Rear View Beer: Iron Fist Brewing

Checking in with the family behind a Belgian-inspired brewery with a wunderkind at the helm

Rear View Beer header

In a world that’s moving faster than ever, with our attention being pulled in so many directions, it’s easy to get caught up in the here-and-now. But we can’t know where we are going without knowing where we have been. It’s important to take time to look back and survey the landscape gracing the route that led us to where we are today for context and clues as to what may lie ahead. Such is the case with the San Diego brewing industry, a faction both revered across the country for the quality of its beers and the companies that produce them, as well as its positive impact at home and abroad.

San Diego’s brewing industry and overall beer scene didn’t spontaneously occur. It was forged over decades by thousands of entrepreneurs, craftspeople, employees and fans. And key to it all have been the brewing companies that have added their own unique spirit, personalities, motifs, influences and, of course, ales and lagers to the equation. In San Diego Beer News’ latest feature, Rear View Beer, we are taking a moment to look back and honor brewing operations that are no longer with us; companies both large and small that leant their passion, ideals and liquid wares to the local scene before exiting it. Today we remember Iron Fist Brewing with co-founder Eve Sieminski.

Who doesn’t love a guy named Brandon? All kidding aside, when I first met Brandon Sieminski—who is still the youngest brewmaster I’ve met in my 17 years as a journalist—I was instantly enamored. It was 2010, and it was the grand opening of the 21-year-old’s family business, Iron Fist Brewing. Sited in a two-story building in Vista which has become the headquarters of Pure Project Brewing, it was an ambitious operation specializing in Belgian ales. At the time, those Old-World monastic and farmhouse-style beers were all the rage. That trend may have fizzled, but after pivoting to produce IPAs and other less-niche styles, Iron Fist was able to not only endure, but grow. In its heyday, the company operated a satellite tasting room in Barrio Logan and had its beer available throughout Petco Park. But come the pandemic, after a decade in the business and facing multiple unprecedented challenges, the Sieminskis opted to close the book on their passion project.

What inspired you to start Iron Fist?
We dreamed of owning and operating a family brewery that would be a legacy for generations Sadly, that didn’t happen. We opened in October of 2010 and closed our doors in March of 2020. During that span we were hands-on the entire time.

What did you seek to bring to the local beer scene?
We wanted to bring Belgian beers with both traditional recipes as well as our spin on them. Being in San Diego, we had to expand our menu to include many other styles, including, of course, IPAs, plus barrel-aged beers.

How did you put your personal stamp on the business?
Our whole approach to our brewery was to make you feel like you were at home when you walked in the door. We knew our regulars by name, and even if you were a first-time visitor you were treated like family. Our whole family, including Grandma and Grandpa Fist, worked at the brewer regularly, and that included bottling. That piece remained almost until the end.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
I think the proudest thing is how well we were received and liked by our community. Yes, we won some medals, but that isn’t what we were about. We cared about our customers, and I think we made them happy. Also, we supported countless local charities as well as national organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project and Fleet Week San Diego. We were firm supporters of our military. We also were able to get our beers in several states and through a good chunk of California. We even had international distribution into Sweden, Hong Kong, South American, Japan and Canada.

What are some of the most memorable moments from the Iron Fist era?
Our first anniversary was epic and so many people came! We also had some great theme parties like prom with the “Under the Sea” theme, ’80’s Night (pictured below) and several fantastic private weddings, as well as just going out to the events that got us in front of a lot of people we would normally never meet.

Which of your beers do you miss the most?
That’s a tough one. It’s like picking your favorite kid. For me, I miss Nelson the Impaler and Dubbel Fisted most. For Greg, it’s Velvet Glove, and Brandon misses them all, but he loved our American Pilsner, Summer City.

How has it been since you’ve moved on from the brewing industry and what are you up to now?
Like everyone during the pandemic, we really struggled emotionally and financially. COVID was blazing, so we had this incredible loss and then a lockdown where it was tough to be social and hang with the people you love, but had each other and got through. Thankfully, Greg never gave up his business, Pacific Pro Painting and Restoration, while we owned the brewery. He worked hard and built up that business again. Thankfully, that provided for us and continues to do so. I went back to real estate, where I’ve been licensed and practicing for over 20 years. I came back to a business that changed greatly during the 10 years I was mainly working at the brewery. It was difficult, as I was starting my business from zero as all my clients had moved on. I now work with friends, family and referrals. Brandon has gone in a completely different direction. He is working in biotech and pursuing a career as a software engineer.

If you could do it all over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
That ship has definitely sailed, but the one thing we would do differently is have a better understanding of distribution and distributors, as well as coming in with money instead of self-funding the brewery. Also, having a better understanding of what growing the business would take. When you are a little guy you get run over a lot!

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