that the Boston version featured a proprietary Sam Adams yeast, and Galaxy hops. “I could never get my hands on any Galaxy hops,” Clements tells me. The current popularity and high price of the aromatic, tropically fruity hop varietal makes it tough for a brewery of Chula’s size to secure any at a reasonable cost. But Sam Adams has deeper pockets.
It’s too soon to tell if and when Sam Adams will reproduce the beer in a collaboration 12-pack, as it has with previous Experienceship winners. But, the original Beautiful View is usually available in Chula Vista, where I picked out the dank pale as part of a flight along with a quenching, dry farmhouse ale called Sexy Saison and the crushable, pilsner-inspired blonde ale, Guerita, consistently among the brewery’s top sellers.
I doubled back for more of the saison, a seasonal release in limited supply. But I couldn’t avoid trying the Humble IIPA. It’s much easier to drink than its immodest 9.5% alcohol content suggests, one reason customers are now limited to three 10-ounce pours.
It’s not the best beer for pacing yourself on a Friday night, or during the brewery’s other nightly events. But you may find plenty of quieter times to enjoy it: Chula Vista Brewery is open seven days a week beginning at noon.