In April, I traveled to San Diego to attend the wedding of two of my friends. While my partner, a bridesmaid, was busy helping with various wedding tasks, I took the opportunity to visit a couple of area breweries. The last time I was in San Diego, I visited Stone Brewing and Green Flash Brewing and attended Stone’s big anniversary beerfest in San Marcos (the 15th Anniversary). This time I decided to stop at Stone for lunch before visiting Lost Abbey Brewing and Societe Brewing.
Despite being less than a year old at the time of my visit (they’re celebrating with a beerfest in July), Societe is already generating a lot of good buzz. A friend, who had been in San Diego a month earlier, gave it a very high recommendation based on my natural attraction to Belgian inspired beers. Societe clearly deserved the recommendation. My contact at Stone Brewing got me in contact with the owners, Doug Constantiner and Travis Smith, allowing me to set up a meeting.
The brewery is located in a commercial park just off the Cabrillo Freeway. It’s also very close to I-805 and I-15. A decent sized outdoor seating area is located just to the side of the main entrance. Once you walk in, you’re greeted by a long wooden bar overlooked by shiny, new, stainless steel brewing equipment. The back bar is an attractive mix of earth tone stone tiles and raw wood augmented with some rope and barrels to add a nice cosmetic balance to the scene which hosts a huge chalkboard listing the current offerings and prices as its centerpiece.
The mid afternoon atmosphere was lively but relaxed. The wood and natural stone really helped to balance the industrial nature of the brewing equipment making for a well designed taproom with a pleasant conviviality. The space had a light and airy feel to it with just the right amount of natural light. It’s certainly one of the better designed taprooms I’ve visited. People weren’t there to just taste some beers and fill a growler, they were hanging out to enjoy a well put-together space.
I sat down with Doug & Travis to talk about their venture. Doug worked as a New York investment banker before quitting to realize his dream of owning a brewery. He started at the Bruery after Seibel brewing school. It was at The Bruery that he’d make a new friend who’d become his future business partner. Head brewer and co-owner, Travis Smith, spent several years at Russian River Brewing and at The Bruery. That’s a brewing pedigree that goes a long way to explaining the buzz around this brewery. It also explains Societe’s focus on Belgian-style ales, IPAs, and barrel-aging. While we chatted, I thoroughly enjoyed a glass of The Harlot, what they call a Belgian Extra (it’s basically an abbey-style single).
With less than a year in existence, Societe has already reached its capacity and has stopped adding new distribution since they can barely keep up with the demand from their existing accounts. They have 60 loyal buying accounts who take whatever’s available. At this point, they don’t have a best seller. They’re still new and are continually brewing new beers while accounts snap up whatever keg is offered no matter what style of beer is in it.
They have a lot of equipment on order that will help them meet the demand of their current accounts. While I enjoyed a glass of The Widow, a strong dark ale, they told me of their long-range plans to be in the major cities of the west coast: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle. Unfortunately, our time had come to an end. We had to make back for the rehearsal dinner.
Doug and Travis are a pair of talented individuals and a couple of nice guys. Together, they’ve created a great brewery that should stand the test of time. I highly recommend a visit to their brewery if you’re in the San Diego area. If you can’t make it to the brewery, try one of their beers on draft. All in all, I tried about 6 different beers from Societe at various spots around San Diego and was thoroughly impressed with quality and flavor. I, for one, can’t wait to drink more of their beers, especially in Portland (when they make it here).