It seems like a no-brainer that guests visiting casino resorts, such as Harrah's Resort Southern California near Valley Center , may enjoy kicking back with a freshly made San Diego craft beer while gambling, floating down the lazy river or simply while sitting at a tasting room bar during their stay. Thus, the never-been-done-before concept of SR76 Beerworks, a brand-new 5,000-square-foot brewery and the latest addition to the land on the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians' reservation, was born.
The man behind the beer is SR76's brewmaster, Brian Scott, who has worked at Firehouse Brewing Company, Mission Brewery, Karl Strauss Brewing Company and is a former president of the San Diego Brewers Guild. The project, which began a little over two years ago, is now fully complete, having opened in early November.
Harrah's Resort SoCal, which is owned by the Rincon tribe, had looked to party music and pool events in the past to attempt to usher in a younger crowd. Now, with SR76, its vision for getting a younger demographic out to the resort has shifted gears a bit.
"We have a very diverse group of customers, but we haven't had a whole lot of success in the past with younger customers," said Darrell Pilant, general manager at Harrah's Resort SoCal. "We decided to move away from the more DJ/party atmosphere and into the live music scene. We have live music, and SR76 gives us another opportunity to engage.
"This gives them a reason to come see us instead of someone else," Pilant added. "This project is unique because it's the tribe's project and not the resort's."
The Rincon tribe got on board with the SR76 Beerworks project after seeing the open building space and hearing the vision of the brewery from Scott. They saw it as a chance to further reflect the tribe's culture and history, given that the beer is local and uses agricultural products grown along state Route 76.
"It's been so cool because it's an opportunity to showcase San Diego craft beer at an entity that knows how to showcase things," Scott said. "You notice our lineup is quite a bit different from the typical San Diego lineup of beers. There are no IPAs, for example. We want to offer those other beers to, maybe, a segment of the market who hasn't had them yet.
"Beer tourism is big now, you know, very big. So it gives an opportunity to have that slice right here on our property, that no one else is offering. This is the first brewery opened by a tribe and at a resort like this."
The brewery is indeed the first of its kind. Although we in San Diego are not strangers to sipping on well-made, delicious craft beer, nothing like SR76 Beerworks has been done here (or anywhere else) before. Not only is it the first located in this proximity to a resort, it's also the first to be managed by a tribe on an Indian reservation.
SR76's Beerworks' beer offerings include: Temet (meaning "sun"), a Kolsch-style ale; Supul (meaning "one"), an apricot saison; Hellhole, a pale ale; and Paradise Creek, a German-style wheat beer. All the brews are very light, with the highest in alcohol by volume being the pale ale - coming in at 6 percent. That said, the beers are easy drinking, approachable and great for the typical, sunshine-y San Diego weather.
The inspiring part about SR76 is that it clearly is an extended part of the vibrant San Diego beer scene, while maintaining its own, very unique identity. Given its location, the brewery will eventually become supplier of the resort's house beer, Pilant said. This alone allows SR76 Beerworks a shining opportunity to expose a culture to craft beer and various beer styles that they may otherwise shy away from. For people who are looking for an IPA, there's a San Diego-style pale ale instead. For people who love Blue Moon, there's a craft version of that they can try and enjoy - eventually across the entire resort.
"The ground work is there: Darrell knows his stuff on the resort side and I know my stuff on the beer side," Scott said. "Being able to use both of those things together is really very powerful.
"Beer is kind of magical. I've made a lot of stuff in my life and have manufactured and sold it, but nothing has been as meaningful as beer," he added. "Someone is consuming a product that you've made. There is no feeling like it, there's nothing as rewarding as someone enjoying or just trying the beer."
For more information about SR76 Beerworks, including hours, visit harrahssocal.com.
777 Harrah's Rincon Way, Valley Center.