Major changes for Eppig Brewing

Vista company's CEO takes a step back, consultancy brought on to handle operations, usher growth and open new venues following satellite closure

The story of Vista’s Eppig Brewing starts with familial link Stephanie Eppig and her husband Todd Warshaw. In 2016, the couple revived J&L Eppig Brewing – a lager brewery that operated in Brooklyn, New York from 1866 to 1935 – teaming with former Ballast Point Brewing fermentationists Nathan Stephens and Clayton LeBlanc, and securing a lease on a combo brewery-and-tasting-room suite in H.G. Fenton’s North Park Brewery Igniter facility. 

Behind a quality beer lineup consisting primarily of German-style beers and West Coast IPAs, the second coming of Eppig flourished. Its fast fandom and stellar reputation allowed the business to relocate to a large production facility with an indoor-outdoor tasting room in Vista after just three years, and expand by constructing a waterfront location in Point Loma. It was a level of breakaway success that was seldom seen in the 2010’s and hasn’t been seen since.

In 2021, Stephanie accepted a marketing role at the Mission Valley headquarters of Mexican restaurant chain QDOBA. Following that move, Todd added the marketing and public relations duties she had handled to his responsibilities as Eppig’s CEO. It made for a lengthy job description touching on wide-ranging areas, including operations, distribution, sales, finance and hospitality, but he took it in stride and steered the company through years of growth that included the opening of a second satellite tasting room in La Jolla in 2022. 

As admirable as his performance has been, like any stressful situation, it took its toll. Seven months ago, Todd suffered a cardiac incident and was rushed to the hospital where medical staff were successful in stabilizing him. Following the incident and consultation with a physician, he was advised that taking a step back from his demanding job was crucial to healing and maintaining his long-term heart health. The advice was difficult to hear, but did not fall on deaf ears.

“Since April, we have explored many different options and tried to figure out how to change up our management structure while figuring out what is best for the future of Eppig as a company,” says Stephanie. “We’ve decided to make some big changes to leadership and feel really good about the opportunity that’s been presented to us.”

That opportunity is a strategic agreement with West Coast Ventures & Resources (WCVR), a Newport Beach-based consultancy that has worked with businesses in numerous industries, from waste management, pest control and environmental services to hospitality and breweries. Its experienced its most notable success with the latter through its work with locally rooted Mason Ale Works. Since acquiring that craft-beer concern in 2021, it has grown the brand and its distribution footprint. Mason’s beers are now distributed in more than 30 states and WCVR is in the process of securing a site in San Diego County for a tasting room to showcase the brand and its products. 

WCVR’s leadership team believes in Eppig, its beers and its proven track record, and feels it can achieve similar success as it has with Mason in growing the brand beyond its home county. Convinced in their ability to do do just that, Todd has relinquished his role as CEO, allowing the consultancy to take over day-to-day operations. 

We feel we can trust West Coast Ventures’ team to really steer the ship forward, do the Eppig family name proud and carry on the brand. Right now, they are evaluating the business, figuring out what is best to continue growing the brand in this rapidly changing environment. This industry doesn’t look like it did when we started the company seven years ago.”

Stephanie Eppig, Co-owner, Eppig Brewing

Some of the challenges currently facing members of the brewing industry include increased overhead and cost of goods, challenges at retail and decreased demand for craft beer in part due to the prevalence of alternative beverages and more mindful alcohol-consumption among younger consumer demographics.

The main focus for WCVR in the near-term is to institute changes that will allow the company to reduce costs and be as nimble as possible as it takes steps to strategically grow the brand. Eppig’s distribution footprint is expected to expand to include Arizona and Nevada by January, with a longer-term goal of distributing beer to the company’s original home state of New York. Currently, the company’s beer is sold exclusively in the Golden State, with the majority of it distributed to retailers in Southern California.

Another goal is to maximize Eppig’s reach and consumer brand-awareness via its satellite venues, but that will not include the company’s La Jolla location. Eppig permanently closed the tasting room following Sunday’s service, citing property issues and extensive City of San Diego permitting delays which prevented the timely addition of an outdoor patio geared to increase traction in the neighborhood, which is once again devoid of any brewery-owned venues.

Even with the aforementioned closure, Eppig’s venue count may soon be back at three, or even higher, come 2024. WCVR has submitted a letter of intent to acquire a new satellite location at a yet-to-be-disclosed location they believe is better positioned to accomplish Eppig’s goals. They are also actively exploring potential sites for additional tasting rooms.

A lot is happening – and happening fast – and all of it is meant to make an equally as rapid, positive impact to the structure of the company so that it can become more efficient, capitalize on its quality beer and established reputation in order to realize its potential as quickly as possible.

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