In the beautiful San Diego community of Carmel Mountain Ranch, Second Chance Beer Company is appropriately located at the intersection of Innovation Drive and Avenue of Science. With over 20 years of experience as an innovative brewer and a graduate of the science-based Master Brewers Program at UC Davis, the address is fitting for co-founder and brewmaster Marty Mendiola to brew spectacular beer.
Marty is a well-known figure in the world of craft beer. Since he started brewing professionally his beers have won six World Beer Cups and ten Great American Beer Festival medals. In 2013, he was named Brewer of the Year in the Brewpubs Category at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
“I like to brew clean tasting beers that are true to the original style, while adding a little personal creativity; same way you do in the kitchen,” Marty told us recently.
“At first I tried to brew to style,” he said. “Like in cooking, though, I wanted to do something different now and then. It’s good for me to change it up.”
Marty likes to brew beers that are dry with a clean aftertaste. “So, I shoot for the ideal and then add infusions to make it interesting,” he explained. “I like to use more savory ingredients now than before, like herbs and nuts. I enjoy taking a style and playing around with it. In the future there will be more of these kinds of beers.”
It is this philosophy that has helped make Marty the exceptional brewer that he is today. No wonder West Coaster Magazine called Second Chance the next “it” brewery, and West Coaster readers voted it “Best New Beer Spot.”
Like many breweries, there is a theme, and the name says it all. Here, everything gets a “second chance.” For example, construction left-overs were repurposed to build furniture in the tasting room; whiskey barrel pieces were used to make light fixtures and beautify the front of the bar; pieces of a wood fence from Marty’s childhood home became the baseboards in the Tasting Room; and the booths in “The Brewer’s Lounge” were salvaged from Rock Bottom Brewery when the downtown location closed.
“The theme relates to Marty and Curtis getting a ‘second chance’ to do their own venture in the brewing world, but it goes beyond that into our operations. It’s in our approach to repurposing and reducing waste and who we chose as our philanthropic partners,” said brewery co-founder/owner, Virginia Morrison. “We practice it in our daily lives, and encourage others to do the same.”
Virginia was the motivator behind the start-up of the brewery. She handles the business side of things: legal concerns (she is an attorney), organizational planning, fund-raising, trademarks, operations, and events, such as hosting dog adoptions the brewery is known for. Virginia also handles the brewery’s philanthropic endeavors, such as their partnership with Donate Life San Diego, a leader in the promotion of organ and tissue Donation.
“Regulars and followers are also very important to us,” Virginia remarked. “We wanted to make our brewery like Rock Bottom in La Jolla when Marty and Curtis were there — where it was like the TV show, Cheers.”
The third partner in the brewery is Chief Tasting Officer, Curtis Hawes. Marty and Curtis became friends when they both worked at Rock Bottom La Jolla (Marty as Senior Brewer, Curtis as Assistant General Manager). While working at Rock Bottom, Curtis earned his MBA from San Diego State. Now he is in charge of permitting, distribution, marketing, and sales at Second Chance. In less than a year since the brewery started production last year, Curtis has gotten their beers on tap or in cans at over 160 locations in San Diego County, a noteworthy record.
“Being a positive business in the community is important to us, one way we are able do that is to give back to the community through charity.”
– Virginia Morrison, Co-Owner Second Chance
“It’s a great time to be alive and drink beer,” Curtis told us. “Living in the moment, realizing what you have and what you are grateful for. Move low and slow, do what you do, and do it well. To sum us up in a word: ’possibilities.’ Seize. Sip. Enjoy. That’s our motto. And pushing the envelope on beers.”
To meet current demand for their beers, Marty and assistant brewer, Craig Gregovics, are brewing once a week on their 30-barrel, computer-controlled system. Careful temperature tolerances are kept via state-of-the-art software, from mashing to fermentation. Quality control is critical, and regular focus groups and blind tastings help in this regard.
“We brew consistently clean, smooth beers, with great taste and aromas,” Marty said. “Beers that make you want to take another sip.”
“I tend to be on the subtle side of things,” he continued. “I want the beer to be there first with flavors in the background.”
To brew craft beers of this quality and quantity on a consistent basis requires physical and mental focus on the part of any brewing team. At Second Chance, the team regularly runs and practices Kung Fu and Yoga to maintain stamina.
“The most difficult aspect of the brewing process is the physical part of cleaning and keeping the cleaning process constant,” Marty revealed. “The intellectual part is easy. Yeast health and getting strong fermentations are also critical. Because of this, we have to take care of ourselves. Body mechanics are important to making beer, as are the principles of focus and balance.”
Currently, the best-selling beers at the brewery, restaurants, and tap rooms around the county are Seize The IPA; Mulligan, Irish-Style Red; Legally Red, Red IPA, and Seize The Coffee, a Coffee-Infused IPA. “Our Mulligan Irish-Style Red is a good beer to first enter into craft beer,” advises Marty.
“Personally, I love hoppy IPA’s and all the various flavors we can coax out of the many hops available. But I also have a soft spot for the Irish Reds, English Brown Ales, and Porters for their maltiness. My infusions are taking off, and I want to pursue the use of hibiscus flowers, Himalayan pink salt, fruits, and herbs which are key to certain beer styles. I am also exploring souring techniques.”
“Small batch infusions are real,” Virginia confided. “We make them at home. We toast coconut and cocoa nibs in our kitchen every time we make our Coco Rasa Coconut Porter.”
In the future, Second Chance will be one of three breweries that will brew beer with farm-fresh hops, citrus, and blueberries when the North 40 Urban Farm project opens in Carlsbad.
Anticipating the North 40 project, Marty started exploring the use of blueberries for future beers, and we were privileged to sample a test batch of a blueberry Kölsch he had recently brewed. Ruby in color, with a sweet nose and hint of blueberries, this beer has a light palate that is slightly tart, with a crisp, clean finish. It was simply divine. We are looking forward to its debut.
We were also in luck to experience a guided tasting from Marty of their small batch beer, Seize The Coffee (6.5% ABV/65 IBU), inspired by a trip to Colorado.
Seize The Coffee features seven hops and an infusion of cold brewed coffee and beans from local roaster Mostra. This beer glows golden-copper with a fluffy, ivory head. It has aromas of citrus and coffee, and subtle flavors of citrus, coffee, pine, and a hint of chocolate. Its mouthfeel is smooth and its aftertaste is clean, making it easy to drink. Marty describes the beer as “unexpectedly perfect harmony.” After tasting it ourselves, we know why. It is outstanding.
We highly recommend a visit to Second Chance Beer Company. The brewhouse and tasting room are beautiful, the service is excellent, and it is a fun place to drink world-class beers.
When you do visit, look for the basketball hoop inside the brewery. It was installed by a previous occupant of the space, and now used by brewery staff when they need a break from brewing. “The hoop is just for us – it’s come too close to breaking glassware one too many times,” Virginia laughed when we asked about it. “But there are darts, corn hole and more games on the way!”