It was May 2017 when we reported SD TapRoom owners Kevin and Kyle Conover planned to build a brewpub at the corner of El Cajon Boulevard and Florida Street in North Park. Armed with years of proven craft devotion and veteran brewer Bill Batten (AleSmith Brewing, Mikkeller Brewing San Diego), they had the goods to captivate the hopes and hearts of San Diego beer fans. Interest has been high, but progress has been slow. The project has faced plenty of challenges, but the Conovers have overcome them and plan to soft-open TapRoom Beer Co. next week or the week after.
“When we signed our lease back in 2017, it was just a dirt lot, so we knew the project would take time, but, of course, we didn’t expect a 2020 opening. It turns out it’s not that easy to build a brewery at the foot of a residential building,” says Kevin. “We started with a shell, so there was a lot of designing and planning that went into it. Then, as we started building, a lot of redesigning was needed as ideas met reality.”
Over the past three years, the project’s price tag has ballooned from $1 million (Conover admits that may have been unrealistic) to $2.5 million. This was due, in part, to some mistakes made along the way, including pouring the concrete for the brewpub’s mezzanine too high, making it impossible to fit in fermentation tanks. The contractor who poured it then departed the country, leaving them to figure out a solution. While discouraged by that contractor’s performance, Conover has many good things to say about the other members of his project team, including Hauck Architecture and CLTVT.
“In the end, we think the project came out looking pretty awesome. It’s a unique and dynamic space, especially the brewery portion, which touches all three levels,” says Conover. “We mill in the basement, then transfer the milled grain to the brewhouse on the main floor, and then pump wort up to the fermenters on the mezzanine. Putting the fermenters on the mezzanine was definitely a challenge, but we wanted to utilize the vaulted ceilings and also put everything on display to our guests. The idea was to make this a display brewery, expose all the piping and the process. We didn’t want to hide anything, including Bill, who you’ll be able to see working his magic on the brew deck.”
When conceiving TapRoom Beer Co., Batten was the Conovers’ first choice to be in charge of brewing its house beers. The brothers approached him, doubtful he would accept their job offer, but he did and has patiently bided his time, assisting local breweries such as Oceanside’s Black Plague Brewing and downtown’s Resident Brewing in the interim. He also spent a great deal of time designing his new brewery to his preferred specifications.
“We wanted someone that had the technical ability, but also had the passion; someone that cared about what they were brewing,” says Conover. “If you know Bill, that’s exactly what we got. He’s opinionated for sure, but we regard that as a good thing.”
TapRoom Beer Co. will be equipped with 50 taps. Conover estimates roughly half of them will dispense house beers, which will be made up of styles both traditional and modern. The latter won’t necessarily include the next trendy ale or lager. While they will stay up on popular beer culture, they vow not to spend time keeping up with the Joneses. They are more excited to brew less mainstream styles even if that equates to “bad business.”
The brewpub’s kitchen will be the domain of executive chef A.G. Warfield, who is best known by beer fans for his work at Churchill’s Pub and Grille in San Marcos and Kearny Mesa’s Common Theory Public House. The menu is a work-in-progress, but one thing that’s for sure is that brunch service will take place on Saturdays and Sundays, making full use of the brewpub’s outdoor patio.
“Our ultimate goal was to build a world-class neighborhood brewpub; a space that the neighborhood could be proud of with personality, soul, and authenticity,” says Conover. “You’ll be able to feel it when you walk in, from the people that we hire, the music we play and, of course, the beer we brew.”