Telling stories with spirits


As the San Diego’s East Village booms onward with new business, highrises and a fusion of cultures and ideas, a new spirit destination has joined the mix adding flavor and conversation to the neighborhood. Storyhouse Spirits, a 7,600 square foot distillery, bar and lounge is the brainchild of homebrewer and distiller Matt Kidd along with Steve Kuftinec, a sales and distribution veteran coming from 20 years in the brewing industry with Uinta Brewing in Utah.

With a design by the founders and Blalock & Partners Architectural Design Studio, Storyhouse launched in early February with Seaside Vodka, Meyer Lemon & Cucumber Vodka, California Dry Gin and California Coastal Gin. A bourbon and American single malt whiskey will be made available at a later date.

PACIFIC spoke with Kidd and Kuftinec to get the scoop on East Village’s newest spirit hotspot.

PACIFIC: What’s the experience of Storyhouse Spirits?

KIDD: We’ve been through great pains to preserve the sensory experience, that ability to see and hear and smell the spirits. Imagine this: You’ve got a cocktail in your hand and you look over the balcony and can see where everything was created. We want to be as transparent as possible.

What’s the significance of the owl logo?

KIDD: We are all storytellers. The wise old owl (logo) symbolizes sharing your journey, stories and your wisdom. Over a cocktail, of course.

Matt, how did you start distilling?

KIDD: It grew out of an interest in whiskey from my travels in the Marine Corps around the world and my days of homebrewing and understanding that making whiskey took it to another level.

What was the first spirit you made?

KIDD: It was a rye whiskey. I was working with a mentor, and I took it from milling and mashing to fermenting, 100% on my own.

How did you decide on a Meyer lemon and cucumber vodka?

KIDD: For us that we are looking for spirits with a lot of versatility and enjoyed on their own but also shine in a cocktail, that’s where most people will be drinking a vodka.

What’s the difference between the California Dry and California Coastal gin?

KIDD: The California Dry will be more juniper forward, it’s a gin lover’s style gin. The Coastal is more approachable, less heavy on juniper, has more floral, citrus and botanicals.

When should readers expect the bourbon and American single malt?

KIDD: We currently have 50 barrels of bourbons and rye; we are looking at 1 to 2 years.

Will there be a flight to try everything?

KIDD: We will have tours, and as a part of the tour you will be able to try them straight, in a cocktail or both.

What sets Storyhouse Spirits apart from other producers?

KUFTINEC: Some people are kind of hiding the fact that they are not the producer of the spirits under their name, we just want to make sure it’s clear that 100% of Storyhouse is created, distilled and packaged at Storyhouse Spirits.

What are a few cocktails that will be available?

KUFTINEC: On the gin side we will be doing a Blueberry Lavender smash, with Coastal gin and proprietary mix of blueberry and lemon. We’ll also do classic cocktails like the Aviation, and a San Diego mule with elderflower and ginger with the Meyer lemon gin.

What’s on Chef Nick Paulerio’s menu?

KUFTINEC: The overall aspect is taking care to source local within 20 to 30 miles of the restaurant, and be as sustainable as possible. It’s really small sharing plates atmosphere, about conviviality of dining. He’s stuffing his own sausage, caramelizing onions in bourbon and doing oysters Rockefeller with gin instead of Pernod.

Favorite spirit and food pairing?

KIDD: Bourbon braised pork belly over Asian fried rice with our heirloom corn bourbon to be out in the future.

KUFTINEC: Our ceviche with halibut made into rosettes — it looks like a primrose from the beets. It’s as good of a sushi I’ve ever had, paired with the Coastal gin.

What’s special about the East Village for a location?

KUFTINEC: It’s such a hip cool area of 120-square blocks, and a huge culturally diverse part of San Diego with tremendous growth. Also, with the influx of younger people that want to live downtown, there’s this whole vibe full of energy.

KIDD: We look at East Village and we’re looking into the future. I’m a surfer, and I liken it to paddling into the wave. We haven’t even stood up on the wave yet.

Storyhouse Spirits

When: Will be open daily for tours, tastings, lunch and dinner from 3-11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Where: 1220 J St., East Village

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