Back in 2012 Mark Mericle and JJ Snyder were introduced and immediately hit it off, especially when it came to the idea of opening a brewery together. JJ wanted back in the food and drink industry, and Mark wanted to brew again. With the help of two other partners, Legacy Brewing Co was opened in 2013.
This destination brewery was number 77 to be born, putting them at the halfway point in the rapidly growing lineage of San Diego craft beer. Legacy was opened with the founders’ own money, and remains a positive cash flow operation: 2 financial facts you can’t always state for a local brewery.
Not only did they open with their own capital, Mark and JJ built everything inside the brewery with their own hands. And when we say everything, we mean everything. It took 11 months to perform a complete teardown and rebuild of the former Transworld Skateboarding magazine headquarters.
Highlights of their “hands on” construction approach include manufacturing a grain silo, custom cold box with refrigerated fermentation area, as well as framing and laying concrete for their enormous tasting room bar. Not to let anything go to waste, the wrought iron bracing their fermenters were shipped in have been repurposed into the catwalk for the brew deck.
It didn’t take long for Legacy Brewing Co to expand, with the opening of their Taproom & Kitchen in fall of 2014. Located in the Miramar area, the Taproom serves food and also pushes Legacy’s reach further south. Legacy saw the writing on the wall for a shift to the local neighborhood approach, which is why there was no hesitation on their part to open a satellite location.
On their current 15 barrel system, production sits around 1500-2000 barrels annually. Legacy Brewing can expect that number to climb significantly, with another expansion in the works.
Not only will this new space increase production of core beers, but the purchase of a new canning line will get Legacy’s lineup into aluminum format for the first time. Their barrel-aging program will be afforded more room for cellaring specialty Clan Ross Scotch Ale and Czarface Imperial Stout releases, and sour beers are also under consideration.
Mark Mericle’s Legacy of Brewing
After a trip to Germany in the 80’s, head brewer Mark Mericle quickly realized that American beer was sub-par compared to what he was drinking in Europe. His desire for fresh, locally brewed beer back at home set him on a path to learn how to brew, which he did in Northern California. In 1989, he opened Orange County’s first brewpub – Heritage Brewing Company.
Through Mark, Legacy Brewing is very European influenced with a quality representation of old styles, and hybrids of new styles. With a quick scan of their tap list, it was immediately obvious that Legacy calls on more styles than most San Diego breweries. The only style not represented on the menu was a porter, but they assured us they produced one.
Of course they brew several India Pale Ales, but with a philosophy of well-rounded style options, IPAs are viewed as another choice, not the cornerstone of the beer list. Both Mark and JJ feel sessional beers are preferable, and try to concentrate on their offerings clocking in at about 7% and below.
Their runaway hit, and Bronze medal winner at the 2016 World Beer Cup, is That Guava Beer. It was first brewed as an experimental one off, but was such a taproom hit another batch couldn’t be brewed until they sourced more guava fruit. The beer earned it’s name after making it back onto the menu, when a customer exclaimed “Oh, you have that guava beer back on again.”
Legacy is proud of that beer as one of their flagship bestsellers, and will be rolling out a rotating hop series aptly named Hop Off 76. Look for the Galaxy edition of that beer soon, as well as their winter holiday beer Sleigh Wreck, which sports the best drunken Santa Claus of all time on the label. Based on the taste we had, this year’s batch was even more jolly and gingerbread spiced than last.
Mark finds “putting a busload of hops in an IPA” to be fun, but his favorite beer to brew is their Clan Ross Scotch Ale, due to the “phenomenal variety of specialty malts he gets to use — it smells so good when mashing in.” It wasn’t a brew day during our visit, but apparently all employees can tell when that beer is being brewed by smell alone.
Although they are not a military brewery, the armed forces are part of their legacy. A portion of Recon Rye Session Ale proceeds benefit the Recon Foundation. The brewery also sponsors a private Marine Corps fitness event, whose name is not fit to print.
If you’re looking for a weekend drive up the coast, and a myriad of beer styles to choose from, be sure to “hop off 76” and make a stop at Legacy Brewing Co.