Four New San Diego Breweries of Note
Ketch, Beach Grease, Helia and Papa Marce's occupy brand new spaces and location reboots in San Diego
Papa Marce's in Carlsbad is a cozy, comfortable place that features Mexican art and history | Photo: Bruce Glassman
The total brewery count in San Diego leveled off for a while at the beginning of 2018, while new breweries basically made up for losses of businesses that closed their doors. In the past few months, however, a small surge of new breweries opened, some of which have appropriated completely new spaces while others repurposed spaces that already had brewhouses and tasting rooms.
New breweries have recently opened in El Cajon, National City, Barrio Logan, San Marcos, Vista, Carlsbad, and Kearny Mesa. Here’s a quick rundown of four of those newbies, focused mostly in North County.
7889 Ostrow Street, Kearny Mesa
This small brewing concern and tasting room is owned by The Brigantine Company and is actually housed in a space that’s part of their corporate headquarters.
The tasting room is basic, functional, and cozy, with a simple but limited menu of beer-friendly items to choose from. Six Ketch beers are offered on tap, including an amber Vienna lager, a San Diego-style IPA, a chocolatey slightly sweet milk stout, a very tasty golden ale (Brig Brew), and a standout Kölsch (one of the best I’ve tasted recently).
The very reasonable pricing at Ketch is something to note (a pint of Brig Brew is $3 and a pint of Kölsch or Vienna lager is $4) as is the fact that they’re only open during the week—and only from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eventually, Ketch beers will be available at other Brig-owned ventures, but, for right now, if you want to get a taste of what’s brewing at Ketch, you’ll have to stop in for a weekday lunch or try to catch a tap at one of your local Brigantine restaurants.
Beach Grease Beer Co.
1280 Activity Drive, Vista
This ginormous space is the old SpecHops location, complete with the shiny, (relatively) new brewhouse and long wraparound tasting bar. The Beach Grease folks have given the airplane hangar-like room their own motorcycle-surf-racing vibe, but have retained the variety of tasting nooks and crannies—outdoor patio, indoor table, elbow bar, seated bar—that make this space particularly fun and versatile (along with the sports-arena-grade sound system that blasts the place with music).
The beer lineup is solid, offering a good selection of styles that include a pilsner and a bunch of nicely done hoppy beers. Oil & Water Black Lager is light and clean, but delivers very satisfying caramel, coffee, and chocolate flavors with a slight hop bite; Surf Reaper IPA stands out for its bold, up-front citrus character; and the Beer Savage collaboration, Cruisin’ for a Boozin’ IPA, is full-bodied and well balanced with a nice, hoppy bite on the finish.
Helia Brewing Company
1250 Keystone Way, Vista
This new tasting space in Vista is beautifully designed; the location comprises a variety of areas that accommodate both intimate conversation and large groups of revelers; there’s also ping-pong and other games, a chill outdoor patio, and various forms of comfy lounge seating. All these elements make Helia feel social and welcoming.
The initial tap lineup offers a variety of hop-centric brews, including two pale ales and two IPAs, along with a red ale, a golden ale, and a rich, toasty, porter.
Papa Marce's Cerveceria
5840 El Camino Real, Carlsbad
This new brewery has taken over the space that was previously Wiseguy (it’s the Brewery Igniter space that shares a wall with Rouleur).
The new owners—a duo who previously worked together at Indian Joe—have created a cozy, family-feeling space that highlights Mexican art and crafts and underscores the sense of artisan tradition that inspires the company.
Even though these Indian Joe alums have emulated some aspects of their previous employer—they have a large tap list board with a varied selection of accessible crowd-pleasing styles—they have, by and large, steered clear of beers that are highly flavored with extracts and candy-like ingredients and have opted instead to offer solid, well-made sours, IPAs, lagers, and dark beers that are more straightforward and less adorned.
A new brewery with a tap list as large as Papa Marce's is impressive, especially when the beers are good. Numerous kinds of sours are available (She’s a JamEater Blackberry Red Sour and Funk for Red October are standouts), as are a bunch of solid lagers (Papa Shaka Mexican Lager and Pilsner with a PassPort are super tasty), and a good variety of hoppy brews, including a richly flavored hazy IPA (Loop DeLupe) and a very well done brut IPA, which was a collaboration with Thr3e Punk Ales. There is, of course, also some glitz on the tasting board; I was particularly partial to the Cinnamon Toast Lunch Porter and the uniquely charming imperial agave ale called Agave Caliente, which clocks in at a cool 9 percent.