Last week, we began a poll of veteran tenants of lease-to-brew units at H.G. Fenton’s trio of Brewery Igniter campuses in Miramar, North Park and Carlsbad. The focus of that piece was Eppig Brewing, which has operated out of the North Park Brewery Igniter for more than two years and is actively seeking a long-term home that will allow them to grow beyond their current capacity without resorting to contract brewing. While they both want and need a larger, more traditional facility, they noted the many plusses their affiliation with H.G. Fenton has afforded them.
Eppig’s next-door neighbors at Pariah Brewing echo that sentiment. “We’re happy that Brewery Igniter exists, because that allowed us to get our start without having millions of dollars behind us,” says owner and head brewer Brian Mitchell, “but it’s not sustainable. Pariah grew by 15% in its second year, but that meant we maxed out our space. Not the brew system itself, but the space won’t allow for any more growth without acquiring off-site storage, which is just another expense.”
Going into Pariah’s third year and being halfway through his lease with H.G. Fenton, Mitchell knows it’s imperative to have an idea for his next move, but there is much to consider. He is currently negotiating with two out-of-state distributors that are interested in Pariah’s beers, but that presents a host of logistical challenges. Throw in the uncertainties of today’s beer market and it has Mitchell in wait-and-see mode.
“We’re cautiously watching the climate and trying to make the best decision for the team,” he says. “All the layoffs and unfortunate closures have us leaning away from a mid- to large-scale production facility to focus on a comparable, modest-sized system we have here, but including a restaurant or really digging our heels into a neighborhood.”
Nearly two years into his interest’s existence but not as pressed to define the next step, Rouleur Brewing owner Rawley Macias is in a similarly undecided state. The first tenant to set up shop in the Carlsbad Brewery Igniter back in 2017, Macias has made a name for his company, primarily among North County beer fans, while finding a second revenue stream serving as a second-party pilot-brewing facility for Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey. He’s in a good place, but uncertain how long he’ll remain with Brewery Igniter.
“We are renewing for another year in February,” he says. “We had the plan to open a satellite tasting room before proceeding on funding our own brewery. We were serious and very close to signing a deal for a 2,000-square-foot tasting room in San Marcos’ San Elijo community, but decided to pull out. San Elijo is fairly landlocked and has a pretty expensive lease rate. That move would have made or sank us; too big a risk for my liking.”
Macias is still interested in pursuing viable satellite tasting room options, but says he’s not in a hurry. He believes too many local breweries are overextending themselves and, like Mitchell, feels it’s important to tread water while keeping an eye peeled on the industry as a whole. “I have a strong feeling that we will see a good amount of closures over 2019, and spaces and equipment will be on the market,” he says. “It’s a sad thing to say, but in my opinion, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. It’s smart to have a plan, but it’s also smart to remain agile and keep our options open, especially in a dynamic climate like we are seeing now.”