This article was originally published in print and online via West Coaster Magazine in their March 2016 issue.
New Guild Forms In South Bay
By Gonzalo J. Quintero, Ed.D.
The #southbayuprising movement has gone beyond the hash tag and has transformed into a tangible organization. Late in 2015 I hosted a group of craft beer business owners at La Bella Pizza Garden in Chula Vista. It was post San Diego Beer Week and I invited like-minded individuals to join me in my family’s place of business to discuss how beer week had gone for us all. I had floated the idea of meeting as a group to various craft beer business owners previous to this initial meeting, but it was in fact San Diego Beer Week that lit a fire under me.The concept of San Diego Beer Week (SDBW) has grown in scope each year since its inception. Around town various craft beer businesses celebrate SDBW with marque events; AleSmith with their Grand Prix, Karl Strauss and their annual kickoff brunch and Fathom Bait & Tackle hosting the Fishing-with-The-Brewer event on the pier. The Guild’s Fest is a prime example of SDBW’s exponential growth. Originating as a one evening one session event attended mostly by industry professionals, it has become a multi-day and multi-session event and has grown into San Diego’s premiere beer festival. Though the concept has grown as evidenced by the aforementioned event, San Diego Beer Week felt very much this year that the actual foot print is not matching suit. If you’re too far north, too far east and definitely if you are too far south it seems that you’re a fringe member of the guild, and an after thought if a thought at all.
National City’s Machete Beer House, Chula Vista’s La Bella Pizza Garden, Third Avenue Ale House, and The Manhattan had all done a great deal in 2015 to garner attention. Unfortunately it felt that we were working in a vacuum despite allegiances to organizations that were supposed to play a role in promoting who we are and what we are doing. At this initial meeting Jim Shirey, co-founder of Bay Bridge Brewing Company in Chula Vista shared his frustrations that he wasn’t made aware of events and opportunities to showcase his wares alongside others paying the same dues as he. Many of those attending the South Bay craft beer business owners meeting, in actuality, shared similar stories as we all had a hard time detailing what exactly different organizational allegiances produced in terms of promotion or awareness. It was decided by owners/operators of La Bella Pizza Garden, Third Ave. Ale House, The Manhattan, Biere Cafe South Bay, Spring Valley Swap Meet Beer Garden, Machete Beer House, Thr3e Punk Ales, Bay Bridge Brewing Company and Novo Brazil to join forces and form a new organization with the intent of promoting The South Bay and its craft beer businesses. That organization is The South Bay Craft Beer Business Guild (SBCBG).
Industry veteran Tony Raso, owner of Biere Cafe South Bay (slated to open in fall 2016 on 3rd Ave. and G St. in Downtown Chula Vista) stated the importance of working together in an effort to elevate each other and the community as a whole.”My place, along with many of the other beer-centric businesses in the area, have been built by people with very similar goals. I think we all want to have a place that is helping the local economy, while many of us are building a space to serve the beer we enjoy with friends.By forming this guild we have a forum where everyone can share their knowledge easily, and we can all develop our craft further. The old saying goes ‘A rising tide raises all boats’ is something that was instilled in me many years ago, by a friend and local brewer. It is a philosophy I have embraced since.If we can all get together regularly, and create excitement about the beer we love within our local communities, we will be successful. We already realize we are in this together, so why not try and work together outside of classic organizational boundaries? It can only help everyone involved.”
Third Avenue Ale House , the new kid on the block and current holder of “Star News Reader’s Poll Best Draft Beer Selection” echoed Tony Raso’s sentiments. Co-owner Kendell Manion shared a thoughtful perspective of what it means to be a part of the South Bay’s craft beer community “For our business, it is crucial to stay connected and relevant to the growth and changes in the craft beer community. Our involvement with the South Bay Craft Beer Business Guild will directly affect the experience we are able to provide our customers. A passion of ours is to see Third Avenue Village grow and become a hot spot for Craft Beer and much more. By coming together with like-minded businesses we will be able to help bring growth and stability not just to our neighborhood but to the South Bay as a whole. Our hope is that the SBCBG will create a voice for the South Bay and its future impact within the Craft Beer Community. There is a stirring within Chula Vista, and the impact that Craft Beer has and will continue to be had can be felt when speaking to our customers. We see the SBCBBG at the epicenter of this movement and are honored to be a part of it.”
These assertions resonated with Thr3e Punk Ales co-founder Steve Garcia.New to Third Ave. Village, Steve gushed from the perspective of someone whose heart and soul is in the community of craft beer and the place he calls home: The South Bay.”As a life long resident of Chula Vista I feel an obligation to help raise awareness with the current South Bay craft beer movement. As a brewery owner in Chula Vista, I have a responsibility to help grow and promote our industry in my community. The South Bay Craft Beer Business Guild provides local industry business owners a platform in which we can accomplish this. Personally, it has always been a goal of mine to open a business in Chula Vista; I was fortunate to have the opportunity to both meet my goal and achieve my dream of opening a brewery. As a member of the SBCBBG I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with and learn from seasoned, successful industry leaders. Surrounding myself with these individuals is definitely a perk of being a part of this movement. The #SouthbayUprising movement is here to stay. And it’s the SBCBBG’s privilege & responsibility to ensure that it does.”
Chula Vista’s neighbor to the North, National City, has made a large splash in their first year of operation. Proprietor Eddie Trejo detailed his business’ unique position. By unique position I mean geographically as well as philosophically. As Eddie explained “Over the past year Machete has received tons of support from beer lovers and breweries alike. However, the South Bay region still seems to be somewhat isolated from much of our fine craft beer county. Establishing a beer guild in South Bay can help bridge that gap between north and south. It will also help us to continue building a strong local beer community and also bring in traffic from other areas. Our local businesses and consumers should be recognized as a relevant part of the craft beer community county-wide. If beer lovers can travel to North Park or North County, they can travel to the South Bay. Our local guild will provide support for the businesses working together to develop a great beer community for our locals and a destination for thirsty beer lovers.”
A unique member of the guild is Homero Cardenas who serves as co-owner/operator of the Beer Garden at the Spring Valley Swap Meet. Homero shared how The South Bay’s proximity to Mexico is an added advantage as well as an added responsibility. “Aside from having some of the oldest neighborhoods in San Diego County, the South Bay is also unique due to its proximity to Baja California (which is experiencing a beer revolution of their own) and businesses can benefit from patrons who reside south of the border. Chula Vista alone has a population of over 260,000 residents and counting. On a good Sunday there is an average of 16,000 people visiting the swap meet to eat, drink and shop. A large portion of those visiting are mainly Spanish speakers and are being exposed to craft beer at our concession stands. The South Bay Craft Beer Business Guild will be a tremendous asset to the San Diego craft beer industry because it will service a bilateral community of beer drinkers.”
One of the most exciting prospects to come out of the formation of this guild is the support of local government and community leaders. Scott Donaghe, Principal Planner for the City of Chula Vista was present for the inaugural meeting and shared his positive outlook on the guild’s future.”The City of Chula Vista is very excited to work with the Guild for a number of reasons. Even though we are the second largest city in the region, we have been largely ignored by the craft beer business segment. By working together with our existing businesses we hope to continue to build on the presence of craft beer businesses within the city. We want to collaborate with our local craft beer businesses to bring events and other craft businesses into the city to provide our residents with the goods and services they desire. With close to 300,000 people in the city of Chula Vista, our residents should not have to leave the city to enjoy a craft beer or visit a brewery. We intend to continue to foster a positive relationship with our craft beer businesses to assist them in any way we can. We want to get the word out that we, from the Mayor and City Manager on down, are very receptive to these types of businesses and will go out of our way to work with them.”
It is our hope to lead the charge and welcome others into the fold.The time is right for a guild such as this to form and work together in an effort to elevate the community to an entirely new level.