Gravity Heights has been at or near the top of every local beer fan’s most highly anticipated brewery projects list for well over a year, and there’s good reason for their enthusiasm. This project, in the works for roughly two years, has big names and proven ability behind it. Conceived and hammered into reality by local restaurant powerhouse Whisknladle Hospitality group, the brewery-equipped eatery is polished and in the midst of extensive staff training to ensure hosts, servers and chefs will be as well. In the brewhouse, Skip Virgilio, the man who founded local stalwart AleSmith Brewing in the mid-nineties and went on to invent many of its award-winning beers, has been lured back into the suds scene.
“I wanted to get back into brewing for a long time, but I wanted food to be a part of it. Arturo seemed like a winner,” says Virgilio, speaking of Whisknladle Hospitality head Arturo Kassel. The pair met at a friend’s bottle share and formed a fast friendship. When Kassel began mulling the idea of opening a modern brewpub, he knew just who he wanted to lead the fermentation side.
The 13,000-square-foot brewpub is still under construction but taking shape quickly. By the end of next week, the venue will host its grand opening and its first-draft beers will make their public debuts. There will be 17 house beers, spanning a wide range of styles that’s expectedly heavy on IPAs (there will be four: West Coast, Northeast and a pair of doubles), but will otherwise embrace the style-hopping brewpub spirit. The entire beer list can be previewed here.
“The beauty of a brewpub is you can do plenty of one-batch brews,” says Virgilio, who says some of his beers are influenced by those he brewed back at AleSmith, but that all of Gravity Heights’ recipes are from-scratch. “Most of them were pilot brewed in my garage or winged here at the brewpub.”
The lighter side of the menu will feature a pilsner, kolsch and blonde ale, while the darker end of the spectrum will be represented by an altbier, porter and breakfast stout. A quartet of collaboration beers brewed at San Diego County breweries over the past year (AleSmith, Eppig Brewing, North Park Beer Co., Rip Current Brewing, Rouleur Brewing and the recently shuttered Council Brewing) will round things out.
Virgilio and his crew, six-year Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey vet Tommy Kreamer and former Benchmark Brewing alum Mike Williams, are eager to receive feedback on their house beers, which were produced on a 15-barrel system. Those ales and lagers will pour forth from a 25-tap bar that’s the focal point of an outdoor patio featuring an eclectic mix of seating options ranging from stools and high tables to picnic benches and Acapulco chairs. In addition to on-site consumption, beer will be available to-go in both growers and crowlers.
Virgilio and Kreamer say one of the most exciting things about this project has been getting to start with a blank slate and setup everything the way they want. Funnily enough, that’s also one of the most nerve-needling aspects as well. “We kept wondering, ‘will these beers turn out?’” says Virgilio. He and his team are happy to report that they have, indeed.