Rear View Beer: Papa Marcé’s Cerveceria

Family was as vital of a cornerstone for Carlsbad brewery as its ales, lagers and barrel-aged sours

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 Papa Marcé’s Cerveceria with founder Mark Amador.

Papa Marcé's Cerveceria logo

Mark Amador was no stranger to the local brewing industry. By the time he started entertaining the idea of opening his own brewery in 2016, he had been a part of it for nearly a quarter of a decade. His journey started in the summer of 1992 when he joined Mesa Distributing to work in merchandising and, eventually, sales. Two years later, he continued in the sales arena as the North County rep for Karl Strauss Brewing. In 2014, he moved on to work with a handful of local breweries, until he was overtaken by the urge to go from assisting others in achieving their goals to applying the full brunt of his considerable energy to starting his own business. The result was Papa Marcé’s Cerveceria, which opened in 2017 in a lease-to-brew suite at H.G. Fenton’s Carlsbad Brewery Igniterfacility which had previously been occupied by short-lived father-son operation Wiseguy Brewing. Amador’s brewery specialized in hoppy beers, lagers and a variety of barrel-aged and kettle-sour ales, and revolved around the concept of family as it applied to Amador and his tight-knit clan as well as the extended family members he had picked up over his many years in the beer industry. It was a welcoming concept that was appreciated by those individuals and regulars who reached familia status over Papa Marcé’s four years in business, before it closed its doors in March of 2020.

What inspired you to start your own brewing company and what did you hope to bring to the local beer scene?
By 2016, I’d had my fill of moving through the industry, helping multiple breweries grow only to have them feel like they no longer “needed” me. Over the course of several nights spent “hydrating” with industry friends, I decided to throw my hat in the ring as a brewery owner. There were multiple concepts thrown around, but the underlying reason I wanted to go forward with this venture was family; both my growing family and my familia de la cerveza, i.e., my “beer family”. There was also the desire to pay tribute to my great grandfather, who was first-generation from Mexico. Naming my brewery after him was an honor. We made our tasting room look and feel like a coastal Mexico cantina with my family’s imagery hung throughout the facility, augmented by works from local artists that rotated every month. As far as the beer went, my vision started with our cornerstone Mexican lager, designed a la Modelo Especial but crisper with a hint of Azacca hops. Going by the name Papa Shaka, it was our first beer and our best-seller from day one. The next step was creating an elevated barrel-aged sour program with an imperial red sour and golden sour that we aged in Coppola red- and white-wine barrels. Our most popular sours were a 10.4% (alcohol-by-volume) imperial red sour ale with blackberries and currants called She’s a Jameater, followed by a 10% imperial golden sour with zested grapefruit and lime called Paloma Santa Fe. And being that I’m a lifelong musician, there was a musical theme with a lot of our beer names. Examples included Simmy Davis Jr. West Coast IPA, Er’bod’s Murkin’ for the Weekend hazy IPA, Wasted Days and Hazy Nights hazy IPA, and Bidi Bid POG POG kettle-sour ale.

How did you put your personal stamp on the business?
My main initiative was to make the best quality craft beers while keeping our brewery an everyman operation. One way this came through was the amount of time I spent at and in the brewery, doing what was needed to truly live and breathe PMC. I know this is part of what must be done to succeed, but it truly was a labor of love and passion that I believe showed through. When patrons came in and could hear the brewery’s story directly from me, and more often than not hoist a cerveza with me, this personalized the experience for people and helped them appreciate the craft-beer community even more. It was from my own tasting room that I could convey my passion for my brewery, San Diego craft beer and craft as a whole.

Papa Marce's opening

What are some of the most memorable moments over Papa Marcé’s lifespan?
Having so many of my family members at the tasting room on opening night that we pushed our building’s capacity limits was for sure memorable. It was one of the biggest family reunions I’d had in many years. Then there were the many collaborations with my beer familia, including multiple brews with Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing, Cerveza Fauna, Ryan Brooks (SouthNorte Beer Co.), Hopnonymous Brewing, Pizza Port and Rouleur Brewing. My favorite collab was when I helped get all of Carlsbad’s breweries together to make a brew for a Carlsbad beer festival.

Which of your beers do you miss the most?
Papa Shaka, of course and the occasional Michelada made with Spicy Mike’s Michelada mix. Beg for Marcé double IPA, more so for those true PMC familia. A 10-4 good buddy! And She’s a Jameater, as I still have at least one person a week bring that sour beer up to me.

What have you been up to the past five years?
Since closing the brewery at the beginning of the pandemic, I tried to step away from the beer industry altogether, and actually worked for Keurig Dr. Pepper for two years, managing their merchandising staff of 45. I was fortunate to have an opportunity with Country Malt Group, which was not on my radar at the time. An initial conversation quickly turned into “we need to talk”, and I could not be any happier with my decision to come back to the industry I have spent a lifetime in, and also on the other side of the table as a supplier. I’m still able to interact with many people I have known my entire career and with new breweries that are helping spur growth of a tough industry that is coming back thanks to the innovative, nimble people that love it as much as I do. I am covering Southern California, Arizona and Hawaii, and enjoying getting back on the road and having smaller family reunions every week.

Mark Amador and family

If you had it to do over again, would you?
I would gladly help and consult other brewery owners as I have for about 10 years. I am beyond glad that I did that, but I don’t think I would go back to owning my own brewery. Now that I am with Country Malt Group, I am still getting used to having weekends off and having more time for my family and kids. When my now 10-year-old daughter tells me, “Dad, I miss Papa’s,” and I ask why, her response, which are from her two-to-six-year-old memories is, “That’s when I was able to see you.” I am still making up memories with my baby girl and enjoying the hell out of it!

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