He’s won countless honors at the country’s and the county’s most prestigious homebrewing competition. He’s graced the cover of West Coaster in the process. Now, Nick Corona is transitioning from amateur brewing boss to pro-brew newcomer. His vehicle for doing so will be Five Suits Brewing, a complex concept that will bring food, spirits, cocktails and mead to downtown Escondido along with Corona’s beers.
This collective interest started as a purely family affair, with Nick’s wife Kandy, brother Shane Smith, and parents Joe and Leslie Corona putting their faith in their son’s abilities. North County residents, Nick and Kandy set their sights on San Marcos and Vista, communities in close-proximity to their home with histories of supporting small brewing operations. But it was the work of the City of Escondido to reinvigorate its downtown core—and a space offering 14,000 square feet of space split between a ground floor and basement—that lured the project team east.
That is a lot of space, and though Five Suits’ 10-barrel direct-fire system and quartet of 20-barrel unitanks will take up some of it, Corona will have help from some friends filling it out. That roster is headed by Brian and Julie Gruber, the owners of Carlsbad’s Notorious Burgers. The pair will bring their focus on fresh, locally sourced, sustainable ingredients to the project via a Mexican street-food concept that will include “craft tacos” and multiple vegan options.
“While Five Suits planned to open a modest tasting room in a small industrial spot, we have since shifted to a group project targeting a larger retail location,” says Nick. “We’ve always felt that, by offering food, we would shift from a stop into a destination.”
Also helping ensure destination status will be startups Good Omen Mead and Stoke Distilling Co. The latter is a work-in-progress gin producer from brothers Jordan and Ryan Kohn, while the former is a startup by Brian LaMere and Marie Newman. An Escondido resident, LaMere has laid much of the initial groundwork for the overall project.
Back on the beer side, Nick will use a reverse-osmosis water-filtration system to idealize water profiles for his portfolio, which he says will include a variety of IPAs, multiple variations on his Hefeweizen, plus as many different styles as he wants. He says to expect a Belgian golden strong ale, Vienna lager, biere de garde, Irish red ale, American wheat, kölsch, Belgian witbier and, with a distiller sharing the property, some barrel-aged stouts.
Those beers will be divided into three subcategories based on punching a timeclock. It will be called the Shift Series and include “Day,” “Swing” and “Graveyard.” Day will consist of crushable beers coming in at-or-below 5.5% alcohol-by-volume, with traditional styles above that percent making the Swing shift. Beers that go further outside the lines (i.e., spiced, fruited, barrel-aged) will comprise the Graveyard shift.
As he goes through the steps leading from the rec leagues to the major leagues, Nick doffs his cap to the many who’ve made that jump and is thankful for the large percentage of them who have helped him with lessons, critiques and support throughout his homebrewing career. Much like with his family and entrepreneurial friends, he feels he wouldn’t be where he is without them.
“I’m definitely no innovator here. I am merely following in the footsteps of so many awesome brewers before me who have made the jump from home to commercial, many of whom come from [homebrew club] QUAFF,” Nick says. “Those guys are kings. I’m just one of the minions.”
Nick says an optimistic timeline for getting Five Suits up and running would be around nine months, but he and his partners understand how construction projects tend to be delayed and believe it could take up to a year. When Five Suits does open, it will keg all of its beer, focusing on the space within its four walls, but also distributing a “very limited amount” of kegs to several North County accounts.