From the Cul De Sac: Don’t Forget To Keep Drinking Local
For the last few weeks, the residents of Temecula were all agog, filling social media with happy chatter, due to the fact that one of our neighbors from the south, San Diego-based Ballast Point Brewery, opened a tasting room and eatery where the iconic (read: rundown) Captain’s Cabin fine dining restaurant once stood.
Now, I like a good Sculpin as much as the next gal but Ballast Point taking its place (reasonably) close to Temecula’s brewery row is making me a little nervous. I can’t help but wonder if the addition of a national brand – Ballast Point having recently been purchased by Constellation Brands, owners of Corona and Modelo – will start to deter residents from something that makes the Inland Empire so special; the opportunity to truly drink 100% local.
In the last five years, Temecula, Murrieta and the surrounding areas have experienced a virtual renaissance of hoppy happiness with locally-based microbrews popping up all over the Inland Empire.
An area once known for their thriving wine country has turned the burgeoning brewery business into what is now a staple in the lives of residents and tourists alike; with locations like Refuge Brewery, Black Market Brewing, Aftershock and others thriving; some even canning their product for retail locations.
Local Brew Masters pride themselves on brewing a quality product geared to satisfy a Temecula audience that has become a group of beer aficionados with a very discerning potable pallet.
“My ideology, and that of my cofounders, Glenn Wichert and Jake Kucera, has been fundamental to the products we produce,” Curt Kucera, Refuge Brewery Co-Owner said. “Brew great beers with local ingredients to produce regional beers that are authentic to our community. The large commodity brewers simply can’t realize the nuances in flavor, aroma, and pure enjoyment you get from a well-crafted beer.”
But, are the flood of eager beer enthusiasts flocking to Ballast Point’s door forgetting about the lager locations right here in their own backyard? Is the addition of “big beer” making us drunk with consumerism?
Now some may argue that this takeover began with the inclusion of Karl Strauss Brewing Company back in 2013, but they tend to define themselves as more of a restaurant with their own beer, as opposed to a brewery, much like BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.
Ballast Point is all about the beer, with their tasting room, like local breweries, the star attraction. And they are packing them in every night.
Is the Ballast Point trend just a novelty, with a lot of us just jumping on the bandwagon of the latest and greatest in town? Or, have we forgotten that local businesses are the cornerstone of this city; giving our friends and neighbors a chance to share their talents and the fruits of their labors with their community while creating jobs and contributing to the city’s allure and therefore expanding the tourism dollar?
Now, I’m not staying stay away from Ballast Point all together. Heck, I’ll probably have my next girls’ night on that patio. I’m just reminding all of you that Temecula has its small town feel for a reason and we want to continue to support those businesses that help shape our identity.
So, after grabbing a burger and a Grapefruit Sculpin at dinner, why not head over to Refuge for a pint of Blood Orange Wit? I’m not asking you to discriminate. I’m just inviting you to continue raising your glass to our local – but still exceptional – microbrewery neighbors.
“People often say Southern California is fortunate to have so many craft breweries, but our reality is better stated,” Kucera said. “Southern California craft breweries are fortunate to have so many that are willing to drink local.”
(A version of this story first appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune)