Pure Project's new taproom and patio, next to the Carlsbad Village train station
“Times are moving fast right now and we are adapting,” read the email from Pure Project. The Miramar-based brewery had originally reached out to let me know it would begin serving beers at its new satellite location, set in one of North County’s most desirable commercial districts: Carlsbad Village.
2825 State St., Carlsbad
Except, that had been late June, and by July 3, the governor was shutting things down again. Instead of pouring beers, the email informed me, Pure Project Carlsbad would open for take-out beers only.
Sudden changes have been par for the course, not only for Pure Project, but for all San Diego breweries, which have had to plan repeatedly for one contingency, only to see changing county restrictions mandate another.
Having made it through the costly permitting process required by the city of Carlsbad, Pure Project had originally planned on a spring opening for its stylish indoor-outdoor beer space, which sits on the short block between State Street and the Carlsbad Village train station. When it finally started to serve beer outside later in July, nearly two years had elapsed since it first signed the lease.
Normally a very organized business, prone to patient and detailed planning, Pure Project has been tested by a pandemic forcing it to improvise. When the pandemic first hit, the brewery initially doubled its canning output to account for the lost retail and distribution. It started shipping directly to consumers throughout California and Nevada. It signed a short-term lease to set up a beer garden in an empty lot across the street from its Bankers Hill location, used seasonally to sell Christmas Trees.
To get Carlsbad open, the brewery had to quickly team up with a pair of Village restaurants — Señor Grubby’s and El Puerto — to meet the county mandate that beer only be served with food. It trained staff to adhere to rigorous safety standards and converted a small parking lot to supplement the spatial distancing to limited patio seating.
“It’s a game of Tetris,” says cofounder Mat Robar, “always figuring out how to move things around and fit parties in the appropriate spaces.”
They face a similar state of flex with regard to packaging. Now that indoor dining has resumed, Pure Project’s Miramar tasting room has also resumed service. With three taprooms open, the brewery needs more beer in kegs, and less in cans. “It’s been a task to try and guess which percentages go into which formats,” says Robar.
Despite the relative turmoil, the steadily growing business has managed to stay on course in 2020. Between government assistance and the continued support of loyal fans, Pure Project looks to finish the year strong, and has even stayed with its mission to support environmental stewardship. In August, it partnered with the National Forest Foundation in its reforestation efforts, which seeks to replenish forests lost to wildfires, for example. The beer company has committed to planting 10,000 trees this year, with a goal to plant 150,000 by 2030.
Meanwhile, the new Carlsbad location will serve as a barrel aging facility to expand Pure Project’s sour ale production. This will be bolstered by the imminent installation of a 15-barrel wine cask being shipped form Italy’s Barolo wine region.
Robar says other long term plans may move forward, likely at a slower pace. Though, who knows what 2021 may bring? “Everything’s changed so quickly,” he says, “We have no idea what it’s going to look like in a month.