When searching for a place to site a brewpub, entrepreneur Shanan Spearing and his team seriously considered La Mesa’s downtown village. In the end, none of the available spaces offered everything on their list of wants, so they moved on and that area ended up with a Scottish-themed brewpub, Foupenny House. Come tomorrow, Spearing and company will debut another ethnically unique concept to the community in which it laid down stakes, University Heights. That two-story brewpub goes by the name Kairoa Brewing and pays homage to its conceiver’s New Zealand roots.
“We’ve been working on this project for four years, and the first two were spent looking for the right location,” says Spearing. “We wanted some place that would be the appropriate size with adequate parking, and would allow us to have rooftop dining. We were very happy to find a place where we can offer casual dining in a unique, family-friendly setting that’s not too up-market.”
Another overarching adjective that applies to every aspect of the business, from food to beer to elements of its décor, is what Spearing calls “kiwi-ism.” From the get-go, the Kairoa team knew the business would have plenty of New-Zealander influence, but even Spearing is surprised at how many elements of his homeland made it into the finished product.
A look at the menu turns up plenty of staples from the Land of the Long Cloud (the original name of the business was Long Cloud Brewing), including sausage rolls, green-lipped mussels steamed in the house pilsner, numerous dishes incorporating lamb (including tender chunks prepared barbacoa-style and lumped atop “chips” with queso fresco and mint chimichurri), and several savory pies, a vegetable version of which will change per the freshness and availability of seasonal ingredients. Also available are “butties,” buttered, slider-style sandwiches that will be available along with a house beer for $8.
House beers are the product of ex-Bitter Brothers Brewing and Lightning Brewery brewer Joe Peach, whose opening menu features a Belgian blond ale called Cheeky Buggah, a hoppy wheat dubbed Wizard of the South, Ostrich oatmeal stout and two unfiltered IPAs, Southern Sky and 4 Gables. The aforementioned Northern German-style pilsner is en route and hopped with New Zealand varietals Motueka and Wakatu to impart lemon-lime flavors. Also on-deck is a San Diego pale ale, dunkelweizen, brown ale and imperial stout. For now, guest beers and hard kombucha round out the tap list.
“We’re excited to be able to make lots of styles versus the same beers over and over again,” says Peach, embracing the brewpub production model. “We won’t be making any core beers and there will always be something new. We have four two-barrel tanks for our one-barrel pilot system, so we can make really experimental beers and do collaboration brews.”
Another thing Peach is enthused about is access to New Zealand hops nobody else here—or just about anywhere else—can get their hands on. Those NZ Cascade, Nelson Sauvin, Moteuka and Moutere varietals are coming to him direct from Central Otago Hops, a fledgling producer headed by Spearing’s cousin in the remote New Zealand locale of the same name.
“We can’t wait to put up the doors and get underway,” says Spearing. From the anticipation communicated by local beer fans online, it would seem they feel the same way. Neither faction will have to wait long. Kairoa will open to the public tomorrow at 4601 Park Boulevard. The brewpub will be open 3 to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 3 p.m. to midnight on Thursdays, 11 a.m. to Midnight on Fridays, 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays, with an extensive brunch menu available on weekends.