CARLSBAD — San Diego’s explosion of craft breweries is well documented.
Outside the metropolis, though, other like-minded breweries have burst through and become a staple in North County.
However, Carlsbad has been long behind the trend as cities such as Escondido, Oceanside and Vista have forged ahead in the booming market.
Now, though, Carlsbad is starting to become a player now as several craft breweries have or will soon open their doors.
On Saturday, the Burgeon Beer Company held its grand opening at its brewery on Yarrow Drive after their soft open on Dec. 4. About 240 people passed through the doors in two sessions to taste selections from 16 different brews.
Co-owners Matt Zirpolo, Anthony Tallman and Derek Van Leeuwen took nearly three years to get their project off the ground. Zirpolo and Tallman said it began with their dream and required time and effort to raise nearly $1 million in investment capital.
Tallman and Van Leeuwen started as home brewers before moving into commercial brewing. Zirpolo also home brewed, but worked for five years selling copy machines door-to-door before starting the brewery.
“I learned about sales and it’s pretty cutthroat,” he said. “I knew it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
They also spent about one year scouting locations, looking in Vista and Oceanside, but knew they wanted to be in Carlsbad.
However, it is more costly for a conditional use permit, plus other fees, and thus deters many start-up brewers from coming in. Nevertheless, the three forged ahead and found space and a landlord willing to work with their needs.
But the parking and zoning factors were a surprised as impact costs after renovating their space tallied to about $30,000.
“That’s more of a deterrent,” Zirpolo. “The nice thing about Carlsbad is it is a bit more sparse because of that. It took us about six months to go through the whole process. They (the city) were very up front about it.”
Still, Zirpolo and Tallman said Carlsbad is picking up steam with brewers as part of San Diego’s foundation as a hub for craft brewers.
Joining the Carlsbad brewery openings will be Brewery Igniter, which is a pseudo incubator for home brewers. The City Council approved the site late last year and features two start-up breweries.
It is expected to open in March with two breweries — Wiseguy Brewing and Rouleur Brewing — along with the Culver Beer Company on Loker Avenue.
Also in the mix is a pair of breweries at the Carlsbad Gateway Center on El Camino Real. Arcana Brewery has a tasting room, while Guadalupe Brewery (also known as Carlsbad Brew Supply) does not have a room, but sells its beer in bottles and growlers over the counter, along with home brew supplies.
And of course, there is the Carlsbad staple Pizza Port with locations in the Village and Bressi Ranch, among others.
For Rawley Macias of Escondido, owner of Rouleur Brewing, he said there is still a cost associated with getting his brewery off the ground despite being partnered with H.G. Fenton’s Brewery Igniter.
He said he’s invested more than $200,000, although said he could have gone with a much smaller investment. Macias’ reasoning, though, includes numerous factors to make sure his brewery hits the ground running.
“I’m trying to launch with guns blazing,” he added. “Anyone launching with $50,000 is doing the bare bones.”
Nevertheless, Macias said the Carlsbad market is starting to grow among brewers even with a more expensive permitting process than other cities.
“It is an underserved area,” he added. “There is truly a need for a neighborhood brewery.”
Tallman, 29, said despite the city hurdles, the market in Carlsbad is ready for other start-up brewers.
“There is a lot of potential in North County, specifically,” he added. “For us, Vista was somewhere we looked. It was a very inviting city. We just felt like there was enough of a benefit for us coming here,” Tallman said. “There is nothing until you get to the Village.”
Ziprolo, 30, said the capital required to start is a daunting task. Burgeon Beer bought all new equipment plus leasing space and city and impact fees just to start.
The three friends managed to gather their investment privately, mostly through friends and family.
Perhaps one of the biggest shocks was when renovating their space, the impact fees changed because the company changed much of the office space to industrial and warehouse uses.
Nevertheless, the budding company is thrilled with its location on Yarrow Drive. It connects from Palomar Airport Road to Camino Vida Roble, which intersects with El Camino Real giving the brewery visibility.
The brewery is open Wednesday through Sunday, but Zirpolo and Tallman said the busiest days are weekdays with the after work crowd. They attribute much of it to their location and proximity to other business parks and large outfits such as ViaSat.
“We have so many cars that drive by here every day to and from work,” Tallman said. “We wouldn’t have gotten that if we were tucked away in a business park.”