Eppig Brewing all in on Padres

Vista-based brewing company trying out East Village taproom, debuting branding celebrating the hometown team

Even in years where they racked up subpar records, the hometown San Diego Padres have drawn admirable numbers to Petco Park, making the East Village an attractive place for hospitality-based businesses to set up shop come baseball season. Never was that more true than in 2023, when the Friars drew a franchise record of more than 3.2 million to the ballpark (40,000-plus attendees per game) to watch what was expected to be a championship-caliber team. 

While things didn’t pan out as well as hoped on the diamond, East Village restaurants and bars fared well from April through September. So, too, did the area’s breweries, brewpubs and tasting rooms, save for one bordering Petco Park’s Gallagher Square which has been dormant for the past four years. A 2,000-square-foot ground-level space nestled under rooftop bar, Fairweather, the 16-tap tasting room was operated by Stone Brewing from 2014 until the onset of the pandemic in 2020. It has remained vacant ever since despite its enviable location just steps from the ballpark’s “Downtown Gate” at the intersection of 8th and J Streets. But that’s about the change. Last week, Vista-based Eppig Brewing signed a lease to take over the taproom for the 2024 baseball season.

“We have been working with the owner of that building on a couple of tasting room locations, and it came up in one of our conversations that we had always admired Stone’s former East Village space,” says Eppig Operations Manager Grant Tondro. That tangential remark gave way to an offer to take a test drive of the venue Tondro and his team were so fond of. “The opportunity to try the space out for the 2024 season to see if it’s a good long-term fit made it an ideal opportunity for us. We are looking forward to seeing what we can do with it.”

Stone Brewing J Street Taproom

Rather than go for a full-scale revamp of the taproom, the Eppig team will focus on maintaining the venue’s established lounge feel, while adding some bells and whistles. Those will come in the form of a shuffleboard table and updated seating options, including couches and possibly some Adirondack chairs. Tondro and company also hope to add a small patio area for outdoor imbibing.

Stone really left some good bones. It is a well-built taproom. That said, our lease is for the 2024 season only. If things go well, we would really like to make it a more permanent home, but time will tell. If that happens, we will make some more dramatic changes for the 2025 season.”

Grant Tondro, Operations Manager, Eppig Brewing

While Eppig is taking baby steps in the East Village, the company does have some dramatic changes in the works in terms of the packaging design for one of its most popular beers. During baseball season, Special Lager, an international-style Pilsner brewed with sushi-grade rice, will be packaged in cans bearing the colors of the Padres’ 1980s logo and the word “lager” displayed in the typeface from the iconic uniforms of that era. Over the past few years, Eppig has sold brown t-shirts featuring the “lager” wordmark, and the design has proven a lasting fan favorite.

“We are leaning into the popularity of that design with the ‘hometown edition’ of Special Lager,” says Tondro. “It’s a celebration of our love for all things San Diego, and seems like a perfect fit now that we have a space so close to Petco Park.”

Matching brown, orange and gold glassware will also grace the new taproom, which will pour Eppig’s array of German-style lagers and ales, IPAs, dark beers and sours, as well as occasional beers from other brewing companies. While there will be no on-site culinary component, the company is talking with Fairweather about the possibility of offering a limited menu of its food items to Eppig’s tasting-room patrons.

When asked about the challenges the venue posed for its previous tenant, Tondro acknowledges that the seasonality of the location is something that must be taken into consideration, and that making a go of things during non-baseball months is a hurdle he and his team know they will have to manage. Fortunately, Gallagher Square now regularly draws attendees to myriad concerts and events throughout the offseason, providing a boost that didn’t exist in the Stone era. Time will tell if Eppig will be able to draw sufficient revenue as a result of that programming and everyday business.

Meanwhile, the search for more sites to house satellite venues for Eppig and Tondro’s other beer venture, Mason Ale Works, continues. Tondro has surveyed multiple locations over the past months and hopes to have good news to announce in the near future. But for now he says his team’s primary focus is doing everything within their power to ensure Eppig’s East Village location is ready for fans as close as possible to the Padres’ home opener on Thursday, March 28.

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