In an effort to distinguish themselves from the crowd, many of today’s craft breweries are expanding their brands and looking beyond the beer. In Vista, Calif. - which is at the epicenter of San Diego County’s “Hops Highway” - several craft breweries have upped the competition ante by creating immersive experiences for their patrons - from golf to fantasy games to a German Bierhall.
Below we take a closer look.
Dogleg Brewing Company
Situated in the new Keystone Innovation Park, Dogleg is one of Vista’s newest craft breweries and is a place where craft beer lovers and golfers unite. Dogleg, which celebrated its grand opening in November 2019, is co-owned and run by Nick and Christina Lumsden and Corey Gustafson, who have created a fun, laid-back vibe. Whether you're a lifetime golfer or simply love an exceptionally well-crafted beer, there's lots to enjoy at this brewery, including a putting green, golf simulator, TVs, and an outdoor patio.
The beer is also tasty. The Lumsden’s teamed up with long-time local home brewer Jim McCaskey, who has been creating awesome craft beer in San Diego for 25 years, and has earned many local and national home brew medals along the way (including the Karl Strauss Pro-Am in 2015 with his Black Nose smoked porter).
Nick gave the lowdown on how the three of them came together and why they chose to focus on a golf-themed brewery.
“Golf is a game that brought us all together over the past 10+ years. It’s how I met my wife; it's how we met our business partners, head brewer, investors, and contractors to bring this vision to life. It’s the common bond that helped build our long term relationships that now span far deeper than golf itself. Our head brewer Jim has developed a masterful and nationally decorated repertoire of recipes that we believe deserve to be introduced to the professional San Diego craft beer scene. In addition, golf and craft brewing also have quite a few similarities which make both so enticing to us. Brewing and golf both involve patience, adaptability, community, precision, consistency, an element of risk/reward with just enough creativity to set yourself aside from the rest."
“Our goal is to create an experience that represents these two passions and celebrates the relationships and communities we’ve built through golf and craft beer,” he added. “We also see this as an opportunity to bridge two iconic industries to San Diego and promote both by bringing craft beer to golfers and golf to craft beer enthusiasts."
To Lumsden’s knowledge, Dogleg is the only golf-inspired beer manufacturer not only in the region but in the state of California. The brewery has a variety of beer styles, but Lumsden said they will place an emphasis on traditional English and Scottish style Ales (to align with the origin of golf). The brewery also plans to brew specialty batches around major golf events such as the Masters, US Open, and Ryder Cup. “We are in the process of adding a reverse osmosis water filter to allow us to precisely build water profiles of world regions and brew beers as true to their traditional style as possible,” Lumsden said.
In terms of Dogleg’s tasting room, it's a cross between a traditional Scottish pub and Coastal California. “Our co-owner Mike Civerolo helped us realize this theme perfectly by hand-crafting all furniture, surfaces, countertops, and structures in the tasting room,” Lumsden said. “Our high bay ceilings and windows allow a bright space filled with natural light and beautiful sunset views from inside the tasting room or from our outdoor patio.”
To further draw in golf and beer lovers alike, Dogleg will use its Foresight GCHawk simulator to host weekly closest-to-the-pin and long drive competitions as well as periodic tournaments for its special Dogleg Brewing club members. The tasting room also exhibits a 375 square-foot putting green where patrons can challenge each other to friendly putting competitions and work on their stroke over a Dogleg brew. For those who need a snack, Dogleg has a food truck on-site on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
“We are also collaborating with local golf courses to host occasional tournaments, 9-hole evening leagues, and member outings to help build our Dogleg community,” Lumsden said. “In addition, we are working on partnering with local PGA pros in North County San Diego to offer group lessons and demonstrations on the simulator with promotional craft beer offerings.”
Setting themselves apart has been no small feat, but to Lumsden, all the work has been worth it.
“I think it is vital for any new successful business to strive for uniqueness and stand out – not just breweries,” he said. “Whether it’s through offering a unique product or experience, these distinctions are what helps give the business an element of character and personality that customers appreciate. Not only are the beers top quality, but we’ve also incorporated our passions into the creation of the business that will allow patrons to see directly into the interests and values of the ownership team. For breweries in particular, it’s great to do something different because, as we all know, there are many great options for beer enthusiasts, and as a customer, we all want an experience or product to be positive and memorable. We are taking this one step further by striving to combine two of San Diego’s most iconic industries through creative collaborations, promotions, events, and fantastic products.”
From a craft beer perspective, Lumsden said Dogleg expects to incorporate a variety of high quality traditional English ales to the local beer scene. “From an experience perspective, we will add a very unique option for enjoying a craft beer both in our beautiful tasting room and at local golf courses.”
He said Dogleg is also excited to give back to the game that brought the partners together. A portion of the brewery's proceeds will be donated to the Pro Kids (First Tee of San Diego) and North County Junior Golf Association. Both are non-profit organizations which promote character development, life skills, and education of kids through the game of golf.
Dogleg is one of more than 20 craft breweries in Vista, which has the most craft breweries per capita than any other US city. Lumsden said he and his partners chose Vista because, “the city embraces and promotes the craft beer scene, has streamlined permitting processes, enables business owners to realize their vision, and has a great offering of resources to help us get there.
“These are things that aren’t as common for breweries in other municipalities,” he added. “In addition, being a golf-themed brewery, it was vital that we build our facility in close proximity to the golf mecca of the country in the Carlsbad area. This location in Keystone Innovation Park was ideal because it offered a combination of both benefits. The Keystone Innovation Park also offers beautiful panoramic views for visitors, ideal utilities, and most importantly – great neighbors in Eppig Brewing and Helia Brewing. We plan to work together on some great collaborative events and establish more of a destination appeal for Keystone Way. There is endless opportunity here so stay tuned.”
If you’re a fan of fantasy games, then head on over to BattleMage Brewing (less than a mile away from Dogleg), which has, on different days of the week, fun events such as Dungeons & Dragons, a “Magic The Gathering” Draughts & Drafts Tournament, and trivia night. The brewery also offers team-building events in which each team helps design a craft beer recipe, brew the beer, and eventually drink the fruits of their labors. It is the only craft brewery in San Diego County that has a fantasy theme.
BattleMage, which opened in May 2017, is the brainchild of longtime friends Ryan Sather and Chris Barry.
“BattleMage is a blend between a wizard and a warrior. A hybrid class in fantasy games, it was the perfect mascot for our concept,” Sather explained. “Chris and I have been best friends for over 22 years, and we grew up enthralled by all things nerdy. We played Everquest, Warcraft, Warhammer, and countless other fantasy games over the years. We wanted a medieval modern-themed brewery that allowed us to share our love of beer and fantasy games with our customers. We lean into the theme pretty hard because at our core, it's who we are so it just feels authentic and natural.”
In just a little over two years, BattleMage has attracted a strong and loyal following.
“We do our best to create a good experience for everyone who walks into our castle. I think if you can achieve this with a good product and a fun environment, you are bound to generate a loyal fan base,” Sather said. “A lot of the games we embrace such as D&D, Magic the Gathering, and World of Warcraft already have a solid following, so we mesh those fan bases with a tavern-like environment and good beer. “
“Each event is unique and brings together a lot of like minded people that have created a community that's extremely unique,” he added. “Our D&D campaign has over 200 people that have played in it, and all the adventures are created by an awesome team of about 10 Dungeon Masters that have created a world that's truly amazing. Come into the brewery and you will see how many of our adventurers have met their demise, as we honor their memories by engraving their names on swords or adding their character sheets to our wall of heroes. Step into our realm and you are guaranteed to have an adventure.”
Perhaps one of the coolest experiences at BattleMage is a fun beer tasting game called Slaying the Dragon. Sather explains, “It's when you run the tasting board and do three flights containing all 12 beers on tap, which we serve on battle axes. We actually have a dragon that roars and breathes smoke over the bar that will let his battle cry be heard when adventurers attempt to slay him. This is a lot of beer, so we recommend you bring a party of adventurers for such a quest. Soloing dragons is not for the faint of heart.”
Sather said they chose Vista as BattleMage’s lair because they both hail from North County and he has lived in Vista for the past decade. “The City also embraces breweries, and rather than creating barriers, they are open to helping us grow our dream.”
He said that while there is a lot of competition amongst breweries in Vista, BattleMage, along with its counterparts, has found success.
“I think first and foremost having good beer is crucial, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have a unique theme and a cool spot for your patrons to enjoy their delicious pints,” Sather said. “We brew a very diverse spectrum of beers, so rather than focusing on one style we try to make sure we have something for everyone. The days of a simple hole-in-the-wall brewery in an industrial spot putting out mediocre beer are dead in San Diego.”
His favorite thing about creating a space like BattleMage is sharing experiences and interactions with patrons. “In a digital age, it's nice when people come to the tavern and enjoy conversation and actual human interaction with one another. I've seen friendships blossom, people fall in love, and people better their careers all while enjoying some tasty ale and the human experience. Come for a tasty pint, stay for the experience.”
When you walk into Eppig Brewing new location at Vista’s Keystone Innovation Park, brewery and cellar operations are fully visible via glass windows running the majority of the north wall of one of two tasting rooms. A full quarter of the building is devoted to public space via a main tasting room, bier hall and outdoor biergarten.
A ceiling paneled in reclaimed wood flanked by metal grates giving way to soft LED lighting harken to circa-1900 Brooklyn, while various Edison-bulb-equipped fixtures, corrugated metal panels and wooden planks brought over from Eppig’s North Park tasting room reinforce the motif. An L-shaped, lacquered-stone, waterfall-style bar gives way to 24 taps and the view of the production area, while a variety of seating options abound, ranging from high communal tables to lounge furnishings and a banquette enclave.
The entire west wall of the tasting room opens onto the 1,200-square-foot biergarten, but will be closed on sunny days as the interior is air-conditioned. Outdoor seating options will include long, Bierhall-style tables shaded by umbrellas, as well as chairs situated around a fire pit.
In its new Vista digs, Eppig, which celebrated the grand opening of its one-of-a-kind Bierhall in mid November, pays homage to the company’s roots, not only spanning back to North Park, but the original iteration of Eppig Brewing that operated in Brooklyn, New York, from 1866 to 1935.
“The Eppig family emigrated from Germany in the 1800s and the design of our new building is one more way we're able to pay tribute to the family heritage,” said Co-Founder Stephanie Eppig. “From the beginning, our goal was to create a space we'd want to enjoy our beers in - such as a comfortable outdoor patio to enjoy the San Diego weather with canyon views. And so, the biergarten began to take shape.”
Eppig said the Bierhall was inspired by the building's 30-foot tall ceilings, which gave the brewery owners a unique opportunity to design a space for gatherings and celebrations, incorporating elements of a traditional Bavarian Bierhalle. In addition to Eppig’s multiple award-winning beers, it is one of the region’s only breweries with an outdoor biergarten (complete with firepit) as well as a dedicated event space to host large groups.
The craft brewery's Natural Bridge Lager Series is also one of San Diego's only dedicated lager brewing programs. “You'll typically find four-to-six lagers on tap at any given time, including our Eppig Special Lager (a Japanese Style Dry Lager) and seasonal styles such as Festbier,” Eppig said.
In terms of choosing Eppig’s North County location, Eppig said the Keystone Innovation Park in Vista is the perfect gathering place for biergarten aficionados.
“Our location near the Carlsbad/Vista border is a convenient location for both North County residents and commuters, with a friendly business environment that is supportive of our vision and plans for the community.”
For Kevin Ham, Vista’s Economic Development Director, said having unique breweries sprinkled throughout the city has made a significant impact to the local economy.
“Besides providing jobs for our residents, these breweries also boost tourism to the City and region, drawing visitors from all over the state and the US,” Ham said. “An additional benefit that many people overlook is that breweries support the local business community by creating an environment for meetings, teambuilding, dealmaking and a place for employees to connect. In Downtown Vista, for example, it helps draw customers for other businesses. We are proud that these breweries call Vista home.”
For more information on Vista’s thriving brewery scene, visit http://www.vistabrewersguild.com/.
Economic Development contact for the City of Vista:
Economic Development Director