The Preston's Ginger beer taproom serves tasters, bottles, and growlers of non-alcoholic ginger brew.
Beer and booze tasting rooms are responsible for turning an obscure hilltop of Miramar warehouse suites into the small business cooperative dubbed Miralani Makers District. So when visitors see the signs for Preston’s Ginger Beer, the district’s newest taproom, it’s understandable if they walk in thinking it’s an alcoholic ginger brew.
8680 Miralani Drive suite 126, San Diego
“They do,” remarks namesake owner and operator, Harry Preston, though he points out most stick around a while to relax, try some ginger beer, and maybe sober up a bit. “They just come in and do a reboot,” he says with a laugh.
Technically, there is a tiny amount of alcohol in his ginger beer, though at less than half a percent, it’s negligible enough to qualify Preston’s Ginger Beer as a soft drink. However, this is a brewed product, containing esters and other fermented flavors that distinguishes it from most national ginger beer brands found on store shelves. “A lot of the ginger beer companies out there, they don’t ferment,” Preston explains, “They add ginger juice to soda water. We actually ferment our ginger beer. It’s ginger beer, not ginger soda.”
An avid skateboarder and mountain biker, Preston first traveled to San Diego from Johannesburg to explore the local skating scene, and wound up meeting a local woman in Ocean Beach. They eventually married, settled here, and started a family. And family is what started him brewing ginger beer in 2013. “It all started off with my daughter,” he says. When she developed a taste for the stuff, it reminded him of someone. “My grandmother used to make ginger beer in South Africa.” He got her recipe, and started tinkering with it at home. “Then I had friends come by asking for ginger beer for their weddings, and events,” he recalls, “It just kind of snowballed.”
In 2014, he started the business part time, scaling down the sugars in his grandmother’s recipe to produce a drier brew for a more modern palate. He sources all organic ingredients, including ginger root, lemons, turbinado, and cane sugar, and brews with reverse osmosis filtered water to create as clean a beverage as possible. Until recently, Preston’s produced 15-gallon batches out of a commercial kitchen in Mira Mesa, selling it in hand-filled bottles to local shops, bars, and Jimbo’s grocery stores. By moving into its own dedicated brewery in Miralani, it can now brew in a 5-barrel tank, scaling up production enough to meet rising demand. Beginning this week, for example, bottles of Preston’s Ginger may now be found in Gelson’s Markets: 27 locations throughout Southern California.
But Harry Preston’s favorite part about investing in a brewery has been opening a taproom. “We had a place to produce it, but no one could really come and see and hang out and talk to us about the ginger beer,” he says. It’s a simple space, with reclaimed wood behind the bar, and a small lounge area in the corner, but like the adult beverage businesses of Miralani, it provides an affable environment where people talk about the flavors in their brews.
Customer interaction give Preston direct feedback as he experiments with brewing flavored ginger beers, such as blood orange mint, honey lavender, a surprisingly well-rounded fig and honey. He says customers have returned to buy growlers of an aromatic passionfruit ginger beer, and he’s currently experimenting with additions including CBD, pineapple, and hops. He already has plans for a winter seasonal featuring cinnamon, clove, and vanilla.
He makes ginger beer mocktails to keep it fun. Though, this being Miralani, one needn’t go far to find a boozy cocktail featuring Preston’s Ginger. Like several bartenders in town, the resident craft distillery has discovered how well the stuff works as a mixer. “We have Swinford Spirits right behind us,” says Preston, “and sometimes they come in for ginger beer to make mules.”