UPDATE 5/17: Mike Rodriguez, the award-winning brewer who recently left The Lost Abbey/Port Brewing after four years, has been brought in as a brewing consultant for Project X Brewing, the new brewery operation inside the soon-to-be-opened Urge: Craft Alley. Rodriguez, who introduced Port’s Mongo Double IPA, spent six years at Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City, Mo., before coming to San Diego. Urge co-owner Grant Tondro said Rodriguez has the inside track on becoming the head brewer for Project X, which is set to open early next year.
The “brothers” of Rancho Bernardo are at it again.
Grant Tondro, along with longtime friends Zak and Nate Higson who together own Urge Gastropub and three other establishments, are planning to open their own brewpub in Vista.
Urge: Craft Alley, located in a 22,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by Bally’s Total Fitness on Hacienda Drive, will feature a 15-barrel system, restaurant with seating for about 450 guests, a bottle shop and eight bowling lanes. Tondro estimated the brewpub will open in the first quarter of 2014.
“We always liked the idea of doing a second location of one of our concepts and Urge seems like the logical choice,” Tondro said of the popular Rancho Bernardo craft beer bar and restaurant, which features 52 draft beers and more than 100 in the bottle.
To ensure a successful operation, the owners have brought in former Pizza Port head brewer Jeff Bagby and Steve Wagner, co-founder and brewmaster of Stone Brewing Co., to serve on their advisory board. Bagby, who is set to open Bagby Beer Company in Oceanside later this year, will not be writing beer recipes for Urge but will play an integral role in recruiting a head brewer.
The brewpub will have about 50 tap handles, featuring about 5-10 house beers and at least 10 from Vista breweries, Tondro said. The brewery operating inside Urge: Craft Alley is tentatively called Project X Brewing. Tondro expects to produce about 1,000 barrels in the first year. Since the owners are classified as restaurateurs by the California Alcoholic Beverage Control, the brewery cannot produce more than 5,000 barrels each year.
“Stylistically, we plan on a wide range of offerings,” Tondro said. “If it’s something we would drink, then it’s something we would brew. We definitely plan on having a barrel-aged series.”
Tondro said Urge: Craft Alley also will have a full bar and will feature 200-300 whiskeys.
The trio also owns The Barrel Room Vintage Wine Bar and Bistro, the Commissary Kitchen, and cheese and charcuterie shop Brothers Provisions. All are located in Rancho Bernardo.
Don’t expect expansion plans to stop with Urge: Craft Alley. Tondro said there already has been talk of opening additional Urge locations in Los Angeles, Coachella Valley and San Francisco. And if space permits, it’s possible a bowling alley, bocce ball court or music venue will be an added attraction to complement the beer and food.
“We’re excited and nervous, but we feel this is where our future lies,” said Tondro, adding Urge: Craft Alley will create more than 100 jobs. “We’re passionate about beer and food, among other things. And we feel this is the right direction to go.”
The addition of Urge: Craft Alley will give Vista its ninth brewery, making it one of the largest beer cities per capita in the U.S.