Though the business has been in the works since 2013, Division 23 Brewery has flown under the radar of most beer enthusiasts. That’s been helpful for co-founders Allen Hampton and Kellen Smith as they’ve had lots to do to get their nanobrewery up and ready to join the dense Miramar beer-making population. That goal will be achieved when Division 23 opens its doors, noon on Saturday, May 16.
Affiliated through their work in the HVAC niche of the Southern California construction industry for a decade, Hampton and Smith have homebrewed since becoming coworkers at local interest DMG in 2011. While they were capable of handling much of the design, building, permitting and other non-brewing aspects of the business, they knew that in order to be successful they would need to enlist the services of a professional brewer with pedigree. For that, they turned to Kevin Dougherty, a fermentationist who comes to San Diego after years spent working at Bear Republic Brewing Company and Widmer Brothers Brewing.
Dougherty moved to San Diego, confident that with its 100-plus operating brewhouses, he would have no trouble finding a position where he would be able to go beyond straightforward production brewing and exercise his own creative approach to recipe development. This is exactly what he has been afforded courtesy of Hampton and Smith, who allow Dougherty to own the brewing process. But that’s not to say they have no input. Several of the eight beers that will be on tap opening day stem from the co-founders’ homebrew recipes.
Division 23’s octet of inaugural beers will include a biscuity English-style pale ale brewed with Kent Golding and Marris Otter, a saison, a hefeweizen and a highly drinkable stout infused with a blend of Hawaiian beans from Pannikin Coffee and Tea. Two India pale ales will also be offered—an old school IPA bittered with Chinook and dry-hopped with Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo called Bitter Foreman; and a decidedly West Coast number dubbed Freight Damage that’s far fruitier care of Citra, El Dorado, Lemon Drop and Nuggetzilla hops. An American adjunct lager (“Shower Beer”) incorporating corn in its grain bill, and a glaringly acidic Berliner weisse provide low-alcohol options, the latter of which can be customized with a variety of flavored syrups ranging from raspberry to mango.
Most of the beers are produced on the brewery’s new three-barrel system from Oregon-based Stout Tanks and Kettles, but the trio also rely on a smaller Brew-Magic rig from Ohio’s SABCO when working on more out-there, experimental beers.
The machinery and cellar vessels take up a small portion of the facility, leaving roughly 1,600 square feet of space for a tasting room with serious recreational appeal. A 16-seat L-shaped bar bookended by a popcorn machine gives way to a large room with comfy modernist couches, shuffleboard, a ping-pong table and three embedded flat-screens for viewing multiple sporting events. Throw in sconces and hanging light fixtures fashioned from kegs and it just may be the ultimate man cave.
Division 23 Brewery is located at 7408 Trade Street. Its initial hours of operation will be noon to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, with plans to be open Thursdays and Fridays in the near future.