Downtown Magnolia tribute

Field folks reveal plans for new Gaslamp brewpub inspired by SF's Magnolia

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was San Diego Beer Week, a 10-day fermentation fete made up of hundreds of individual yet significant events. Something that large and magnificent deserves a food-and-beer journalist’s full attention. How could I not devote the space allotted by The San Diego Reader to giving readers the inside scoop on some of the finest events going on and really getting into the nitty-gritty about our local breweries?

Simple answer—I couldn’t. It was my duty and, like all things edible and quaffable in San Diego (particular those built on hops, malt, water, and yeast), I took it very seriously. Still, as the weeks of coverage I provided rolled along, I felt pangs of withdrawal from what it is I really enjoy about writing: reporting.

Over the past several weeks, there have been tons of new and emerging businesses and San Diego-based beer developments that I’ve unearthed, but because of Beer Week, I was unable to disclose them. Some of them are huge and would have gotten buried beneath the onslaught of Beer Week info. So, I kept that stuff under wraps, holding out for this moment where, finally, I am able to return to the everyday pace of a workday not awash in pale ale, porter, and IPA. Now, I’m happy to get back in the swing of things. Here’s a nice little local beer nugget to kick things off.

Daniel and Edna Drayne, the owners of The Field (544 Fifth Avenue, Downtown), the long popular Irish pub in the southwest expanses of the Gaslamp Quarter, are working on opening up a second business. No, not a center for shepherd’s pie, lamb stew, Guinness, and Harp. This one’s going to be a brewpub. For those unfamiliar with the term, a brewpub is a dining establishment with an on-site brewhouse. High profile local examples include Rock Bottom Brewery & Restaurant, San Diego Brewing Company, and, of course, the famous Karl Strauss Brewing Company and Pizza Port chains.

But what do these folks from The Field know about brewing? Good question. At least we know there are minds behind the operation that have been capable of keeping an Irish pub open and well patronized in a part of town awash with nearly identical bar-restaurants for many years. That brand of business savvy should give them a leg-up since brewpubs are, at their core, restaurants. This one will be modeled after a certain brewpub in San Francisco called Magnolia.

Earlier this year, after deciding to take my business elsewhere during my much publicized excursion to San Francisco’s infamous craft beer bar, Toronado, I walked just under a mile up Haight Street to Magnolia Pub and Brewery, took a seat and discovered a lovely place that made me happy I hadn’t wasted another second at my first stop. Magnolia is a brilliant brewpub that was made all the better by the fact that, during my visit, it was San Francisco Beer Week.

I spent over an hour there, sampling the quality beers they produced on-premise in tandem with a food menu that provided artfully prepared, innovative small plates built around seasonal produce and a wide-ranging array of proteins both common and rare. The only reason I left was to have dinner at San Fran’s much celebrated craft beer-focused restaurant, The Monk’s Kettle. My meal there was rather good, but when I go back, I intend to skip other venues and devote an entire night or two to Magnolia.

I’m pleased to hear someone is as taken with that first-rate operation as I was and is doing their best to bring something like it to San Diego. When they do, it will be housed…well, in a house. The white domicile-turned-brewpub will be located at the intersection of Ninth Avenue and Island Avenue in the East Village. Once open, it will operate under the name Half Door Brewing Company. The owners are currently interviewing chefs, whose names I have sworn to keep under my hat for now. What I can say is that they include reputable, farm-to-tablers I’d be pleased to see take the helm. This will certainly be a lead I continue to explore as it develops into something real.

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