When the Brew Project set up shop inside Mission Hills wine bar 57 Degrees in 2013, it became the first all-San Diego tap list in town. Now, Project cofounder Beau Schmitt has partnered with former Quality Social general manager Mike Sill to establish a new stand-alone Brew Project bar and restaurant.
3683 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest
Billed as "A San Diego brewery tour under one roof," the locals-only tap house aims to open in late September in a converted 110-year-old Hillcrest home that till recently housed R-Gang Eatery. The casual space will offer 24 rotating beer taps, including two nitro and two dedicated sour lines, plus a small, locals-only bottle shop.
Schmitt says Brew Project grew from a desire to find a county-deep selection in one place, particularly of smaller breweries with limited reach.
"There's 113 breweries in the county," Schmitt says, "and traditionally you'll see about 30 of them on draft everywhere — that's your Ballast Point, Karl Strauss, Stone, Green Flash, Coronado…and we'll carry [specialty releases] from them all the time…. But we also want to focus on the other 80 that you really don't see everywhere."
For example, a customer might expect to drink Nickel Beer Co. out of Julian, Aztec Brewing from Vista, and Otay Mesa's Border X in a session, without having to drive nearly 200 miles to do so.
The county's outer reaches are the limit. Temecula beers won't be offered, nor any from Tijuana, nor those made in the San Clemente brewhouse of local mainstay Pizza Port. Schmitt, who has become a local-beer expert since departing his job in finance three years ago, constantly navigates the county's breweries in search of "that one beer that really represents them well." He consults as a beer buyer for several restaurants, including the Gaslamp's Quad Alehouse, and maintains contact with nearly all of San Diego's beer companies, large and small.
Some lesser-known beers he recommends include Kali Kush, a wild sage pale ale from Oceanside's Breakwater Brewing, and Winning Chocolate Stout by Miramar's 2 Kids Brewing. He calls Pure and Simple IPA, by Sorrento Valley brewery New English, "one of the most underrated IPAs in the county" and says he likes to frequent Amplified Aleworks in Pacific Beach for the beer selection, food, and beachfront location.
Beer may be the main draw, but Sill has plans to feature music and other Hillcrest interests. Additional taps will serve red, white, and rosé wines, two types of kombucha, and a locally sourced cold-brew coffee. He's developing a cocktail program to highlight another local industry — spirits — including Henebery whiskey, Malahat rum, and a range of liquors from Ballast Point's distillery. The kitchen will serve a mix of California and Mexican — featuring "lots of avocados" — plus Sunday brunch playing NFL Package (without audio) on TVs throughout the restaurant, which will include an upstairs lounge and spacious patio overlooking Fifth Avenue.