San Diego Reader: By Ian Anderson
The brewhouse at 1795 Hancock Street has produced a lot of beer for a number of breweries over the past two decades, and as of last week it’s changed hands once again.
Part of the historic Mission Brewery Plaza, where the original Mission Brewery brewed from 1913 to 1918, it had most recently been the home of Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment, which launched there in 2013.
However, as the Reader reported last spring, Acoustic Ales put the 15-barrel turnkey brewhouse on the market as part of a planned expansion. This month, a new business, Latchkey Brewing, took over the facility. Latchkey enjoyed its first brew day February 23rd and expects to soft-open sometime in March, once the taproom has been updated and beers are ready to pour.
The steam brewhouse they’ve inherited has received piecemeal updates from various brewery tenants over the years, and Latchkey has added a new piece, installing a water-filtration system. Most other changes will involve the serving space.
“The taproom is going to be completely renovated,” says Latchkey cofounder Matt West. “We really want to make this a taproom destination.” West has been planning Latchkey for three years along with partner and brother-in-law Gerald Dollente, a former Ballast Point brewer.
With Dollente heading up brewing operations, West anticipates Latchkey will serve a variety of beer styles, not just the IPAs San Diego beer fans have come to expect. “We definitely will have them, but it’s not where our passion is,” West says. “We’ll focus on much more easy-drinking beers. Nuanced beers: lagers and kolsches, sours, Belgians, lighter pales.”
While Acoustic Ales has left the building, its beer will remain for now. Part of the deal struck with Latchkey includes contract-brewing Acoustic beers, so the five-year-old business may continue to sell beer to its regular accounts while it establishes a new, larger brewery in North County.
Acoustic is heading to a 24,000-square-foot property near Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, where it’s building a 30-barrel capacity brewhouse it hopes to open later this year.
“We’re in the process of painstakingly starting over again,” says Acoustic owner Tommaso Maggiore. “The Mission Brewery location has been awesome to cut our teeth and get things off the ground, but it’s time to move on to bigger and better things, like people who have been here in the past.”
The location has been a home or incubator for quite a few breweries, including the now-defunct Five Points Brewing and La Jolla Brewing; plus the current Mission Brewery, New English Brewing, and Coronado Brewing.
Coronado passed the lease on to Acoustic, and now Acoustic is passing it on to Latchkey, which will inherit eight years left on a long-term lease dating back to days its central location, just off the freeway at Mission Hills, could be booked for under two bucks per square foot.
“They’re getting a pretty screaming deal for a turnkey location,” says Maggiore.
West agrees. Having looked at other turnkey options at up to 9 bucks a square foot for a 10 barrel system, he says Latchkey is happy to be the next brewery to add a chapter to the old brewhouse at Mission Plaza. “It would be nice to be on one of those brand new Premiere systems,” he says, “but I am a hundred percent satisfied in the direction that we went.”