A few weeks ago, I wrote that Novo Brazil was the first craft brewery in Chula Vista. Turns out, I was mistaken. It’s the second.
The first, Bay Bridge Brewing, just had it’s soft opening on the West side of Chula Vista on Thursday, July 16th.
Wait. How can that be?
Owners Jim Shirey and Doug Chase owned The Brewhouse from 2006 to 2012. They brewed about 100 barrels in that space, and then brewed more beer on the western side of Chula Vista on Anita Street.
According to Jim, “When we originally started in 2006, we had to have the whole general plan re-written because brewing was prohibited in Chula Vista completely, no matter where you were. It was leftover from prohibition.”
They paved the way. However, The Brewhouse closed because the owners wanted to get out of food. They then applied for a new craft brewing business license.
Here’s how it all happened:
Jim and Doug have been brewing together for a little over 20 years. Their wives met in a playgroup when their oldest kids were in strollers. Doug’s wife invited Jim and the family over to a party. When he welcomed Jim inside, Doug asked if Jim would like to try his home brew.
Jim thought to himself, “Well, I’ve had home brew before and it’s not very good, but I’ll have one to make him feel good and when he’s not looking, I’ll pour it out.”
Doug’s home brew was not only good, but so excellent that Jim–who himself had never brewed beer before–started up home brewing with Doug. Doug was originally from Rochester, New York and worked at a cell phone plant in Tijuana until he started doing this full-time.
Jim was from Cupertino, California. In 1978 his dad started an auto auction company along the border in San Ysidro. It was the first auto auction in San Diego. Business, however, didn’t go so well. The peso devaluations hit the business hard. In 1983 it looked like Jim’s dad was going to close up shop.
Jim told his father that he would help with the business for several months to see if he could turn things around. He stayed from 1983 onwards and ran the business until 2000 when he sold the facility to Adesa Auto Auctions. If you ask, Jim will take out an old picture of the car lot he owned.
The Oldest San Diego Brewery
To enhance the ambience, when you walk into Bay Bridge Brewing’s tasting room, which is part of an office building, you’ll see several pictures of the first beer brewery in San Diego:
Bay Bridge Brewing’s Beer
It took two years for the duo to re-open their tasting room at Marsat Ct. after they closed Eastlake Tavern & Bowl. Councilmember McCann helped them along the way. They have currently been brewing about 500-600 barrels. From start to finish, the final product takes about 14 days.
Bay Bridge Brewing has several great offerings, especially for a South Bay enthusiast like me because they are all named after South Bay locations and attractions:
- Wolf Canyon Wheat: A 2012 Gold Medal Winner from the SD International Beer Competition, this is a crisp wheat beer.
- Bonita Blonde: a golden ale brewed with munich and white wheat malts. It’s a little on the bitter side (which is a personal favorite of mine).
- America’s Finest Amber: this has a caramel flavor.
- Palomar Pale Ale: there’s a nice citrus finish to this one.
- Star of India IPA: named after the ship in downtown San Diego, this is a crisp, citrus brew with lots of caramel malt as well.
- Rolling Hills Irish Red: roasted barley, crystal malts and a hint of bitterness.
- Bill of Rights Red IPA: this is named after the ship currently docked in the Chula Vista harbor. It’s got a deep caramel malt taste.
Bay Bridge Brewing will also be offering seasonal beers: a Pumpkin Ale for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Then, in December and January they’ll be doing an Oatmeal Stout.
Where Can You Find Them
Bay Bridge Brewing will have a hard opening at the end of August when a live band will play and Mayor Salas will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Best of all: the tasting room is only a short distance from the Trolley Station, so public transportation can take you home.
Find Them Bay Bridge Brewing Here: 688 Marsat Court, Suite B, Chula Vista