After several years in operation, Kensington Brewing Company gained a name for itself last January when it opened its brewery and tasting room to the public. There was just one oddity—that tasting room is in Grantville versus the business’ namesake community. Owner Zack Knipe lives in Kensington and has wanted to set up shop there from the beginning, but was forced to compromise to bring his vision to fruition. But over the past year, he’s kept his eyes open for a space. One day, a sign went up in the iconic Kensington Video storefront and he pounced on it—along with a number of other suitors for that space. In the end, he won out and soon his brewery’s name will make sense. He knows he has big shoes to fill, supplanting a hometown business of nearly four decades, but thinks his goods have the goods to do right by Kensington and hopes his new venue becomes a hub for the community he harbors so much affinity for.
West Coaster: What factors made it difficult to setup shop in Kensington?
Zack Knipe: “Downtown” Kensington is an amazing place, but it just isn’t that big. Most of the businesses on the block have been operating for a very long time, so it limits the amount of real estate available for newcomers. Only a couple of opportunities to establish a tasting room on the block have come up over the past four years, and there was heavy competition for those locations. It was difficult! There were a lot of really good businesses competing for our new location, and we pushed very hard to make sure we got the opportunity this time.
WC: What’s so special about the Kensington community?
ZK: As part of my proposal to lease the Ken Video space, I wrote the owners a letter that talked about how I first found Kensington. I am from a small town in Northern California and came to San Diego to attend USD. Go Toreros! San Diego was such a big city to me that I always envisioned returning to NorCal. Part of my college coursework had me taking some cinema classes. One of the only places in the city to find foreign films or less mainstream films was Kensington Video. During my many trips out to the video store to pick up class materials, I explored the neighborhood and saw that it really has that small-town vibe in a big city. Long story short, being a part of a community like that means a lot to me. It has been where I wanted to raise my family and grow my business for a very long time. Sixteen years later, not only do we have the opportunity to be a local business, but also to setup in a space that first brought me here.
WC: How do you plan to convert this iconic space to fit your needs?
ZK: Our brewing operations will continue in our current facility in Grantville. We wanted to make sure we are able to have as much room as possible for the community to not only come in and enjoy a great beer, but host an event or community gathering. We will have a large amount of both bar and table seating, and we intend to be as kid-friendly as possible. The space also has a great audiovisual system we hope to use to show some of Ken Video’s classic collection. I don’t want to give everything away, but, aesthetically, we are aiming to have some historic Kensington elements blended with the Spanish and Craftsman-style architecture seen throughout the neighborhood.
WC: What’s the plan for the Grantville brewery?
ZK: We originally ended up in Grantville to stay as close to Kensington as possible. Being right down the hill from the neighborhood, we felt we would still serve it. In the process, we learned what great people we have in Allied Gardens, Del Cerro, Talmadge, Normal Heights and a lot of other nearby communities. Many of our regulars love the vibe that we have going in our current tasting room. In the short term, with our current staff, we will solely produce beer in Grantville while retaining the current setup for special events, using our Kensington location as our main tasting room. In the long-term, we hope to reopen the Grantville tasting room with some permanent hours.
WC: When do you expect to open the new location?
ZK: All of our paperwork is currently being reviewed with the ABC and we are awaiting our posting, which we hope to receive in the next couple of weeks. It is ambitious, but if everything goes as planned, we would like to be open in July. We want to thank everyone who has supported us over the four years it’s taken to get to this point. We look forward to more fun times to come!