Status as the Great American Beer Festival 2015 Small Brewpub of the Year and 2017 Brewery Group of the Year, and a sextet of medals from the world’s most prestigious professional brewing competition—all for hoppy beer styles—not to mention a pair of Alpha King wins….sounds like a San Diego brewery, alright. Except those are the stats of Wyoming-based Melvin Brewing. Since opening in 2009 when founder Jeremy Tofte added a 20-gallon brewing system to his Thai Me Up restaurant in Jackson, the company—which earned a strong following behind oodles of IPAs and other quality beers—has grown to include a production facility with a 30-barrel brewhouse in Alpine, Wyoming, plus a brewpub in Bellingham, Washington. Next up on the expansion front is another brewpub, this one sited in downtown San Diego’s East Village.
Located at 634 14th Street, the 4,800-square-foot space is split up to provide a trio of options for patrons. The entrance gives way to a 56-seat dining room with a clear view of Market Street as well as Melvin’s seven-barrel brewhouse setup. Directly right of that space is a bar backed by reclaimed wood from Wyoming and equipped with 24 taps dispensing a combination of house and guest beers. Beyond that is a 1,200-square-foot lounge with more seating and a metal lighting display with sconces featuring the company’s elephant logo. Additionally, the entire corner space is bordered on its east and south sides by a fenced patio area that’s framed by bamboo partitions, allowing for al fresco dining and imbibing.
While other transplants might be tempted to adjust their venue’s design elements to pay homage to an adopted hometown, Melvin’s approach is to bring an unadulterated taste of its motif to its new digs. That means murals of faceless cartoon figures, kung fu movies on the flat-screen TVs, nun-chucks hanging from the ceilings and Far East elements harkening to the Thai eatery where it all began. It’s par for the course for an admittedly loud-and-proud group of entrepreneurs who’ve been anything but conformist over the past decade. That said, every member of the team for this project—Tofte, vice president of brewpub operations Jamie Morris, brewpub strategist Melissa DePierro and general manager Ryan Payton—is over the moon about joining the San Diego brewing ranks, so they’ve incorporated America’s Finest City elements to its murals (which were painted by local artist, Robin Golden), including the Coronado Bridge.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity we have to call San Diego a second home,” says Morris. “We see the unique opportunity in the East Village with its current growth and wish to contribute to the existing brewing community that is developing in the neighborhood. San Diego is well known for its West Coast IPAs, the style that is the pillar of our portfolio.”
Another local element of the new spot is its head brewer, Bobby Oliver, who worked as a lead brewer for Green Flash Brewing and Mission Brewery before spending a year as head pub brewer at Coronado Brewing’s island brewpub. Oliver will be a one-man crew, creating beers that go beyond Melvin’s Wyoming-brewed core offerings (Hubert MPA pale ale, Melvin IPA, Killer Bees blonde ale, Heyzeus Mexican lager), all of which will be available at the San Diego location, as well. The venue’s brewery component comprises 800 square feet, and Oliver expects to initially produce 600-700 barrels there, though its maximum capacity will be 1,000 barrels per year.
“We will be developing and innovating styles incorporating current trends into our recipes as well as pushing the envelope with flavor profiles and ingredients,” says Payton. “Beer-and-food pairing is something that I am very passion about, so that will be a heavy focus during the creative process with Bobby and our executive chef, Vernon Cardenas, when putting our brewing schedule together.”
Cardenas’ menu will be made up of Asian-inspired pub fare, including mainstay dishes from Melvin’s Wyoming and Washington brewpubs such as Thai-style curries, basil fried rice and Thai poutine. Original dishes will include pad Thai and Korean barbecue flatbreads, gyoza shrimp-and-pork potstickers, crispy karaage fried sandwich with sweet kimchee pickles, and lumpia spring rolls made with seasonal local vegetables. There will also be a Melvin Burger topped with applewood-smoked bacon, shishito peppers and a fried egg, and a Drunken Master Burger adorned with bacon, caramelized onion jam and smoked Gouda cheese.
Melvin Brewing San Diego is on-pace to debut to the public in mid-November, shortly after San Diego Beer Week. Once open, its tentative hours of operation will be 4 to 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 4 p.m. to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays. The brewpub is built, furnished and ready. From here, it’s a licensing waiting game, but ownership is eager to officially be a part of #SDBeer.
“San Diego County is one of the best beer universes in the universe. Opening a brewery in a beer Mecca that pushes the limit at all times is just where we like to be,” exclaims Tofte, a regular San Diego visitor in his youth, who first fell for craft beer courtesy of offerings from Pizza Port and Stone Brewing. “Moving here will help us grow as a company. We are excited to find out what we can learn from our friends, new and old, and how we can keep it fun and give back to the community. And, of course, there’s much better surfing here than Wyoming.”