A mixed six pack of beers brewed and served at Kensington Brewing
It took nearly eight years and the impact of a pandemic, but Kensington Brewing Company now officially brews beer in its namesake neighborhood.
4067 Adams Avenue, San Diego
Founded in 2012, the nanobrewery spent years quietly making beer in Grantville warehouses, distributing small to restaurants and shops in and around Kensington. By 2015, founders Zack Knipe and Andy Rogers built out a small tasting room to host customers in their Grantville brewery. Three years ago, finally met the promise of their beer company’s name by opening a neighborhood taproom at 4067 Adams Avenue, in the heart of the community.
Though they ultimately stopped serving beers in Grantville, brewing operations continued at that location. But that changed this spring, with the arrival of the novel coronavirus.
When the shutdown began in March, Kensington put all its beers in cans, and its founders found themselves planning for an uncertain future. “We really thought critically about the pandemic and its potential to last a long time,” says Knipe. “We made the decision, if we were going to shut down, we needed to get small.”
The timing was right for the change: Kensington’s Grantville lease expired in May. They applied to the ABC to license their taproom for brewing, and moved the three-barrel operation to the back of the shop.
That’s just about the time breweries were allowed to resume serving beer, provided they served food. In that, Kensington met fortunate timing. While many San Diego breweries have had to scramble to team up with restaurants and food trucks to satisfy this requirement, Kensington had already spent much of last year working to install a restaurant component in its taproom: Detroit-style pizza maker Angry Petes.
“We had already done the little kitchen build-out, the health department had approved,” says Knipe, “We were really lucky there that we were set up with [Petes] already.”
With a little help from the Adams Avenue Business Association, Kensington brewing has been able to add sidewalk seating out front, supported by pizza slices and whole pies. The reduced capacity means sales are down, and the venue now closes on Mondays and Tuesdays for Knipe’s cousin and head brewer, Jeremy Knipe, to brew and can beers.
While Kensington the community continues to show up for pizza and beer, Kensington the brewery is using its canning equipment more than ever, offering six-packs and mixed six-packs showcasing a wider breadth of beers than it did pre-pandemic. Now, in addition to its flagship Apricot Wheat, Kensington IPA, Sussex Stout, and Pale Ale; Kensington sells cans of its Biona Fide IPA, Black IPA, Witbeer, and Belgian Golden Ale.
In the future, Zack Knipe and Andy Rogers tentatively plan to look for another off-site brewing space, presuming pandemic restrictions someday end, and weekly sales can return to pre-covid levels. But however long that may take, Kensington’s first brewery isn’t likely going anywhere. Knipe says, “I definitely think that, right now, we could stay exactly as we are and be fine.”