AleSmith Brewing Company, located in the heart of the “Beeramar” district of San Diego, has been crafting European inspired artisanal beers since 1995. The company’s founder, Skip Virgilio, fell in love with craft beer on a road trip to the Pacific Northwest in 1989, which lead him to jump head-first into homebrewing. Within a few years, his recipes began to win awards on a national level, including San Diego’s first Gold Medal winning craft beer. A partnership with fellow homebrewer Ted Newcomb was formed, AleSmith was forged, and they’ve been cranking out award winning beer ever since.
Current owner and CEO Peter Zien was originally brought in as a consultant due to his sterling reputation as a homebrewer, with more than 400 homebrew awards to his name. Peter bought the company in 2002 and they have increased production from 400 barrels a year to more than 30,000 barrels in 2016. Under his leadership, the brewery has expanded to a new facility with the capability to brew more than 100,000 barrels per year and AleSmith beers are now distributed in 24 states as well as Denmark, Scotland, Australia, Japan and Thailand. The brewery now holds more than 20 major awards including the prestigious “Small Brewery and Brewer of the Year” from the 2008 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado.
With 11 styles brewed year-round, AleSmith boasts one of the biggest core beer lineups out of any craft brewery. They also offer an extensive lineup of seasonal brews like Evil Dead Red, Double IPA and Double Red, plus special releases like My Bloody Valentine and variants of their famous Speedway Stout. You can stop by the expansive tasting room for a pint or to buy cases of your favorite beer from the gift shop. Kegerator owners can also pick up a keg directly from the brewery, but call ahead to ensure the style you want is available.
AleSmith has the largest beer tasting room in San Diego County with up to 25 beers on tap, and it is undergoing an expansion. The tasting room, private event area and patio are all getting bigger. Food trucks are usually accessible from the patio on a rotating basis. Part of the expansion will include nice new permanent restrooms, which will be appreciated by patrons who may have had to wait in line for one of the single occupancy restrooms in the past.
Visitors to the tasting room can also visit the Tony Gwynn museum, which came about after San Diego’s most iconic sports figure collaborated with the brewery to create one of AleSmith’s most well-known beers, the San Diego Pale Ale .394. Tony got the idea after seeing other players bring their own custom champagnes to their Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, but he recognized that craft beer would be more representative of San Diego. Named after Gwynn’s highest single-season batting average in 1994, Tony wanted a beer that was “light with a kick.” After gathering the Gwynn family’s feedback on test batches, they developed a golden pale ale full of American hop flavor and aroma, with a subdued bitterness and a malty sweet finish. A portion of all .394 related proceeds go directly to the Tony and Alicia Gwynn Foundation (TAG).
Through that partnership, the Tony Gwynn Museum was born. The Gwynn family has an extensive personal collection of memorabilia from Tony’s career, and the museum is a great place to showcase it. The family lends items to exhibit on a rotational basis so you may see something different every time you stop by. It’s an experience fans of the sports icon shouldn’t miss.
Lucky patrons may even be able to access AleSmith’s Speakeasy – a secret room that features beers from their robust barrel aged program. It’s a private, intimate atmosphere that presents a nice getaway from the busy tasting room where you can enjoy beer in a somewhat secluded environment. The beertenders in the Speakeasy are extremely knowledgeable about AleSmith’s barrel aged beers and can even help you have your own blending experience, where you can take multiple beers and combine them in different ratios to experiment with new flavors.