Early September saw one of San Diego's most accomplished craft-beer talents open a new brewery in Carmel Mountain Ranch. Second Chance Beer Co. launched with a trio of beers made by Marty Mendiola, a credentialed 17-year brewing veteran with an impressive list of awards to his name, including a Brewer of the Year distinction at the Great American Beer Festival in 2013.
That was in the Brewpub Group category, part of a decade-plus run when Mendiola garnered a slew of medals working for Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, a national chain of brewpubs based in Denver. Mendiola started out as an assistant brewer with Rock Bottom in Denver upon completing the Master Brewers program at UC Davis. "Back then there weren't many brewing jobs," he says, "so you had to go wherever you could find a job. But I grew up in San Diego, so when a job in La Jolla came open, I was able to transfer, and I wound up staying there for 15 years."
Curtis Hawes also worked at the La Jolla restaurant as Assistant GM. He and Mendiola became friends and eventually joined forces to start Second Chance, where Hawes runs operations under the mantle Chief Tasting Officer. Hawes says the decision to open in the Rancho Bernardo area mostly had to do with the large space they found. "We looked at over 20 buildings," he says, "and at least eight of those were in the Miramar area."
15378 Avenue of Science #222, Carmel Mountain
However, none matched the scope of Second Chance's 12,000-square-foot space, which has plenty of room for a 30-barrel brew system and an eventual expansion as the business grows. Space is not something Mendiola's accustomed to coming from a brewpub environment, where he worked on the same manual brewing equipment the restaurant installed back in 1998. "To come here and have all variable speed pumps, variable speed cooling, a computer controlled panel," he says, "It's really a more sophisticated system."
Mendiola says he'll put that system to use, adding a new beer monthly, getting a roster of core and seasonal selections up to 15 or so, some of which will begin going out in 16-ounce cans by the end of the year. He'll also have the space to get deeper into barrel aging than he could before.
"I couldn't say enough good things about being a brewer for Rock Bottom," Mendiola says, "They really allow you to unleash your creativity and learn." However, he adds, "By 2009 I was, like, okay I've done hundreds of recipes, dozens of styles, I felt confident I could do this on my own."
In the Second Chance tasting room, visitors may notice repurposed barrel hoops and staves fashioned into lighting fixtures and a custom bar. Likewise, Mendiola's an experienced brewer with a renewed purpose: crafting beer to help his own business succeed. "When you get a second chance it's a fortunate occurrence," he says, "It's important to do something good with it."