Last year was a turbulent one for Barrel Harbor Brewing owner Tim St. Martin. In May, he closed the Vista-based company’s Miramar tasting room. In July, he launched a crowdfunding campaign to keep Barrel Harbor afloat. It was ultimately unsuccessful. In October, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control revoked his license, forcing him to shutter, but come December, he was able to reopen after selling off select assets to soldier on. But 2020 is looking up for St. Martin as homebrewer and entrepreneur Nick Corona is in negotiations to purchase the business so he can install his Five Suits Brewing concept.
Earlier this year, St. Martin and Corona discussed a contract-brewing relationship. During that process, they learned that they share many similarities. Both started as home brewers, are part of families with public-service (military, police, fire department, etc.) backgrounds and share an affection for four-legged family members. As they grew more familiar with one another, St. Martin saw an opportunity to “pass the proverbial torch,” and their conversations shifted from contracting to a full-scale purchase.
Though Barrel Harbor’s recipes and brand assets will be part of the sale, Corona intends to focus solely on developing the Five Suits Brand. He will do so with his wife, Kandy Corona, overseeing tasting room operations, and his brother, Shane Smith, handling sales, marketing and cellar duties. Business operations will be the charge of mom and dad, Leslie and Joe Corona, while Nick will head brewing, bringing many of his award-winning recipes to life on a professional scale amid a casino motif reminiscent of Las Vegas’ Rat Pack Era.
“Gaming is our theme, but we’re much more than that,” says Corona. “While we develop our brand, we envision there being a lot of crossover between craft beer fans who love good beer and those who are just looking to be entertained and leave their troubles at the door. Most of the beers I’ve brewed have been to-style, but I’ll be listening to our guests more than anything. The more people in a crowd that I can satisfy, the happier I’ll be.”
Opened in 2013, Barrel Harbor is located at 2575 Pioneer Avenue, #104. It is equipped with a ten-barrel brewing system and a sizeable tasting room. Originally, Corona had planned to install Five Suits as part of a multi-concept collective in Escondido that included Notorious Burgers, Good Omen Mead and Stoke Distilling. As reported in October, issues that led to Notorious Burgers and Stoke Distilling pulling out of the project, caused Corona to follow suit.
Though Barrel Harbor’s sale has yet to be finalized, Corona already has his eyes on the future. While creating an entertaining experience at the Vista tasting room will be his priority, Five Suits beers will be distributed to a handful of select accounts in San Diego’s North County region. He also hopes to open a satellite tasting room in a coastal locale.
“I was raised in La Costa, but went to school in Solana Beach,” says Corona. “Growing up as a San Diegan is something I’ll never take for granted. There is no better place to live and starting a family business here is absolutely a dream come true.”
If all goes as planned, Barrel Harbor will continue to operate as it has through the end of April, at which time the Five Suits team will take over with a grand-opening timetable of late-May or early-June.