|Now open at University & Ray Streets (1 block east of 30th Street) Historic North Park|
NORTH PARK BEER CO. DEBUTS
GUEST BLOG: From our media partner www.westcoastersd.com--This article has been more than three years coming, but finally—after much work from founder and (former) homebrewer-extraordinaire Kelsey McNair and his team—North Park Beer Co. (3038 University Avenue, North Park) is open to the public.
Installed in the much-renovated shell of a former mixed-martial-arts gymnasium, it offers a great deal of space. The 9,000-square-foot, two-story tasting room can handle 130 visitors on the first-floor and an additional 80 or so via an upstairs mezzanine. It’s a good thing, because NPBC has been the most buzzed about upcoming brewery project in San Diego for quite some time. It’s a sure bet it’ll be rather packed for the foreseeable future.
McNair’s goal is to brew to-style beers rather than envelope- and palate-pushing oddities.
On tap now is a balanced Red called Ray Street featuring plenty of malty toffee and caramely appeal, a Scottish ale that doesn’t rely on wee heaviness to deliver nice flavors (at under 4% alcohol-by-volume it comes in at the 70-schilling classification), a bittersweet and abundantly roasty stout called Beaufort Black, and a crisp and a citrusy pale ale. All four are well-made and what one would expect from such styles. Such straightforward traditionalism is refreshing in a day and age when so many are going against the grain (which, for the record, I have absolutely nothing against).
In addition to Hop Fu, McNair will soon debut a cream ale, rye-infused Pilsner, double IPA and imperial porter with Baltic characteristics (but no lagering). This will put more of the tasting-room’s 32 taps to use, but only six-to-eight of them will dispense house-beers at any one time. The rest of the taps will be hooked up to kegs of guest-beers and wine once Mastiff Sausage Company installs its on-site kitchen in a space with a walk-up order window located directly beneath the mezzanine. Their license will make it possible to serve beverages from outside entities and further enhance the come-one-come-all feel NPBC already features.
A sign above the front-door reads Ales & Lagers, Friends & Neighbors and the floor-plan of the craftsman-inspired, wood-paneled first-floor features seating geared toward the making of new acquaintances over a pint. Wooden chairs line windows looking out onto University, giving way to communal high-tables followed by table-seating like one would expect from a restaurant. Seating options include 100-year-old chairs brought in from an ancient library.
A long-bar resembling (to this casual observer) a judge’s bench is furnished with the largest, cushiest bar-stools anywhere. This is the sort of place where guests will feel encouraged to stick around, which seems important in North Park, the craft-beer crawl capital of San Diego. It takes a lot to extinguish an urbanite’s urge to move on, but tasty beer and the polished design of Basile Studio, which includes cool lamppost lighting with globe-like fixtures, just might do the trick.
The upstairs area is currently unfurnished and nondescript, but offers plenty of space for stand-up imbibing. The entire downstairs is visible from the mezzanine, which also features a crow’s-nest with a clear view of the 15-barrel brewhouse and cellar below. Very soon, a four-tap bar will be installed up there along with furnishings that will deliver a “North Park residential feel”.
Once complete, the area will be leasable for private events. On the official NPBC events front, classes of sorts revolving around certain types of beers (English, German, Belgian, etc.) will be offered. They will be an extension of the considerable beer-education program disseminated to NPBC staff. Emphasis is placed on beer-knowledge here. Every NPBC employee has already earned Beer Server status care of the Cicerone Certification Program, and three of them are fully certified Cicerones (the beer-industry equivalent of the wine world’s sommeliers).
NPBC is open seven days a week, closing at 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Mastiff’s estimated time of arrival has yet to be finalized, but the mezzanine area should be completed in late-summer or early-autumn. Still, there is plenty in place to put NPBC within the upper-echelon of North Park beer tasting spaces, which is saying something for a business that’s just a day into its lifespan in such a vibrant, suds-geared community.