Photo courtesy Rouleur Brewing
Planned to celebrate a new brewery lease, Rouleur released Onward and Upward as twists on its most popular beers. Onward is Dopeur IPA with Endo IPA's dry hop additions, Upward is Endo with Dopeur's dry hops.
When Carlsbad beer brand Rouleur Brewing Company opened its doors in spring 2017, owner and brewer Rawley Macias shared three goals he wanted his business to meet by the end of its third year. And Rouleur was on track to meet them all, as its third anniversary approached. In March.
5840 El Camino Real #101, Carlsbad
As with everyone else’s, Rouleur’s spring plans were derailed by the arrival of a global pandemic. However, despite gloom hanging over the industry, Macias has found a way to keep his business on schedule, thanks to agile thinking.
Goal one was to package beer for retail distribution. Rouleur cans are now found in beer shops throughout North County, plus BevMo stores and Trader Joe’s, where they move so fast it’s rare to find a can more than ten days old. Having moved here from San Luis Obispo, Macias was an unknown entity when he launched Rouleur, and struggled early to market his beers. However, positive word of mouth prevailed, and Rouleur beers have found a loyal fan base, including its Endo west coast IPA and the must-try Dopeur juicy IPA.
Goal two was to maximize brewing capacity, which has been met and exceeded. As more fans caught on to its brews’ quality, Rouleur began to push the capacity of its 10-barrel brewhouse, and last June it added two, 20-barrel fermenters. Already, Macias is looking to go bigger. “As of right now we’re maxed out,” he says, “we can’t make a single drop more.” Based on pre-covid demand, Rouleur was on pace to produce 2000 barrels of beer this year, doubling last year’s output.
Goal three for Rouleur was to build its own brewery, and this is where the coronavirus really complicated things. Macias launched the business in one of the turn-key brewhouses built by real estate company H.G. Fenton as part of its Brewery Igniter program, which has established similar turn-key systems in Miramar and North Park.
Minus the new 20-barrel fermenters, Brewery Igniter has owned the brewhouse Rouleur brews with, so Rouleur has been leasing both the property and brewing equipment. In exchange for monthly rent, Brewery Igniter tenants are able to launch their brands while avoiding massive start-up costs and long-term debt obligations.
“It’s meant to be a start-up location,” explains Macias, “To get your brand off the ground and, ideally move on.” We’ve seen a recent example of this, with Eppig Brewing, which started out as a North Park Brewery Igniter tenant before growing into its own Vista brewery this fall.
When March began, Rouleur was likewise ready to move on. “We wanted to build our own brewery,” Macias tells me, and following an 18-month search, “we found a brand new building in Carlsbad.” The 10,000-square-foot property is roughly half a mile from Rouleur’s current space on El Camino Real. Building a brewhouse in San Diego can costs millions, so Macias would have had to forfeit Rouleur equity in order to borrow funds. He had two lenders lined up, and was finalizing details on a lease, hoping to open the new brewery by end of year.
Then the world stopped due to the pandemic, and his lenders backed out. There would be no new Rouleur brewery.
However, the outlook wasn’t any sunnier for the Brewery Igniter program. In the three years Rouleur has been leasing its brewing suite, two other tenants, Wiseguy Brewing and Papa Marce’s Cerveceria, have opened and closed in the suite next door. Had Rouleur succeeded in moving out, both turn-key brewhouses would most likely sit empty while a struggling economy forestalled new brewery openings.
So Macias went to H.G. Fenton with a creative proposal, and Fenton accepted. Rouleur would buy the brewing equipment it’s already been leasing, and take over both suites. “We’re going to blow down the wall and take on a standard lease,” Macias has announced, “It’s no longer Brewery Igniter.”
While Fenton will take out the brewing equipment previously used by Wiseguy and Papa Marce’s, Rouleur will inherit a space pre-configured for brewery expansion, including drainage requirements, etc. Macias plans to add 40-barrel fermenters, which he expects will increase annual capacity to 8000 barrels. That and a new canning line will increase Rouleur availability outside of North County. He will take down a wall to double the size of Rouleur’s tasting room — a pressing need given current social distancing guidelines.
Rather than a one-year Brewery Igniter lease, Rouleur is now committed to five years at this location, and while Macias declines to discuss specific numbers, he does say Rouleur’s monthly rent for the combined suites will be “significantly lower” than he’s been paying for a single turn-key suite. While he won’t have the square footage or amenities he’d envisioned for his new brewery, the new agreement allows him to expand Rouleur without giving up equity and without taking on long term debt. It’s a rare win for a San Diego brewery owner during these unprecedented times, and perhaps the best outcome that could be expected.
“It’s not our dream,” says Macias, “but I think it’s the right thing, right now.”