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Skating, surfing, hot-rodding, and beer

Beach Grease plants beer brand at former SpecHops brewhouse

Vintage cars and surfboards have a place in the Beach Grease tasting room
Vintage cars and surfboards have a place in the Beach Grease tasting room

"We're open!"

So shouted a tasting room employee of Beach Grease Beer Co. at noon, Saturday, March 10th as the new beer company opened for business in Vista. A hint of surprise could almost be detected in his shout. This was the rare craft beer tasting room that opened far ahead of schedule.

James Banuelos (third from right) and the Beach Grease team on opening day (photo courtesy Beach Grease Beer Co.)
Place

Beach Grease Beer Co.

1280 Activity Drive, Vista

Beach Grease beers have actually been turning up at about 80 local accounts since November, but they were not brewed in Vista. Rather, the company launched with 120 barrels of IPA and 60 barrels of pilsner, each contract brewed at Mission Brewery in San Diego's East Village.

Place

Mission Brewery

1441 L Street, San Diego

Beach Grease founder James Banuelos had planned to continue making beer with the brewers at Mission for another year, while building out a small, 5 barrel brewhouse at a different location in Vista. However, the abrupt closing of SpecHops brewery at the end of last year left its 6500 square foot, 15 barrel steam-driven brewhouse and tasting room vacant. When it went on the market, Banuelos and two silent partners embraced the turnkey opportunity.

Though he declined to reveal how much Beach Grease paid, Banuelos estimated the brewhouse purchase cost about ten times what he would have spent on a smaller rig. Nevertheless, "I'll say it was an all-cash deal, and it was at a great discount." Due to the brewery's size, and the fact it was designed with room to add production capacity, the investment immediately jumps Beach Grease from being a virtual brewery to one poised to grow. "We fast tracked the success of the company by at least two years," he said.

Originally from Santa Cruz, Bunuelos moved to San Diego at 18, and wasted little time establishing a career as an entrepreneur and occasional event producer.

The car enthusiast co-owned a local rims shop in his late teens, and has since launched several lifestyle apparel brands, most notably Us Vs. Them, which is licensed by longtime surf brand Stüssy. Meanwhile, his branding design firm, Big Like Giants, has worked with both surf and skate brands, and what Banuelos termed "big beer companies," though nondisclosure agreements prevent him from revealing which ones.

Though he never brewed prior to launching Beach Grease, Banuelos views beer as part of the Southern California culture he's channeled into his previous work. "I'm trying to create an ambiance and environment that correlates to my West Coast roots," he said, "skateboarding, surfing, hot rodding, custom cars, tattooing. All the stuff that I thought was cool growing up, and still love."

Parked inside the brewery for the Beach Grease opening was a vintage car and custom chopper, while a quiver of surfboards were lined up overlooking the bar. Only the two original beers were pouring, but Banuelos reported two new brews were in the tanks: a hoppy pale ale and a hazy IPA.

To that end, Beach Grease recently hired a local brewer to develop recipes and lead the brewhouse — though Banuelos won't reveal who for another few weeks.

However, there's little doubt Beach Grease is fully underway in Vista. Banuelos looks forward to hosting art shows and acquiring a cabaret license to feature live music. And as the brand grows over the next couple years he plans to open additional tasting rooms within beach communities between Pacific Beach and Oceanside.

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Vintage cars and surfboards have a place in the Beach Grease tasting room
Vintage cars and surfboards have a place in the Beach Grease tasting room

"We're open!"

So shouted a tasting room employee of Beach Grease Beer Co. at noon, Saturday, March 10th as the new beer company opened for business in Vista. A hint of surprise could almost be detected in his shout. This was the rare craft beer tasting room that opened far ahead of schedule.

James Banuelos (third from right) and the Beach Grease team on opening day (photo courtesy Beach Grease Beer Co.)
Place

Beach Grease Beer Co.

1280 Activity Drive, Vista

Beach Grease beers have actually been turning up at about 80 local accounts since November, but they were not brewed in Vista. Rather, the company launched with 120 barrels of IPA and 60 barrels of pilsner, each contract brewed at Mission Brewery in San Diego's East Village.

Place

Mission Brewery

1441 L Street, San Diego

Beach Grease founder James Banuelos had planned to continue making beer with the brewers at Mission for another year, while building out a small, 5 barrel brewhouse at a different location in Vista. However, the abrupt closing of SpecHops brewery at the end of last year left its 6500 square foot, 15 barrel steam-driven brewhouse and tasting room vacant. When it went on the market, Banuelos and two silent partners embraced the turnkey opportunity.

Though he declined to reveal how much Beach Grease paid, Banuelos estimated the brewhouse purchase cost about ten times what he would have spent on a smaller rig. Nevertheless, "I'll say it was an all-cash deal, and it was at a great discount." Due to the brewery's size, and the fact it was designed with room to add production capacity, the investment immediately jumps Beach Grease from being a virtual brewery to one poised to grow. "We fast tracked the success of the company by at least two years," he said.

Originally from Santa Cruz, Bunuelos moved to San Diego at 18, and wasted little time establishing a career as an entrepreneur and occasional event producer.

The car enthusiast co-owned a local rims shop in his late teens, and has since launched several lifestyle apparel brands, most notably Us Vs. Them, which is licensed by longtime surf brand Stüssy. Meanwhile, his branding design firm, Big Like Giants, has worked with both surf and skate brands, and what Banuelos termed "big beer companies," though nondisclosure agreements prevent him from revealing which ones.

Though he never brewed prior to launching Beach Grease, Banuelos views beer as part of the Southern California culture he's channeled into his previous work. "I'm trying to create an ambiance and environment that correlates to my West Coast roots," he said, "skateboarding, surfing, hot rodding, custom cars, tattooing. All the stuff that I thought was cool growing up, and still love."

Parked inside the brewery for the Beach Grease opening was a vintage car and custom chopper, while a quiver of surfboards were lined up overlooking the bar. Only the two original beers were pouring, but Banuelos reported two new brews were in the tanks: a hoppy pale ale and a hazy IPA.

To that end, Beach Grease recently hired a local brewer to develop recipes and lead the brewhouse — though Banuelos won't reveal who for another few weeks.

However, there's little doubt Beach Grease is fully underway in Vista. Banuelos looks forward to hosting art shows and acquiring a cabaret license to feature live music. And as the brand grows over the next couple years he plans to open additional tasting rooms within beach communities between Pacific Beach and Oceanside.

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