Three years almost to the day after brewing its first beer in North Park, Eppig Brewing officially became a North County brewery this month, producing the first batch at its new brewhouse and headquarters in Vista.
Eppig launched in one of three turnkey brewhouses local real estate company HG Fenton built on North Park’s El Cajon Boulevard under its Brewery Igniter program. With its own Vista brewery now open for business, Eppig Brewing will leave North Park by the end of the year. In doing so it will triple its brewing capacity.
Not counting 1200 feet of outdoor seating, the Vista taproom itself is roughly the size of the entire brewery suite in North Park. So is Eppig’s new cold box, and so is its forthcoming events space, being built to resemble a German beer hall. The biggest surprise about the new location isn’t that Eppig made the move from San Diego’s urban core to the southwesternmost corner of Vista, it’s that it achieved this growth at equivalent monthly operating costs.
“We went from 1800 square feet to 16 thousand square feet,” says Eppig cofounder Todd Warshaw, “we’re not paying nine times more to be here. We’re paying just a little bit more.”
Since Fenton built and owned the property and brewing equipment, Brewery Igniter’s brewhouses come with steep rents. They were designed to be small brewery incubators, and Eppig’s move would appear to be proof of concept.
However, it may not have happened at all if Eppig hadn’t already made a move outside the North Park space, to open a waterfront taproom and beer garden in Shelter Island, Point Loma.
Eppig was already looking at new potential brewhouse locations when it opened in Shelter Island early last year, existing production and sales numbers weren’t enough to secure a loan. However, the waterfront location quickly became a neighborhood draw among locals, plus tourists staying in area hotels. “In just a few months,” Warshaw says, “the Point Loma revenue numbers impressed [bankers] enough that they were willing to work with us on this whole project.”
In the meantime, Eppig had to look elsewhere to keep up with demand for its top selling beer. “For the past year, we were contract brewing our 10:45 to Denver IPA,” says co-founder Stephanie Eppig, “because it could be in three of our five tanks in North Park and it wouldn’t be enough.”
Contract brewed and canned at AleSmith, production of that IPA and Eppig’s entire portfolio now moves to Vista, where additional beers, including Eppig’s highly sought lagers, may also soon show up in cans.
Moving to Vista, Eppig, Warshaw and their brewing partners, Clayton LeBlanc and Nathan Stephens, are excited about little things: having room to wash kegs or load in grain deliveries — elementary actions that became headaches in the cramped conditions in North Park. But they do credit the turnkey brewery opportunity for helping get them here, particularly when it came to timing.
Merely getting the Vista brewhouse online took almost a year, and they were able to make and sell beer the whole time. But mostly, they’re glad they were able to start a San Diego brewery at the crucial time they did. “We were brewery 130 or 131, and a few months later there were suddenly 153,” recalls Stephanie Eppig, “We were right at the beginning of that huge surge, and I feel like we were able to get in, get established, and make a name for ourselves... if we had had to wait another six months in construction or to finish our funding, I’m not sure if the success we’ve achieved would have been possible”