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Craft brew pioneer Karl Strauss to open San Marcos site

Karl Strauss Brewing Co. plans to open an outdoor site in San Marcos.
Karl Strauss Brewing Co. plans to open an outdoor site in San Marcos.

Brewpub would re-invent the suburban backyard with a park-like space and experimental beers

Karl Strauss Brewing Co., San Diego’s oldest craft beer company, plans to open a new San Marcos brewpub that would re-invent the suburban backyard amid a growing urban neighborhood.

The brewery will feature extensive outdoor space, regular food trucks and creative new brews, said Steve Robbins, vice president of brewpubs for Karl Strauss. It will occupy a two-acre space at Las Posas Road and Armorlite Drive, near Palomar College, and is expected to open early next year.

The company envisions a park-like setting “with a lot of places for people to sit back, relax and enjoy some California sunshine,” Robbins said.

It will also beta test new beer varieties, where the company’s brewers will experiment with novel formulas and local ingredients, and customers will try out their offerings.

“We will have an R&D (research and development) brewery on site, and we are going to be testing out some different beers, different styles at the San Marcos facility, to be shared with people in San Marcos,” Robbins said. “If those recipes look like they’re working, we might take them to other facilities to make in larger batches. But we’re looking forward to having some fun playing with a small brewing facility.”

The company has been working on designs for the site for about six months, and expects to submit final plans to the city soon, Robbins said. They’re aiming for a short turnaround on construction with the goal of opening in the first quarter of 2020, he said. Once it opens, he said, it will serve as a kind of community backyard for neighboring apartments in the Palomar Station and Marc San Marcos complexes, and for visitors at the Residence Inn by Marriott.

“We’re looking forward to making a connection with the hotel and apartments,” Robbins said. “If you’re traveling and staying at the hotel, and are away from your own backyard, come to ours. What we may include back there is all the amenities you’d find in your backyard, from fire pits, to lawn games, music, beer and dogs.”

Vince Vasquez, an independent beer industry analyst and North County resident, said the plan reflects the competitive nature of the craft beer industry in San Diego, where more than 160 breweries and brewpubs vie for customers. There are 10 brewpubs and cideries in San Marcos, with two more in the permitting process, in addition to Karl Strauss, Sangster said.

“Though Karl Strauss is one of the oldest and most respected, they have to reinvest and be relevant and grow their market presence,” Vasquez said.

The concept also fills a demand in North County, where residents want to drink, dine and socialize in their own neighborhoods, he said.

“One of the things I’ve seen for the past six years or so, as communities grow through urban redevelopment or new development, you see this desire for your local bar or local tavern, and many times craft breweries are filling that need,” Vasquez said.

San Marcos’ Economic Development Manager Tess Sangster said the city is awaiting final plans, and supports Karl Strauss’ concept for the site, between Furniture Row and the city’s industrial zone.

“It should be really exciting,” she said. “There’s not much commercial activity there. Mainly, it’s residential and industrial. This is the backyard for all of these people who live in this area... I think it’s going to be great synergy for the area.

Karl Strauss aims to engage neighbors through live music, art events and family activities. Rather than installing an on-site kitchen, Robbins said, they plan to dish out meals from food trucks. Forgoing construction of kitchen facilities and extensive indoor seating will allow the company to get the site up and running more quickly.

With space for three trucks, the brewpub will offer fare from two Karl Strauss-branded trucks, along with food, snacks, and other offerings from outside vendors using the third truck pad. For instance, he said, a community vendor could offer anything from snow-cones to tattoos or pet services. The result, he said, would be a kind of one-stop-shop for weekend recreation.

“Picture if you will, coming in there on a Sunday, with two Karl Strauss food trucks, a variety of beers, and so-and-so’s dog-washing truck,” Robbins said.

The company also plans to invite local artists to create a revolving mural wall, which would be repainted every few months.

Karl Strauss’ plans for the San Marcos site make sense in light of changes in housing, population and leisure, Vasquez said.

As millennial customers buy homes, get married and have kids and pets, breweries are evolving from centers of night life to sites of family life, he said. Many new home buyers are purchasing multi-family housing such as condos or town homes, and looking for their outdoor space elsewhere.

Previous generations “hosted backyard barbecues with the traditional suburban dad in a Tommy Bahama shirt,” Vasquez said. But that tradition is shifting toward public spaces “where people can more easily gather and socialize, that speaks more to residents of North County.”