San Diego Beerworks receives enthusiastic welcome in Solana Beach

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San Diego Beerworks, serving up all San Diego craft beer, recently opened in Solana Beach. Courtesy photo

By Karen Billing

A “super-soft” opening at Solana Beach’s new San Diego Beerworks recently turned into an all-out flood of customers thirsting for a craft beer spot in the North Coast area.

“We were jam-packed the entire weekend,” said owner John Holko, who was behind the bar working the taps so steadily that one sought-after brew, Alpine’s Hoppy Birthday, ran out on the very first day.

Through word of mouth and social media, beer aficionados seemed to be clamoring for his bar to open. He got encouraging emails during the long march to opening day with people from all over the county saying they were looking forward to the new place. One day, a couple of guys drove up from Mission Valley just to peek in the windows.

“There’s been a lot of excitement with people who are beer fans, and we owe them a debt of gratitude,” Holko said. “We just have to do right by them and give them a great quality product.”

Holko, who opened the bar with his wife, Jennifer, aims to “celebrate the craft,” keep the pints beautiful and showcase San Diego’s local breweries the best he can.

While he would never call his customers “beer geeks,” he happily uses the term to describe himself.

Holko has been in the beer business for 10 years, predominantly on the supplier side. Most recently he worked for Crown Imports, commuting to San Francisco to work for the company that supplies and imports Corona, Pacifico, Modelo, Negra Modelo and Victoria beers.

Before that, he spent five years working for Heineken USA, managing the sales territories of Orange County, Inland Empire and Las Vegas.

“There’s been a huge boom in the last five years with craft beer in San Diego, and San Diego is recognized as the craft beer city in the country, that’s a known,” Holko said. “Last time I checked, there were over 85 breweries. What better way to come back to San Diego and stay in the business and also celebrate everything San Diego craft?”

He said while there are a lot of places to taste downtown, unless you visit the actual  breweries, North Coast was lacking a place to sit down and have a “really good beer experience.”

Holko has thought of every detail at Beerworks — from the glassware used to the temperature, pressure and presentation of the beer — a one- to two-finger foam head that allows the nose to pick up the effervescence and bouquet of the beer.

In Solana Beach’s Beachwalk Retail Center, Beerworks completely overhauled the space that was formerly Cupcake Love bakery. (No matter how much work they have done, Holko said they still see little bits of pink paint on occasion.)

Holko went for a “vintage industrial” look, exposing the beams, tearing up the flooring and leaving the concrete, and putting in brick walls. He put in a unique cold- rolled-steel bar top and built the bar from reclaimed wood from a 100-year-old Sacramento barn.

“I loved the story behind it,” Holko said.

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