For over a decade, a local firm has provided general contracting and construction management services with a focus on brewing facilities throughout San Diego County. That business goes by the name of CLTVT and has worked on dozens of projects of all sizes and types (including distilleries and cider spots), here and in other California locales. CLTVT’s portfolio includes the likes of Karl Strauss Brewing, AleSmith Brewing, White Labs, North Park Beer Co., Burning Beard Brewing and H.G. Fenton’s Brewery Igniter facilities. Through it all, project manager Nathan Sharpe has been cultivating relationships and win-win situations for the company and its clients. We sat down with one of San Diego beer’s busiest behind-the-sceners to find out more about his work in the industry.
Where did you start out and what does your current role entail?
I started off in the trades, carpentry and concrete work generally for residential projects. Over the years, I transitioned into more commercial projects that involved a lot of restoration and remodeling work. We started taking on more complex projects and I took more of a management/superintendent role. Eventually we got the opportunity to do the tasting room build-out at the original AleSmith location on Cabot Drive. Brewery projects just kept coming after that and my role has ranged from managing projects to getting involved with the engineering and design aspect and, every once in a while, I still get my hands dirty and assist in the physical work.
What are the specialty skill sets and expertise you and the CLTVT team offer?
I think as a team we all work together and complement each other well. We all came from the trades, so we’re not afraid of hard work and challenges. I tend to think conceptually, so with breweries, understanding the brewing process and how equipment and space integrate into that process helps adapt the design and construction methods to that. Traditionally, contractors rely on architects and engineers to define this for them on their drawings. I like to be directly involved in that process and act more as a consultant who also can build. We look to understand what the demands of the project will be, now and in terms of future growth. What are the utility needs? How can things be phased? How do we coordinate with brewing operations and schedules? All these things go into our approach to a project. We strive to develop long-term relationships with the owners and brewers and understand their needs and processes. We want to grow with our clients. Every project has taught us something we can take to the next. Beyond that, we like to get behind our clients and support their vision and expectations as a business. And, of course, we are all beer fans and excited to support the industry however we can!
What are some of the CLTVT projects that have stood out most for you?
I learn something new on every project which is what keeps it interesting and enjoyable. Some stand outs:
- AleSmith Brewing, Miramar: We did so much work with them and were so involved in their move to the new location that I got to see first-hand what it takes to operate a brewery of that size and level of quality. And the timing on the new brewery was so tight that it required surfacing any potential issues with the building, equipment or construction materials early so as to meet our production deadline. I was part of a large team on that one and learned a lot along the way that helped me on smaller projects.
- Saint Archer Brewery, Miramar: Having been involved in the initial build-out and the first few phases of expansion, this was another project full of challenges. The fast-paced growth required always thinking ahead and planning for growth in everything we did. Downtime was cost prohibitive, so we had to be extremely disciplined in our schedules.
- Highland Park Brewery, Los Angeles: This was a project we almost didn’t pursue because it is in L.A., but given their reputation in the beer world and the owner being a really awesome guy, we wanted to be involved. The location proved challenging, as the building was in need of significant structural retrofit and all the utilities—gas, water, power, sewer—were in need of upgrades. The brewery itself was not extremely complicated but making it work in a building like that was a unique challenge.
What sorts of trends do you see within the brewing industry? Where are things going?
When we first started, we were just excited to be working with breweries as we were beer fans. Over the years, we are still excited about the brewery projects, but we have also seen the need to diversify our project scope and take on new challenges. We have been involved with restaurants, taprooms, coffee roasters, food halls, creative spaces and other cool projects that I think complement the beer industry well, as we have seen the beer industry diversify as well with a shift towards brewpubs and direct-to-consumer sales over large distribution. As far as trends in the industry, from a construction standpoint, I have seen the shift in appreciation for the planning and design process. In the early days, nobody designed the process systems, or thought about expansion or how equipment integrated into the spaces and what utilities were needed. Equipment showed up and people figured out how to put it together. I have a lot of respect for the guys who were involved early on and are still at it, as I learned a lot from them, but also I’d like to think we have had a small part in helping the industry mature a little in the planning and construction process. All of this makes for more efficient projects. The breweries are built to meet the expectations of the owners and we are able to stick to schedules that allow for financial planning. Beyond that, I think with the sheer volume of breweries it’s gotten harder to stand out. This means more attention is given to how a company presents itself. What does your tasting room look and feel like? What’s the flow of the space? How quickly can I get another beer? All of these things influence how we design and build a space and I have seen more appreciation for that in the industry.
Higher-Profile CLTVT Clients & Projects: AleSmith Brewing, Battlemage Brewing, Belching Beaver Brewery, Bivouac Cider, Black Plague Brewing, Boochcraft, Bottle Logic Brewing (Orange County), Brewery Igniter (Carlsbad, North Park), Burning Beard Brewing, Duck Foot Brewing, Eppig Brewing, GameCraft Brewing (Orange County), Guthrie Cider, Half Door Brewing, Harland Brewing, Henebery Spirts, Highland Park Brewing (Los Angeles), Karl Strauss Brewing, Ketch Brewing, Malahat Spirits, Mason Ale Works, Newtopia Cyder, North Park Beer Co., Old Harbor Distillery, Original 40 Brewing, Pure Project Brewing, Resident Brewing, Rip Current Brewing, SacTown Brewing (Sacramento), Saint Archer Brewery, Salty Bear Brewing (Orange County), Second Chance Beer Co., Setting Sun Sake, White Labs