A second chance for Second Chance Beer Co.

Award-winning brewing company’s founders put out a call for paw-tners looking to help beer- and dog-oriented op live on

During his more than a decade-and-a-half at the helm of Rock Bottom’s La Jolla brewpub, Marty Mendiola oversaw beer-making operations for the chain’s Western U.S. locations, racked up scads of medals at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and World Beer Cup, and mentored young professionals who have gone on to make their marks in the craft-beer industry. He had accomplished a great deal, but there was one item left on his aspirational bucket list…to own and operate his very own brewery. So in 2014, he left Rock Bottom so he and his wife and business partner, Virginia Morrison, could make that dream a reality. The following year, their Second Chance Beer Co. debuted in the North County inland community of Carmel Mountain Ranch. The business quickly amassed a following and even more awards, fueling impressive on-site and retail sales, enough that two years in, the couple was able to expand, opening a tasting room on North Park’s busy 30th Street thoroughfare. While quality has remained constant and distribution sales grew, even during the challenging period following the pandemic, the last year has been a tough one for the nine-year-old concern. Last November, the company pulled out of both its physical locations, pivoting to contract brewing. This has kept Second Chance beer flowing into the marketplace, but after diving deep into the data, Virginia and Marty have determined this is not a feasible long-term solution. After much soul-searching, they have decided to reach out in search of similarly passionate individuals to help them extend the life of their brand as well as its driving ethos and standout beers care of our Voices of San Diego Beer series of guest articles.

Second Chance Needs a Second Chance

By Virginia Morrison & Marty Mendiola, Co-owners, Second Chance Beer Co.

Marty Mendiola & Virginia Morrison, Second Chance Beer Co.

Dogs adopted, 196; pups fostered, 14; pounds of dog food, supplies and toys donated, countless; GABF medals earned, eight in seven years. Those in the industry know our company for its award-winning beers, but Second Chance has been so much more. We hope someone else reading this agrees and wants to help us continue with our good work and great beers.

You might be wondering why Second Chance needs a second chance. It started last year when our Carmel Mountain Ranch landlord wanted to more than double the rent at our production facility. Since we couldn’t charge $25 for a pint of beer, we had to vacate our headquarters as well as our North Park Lounge tasting room, and move to a distribution-only business model. 

Our fellow brewery owners will understand, it’s a hard model to make viable. It requires considerably high volume and little to no debt or overhead. Unfortunately, Second Chance Beer Co. is no longer poised to continue business as usual. The time has come for us to entertain everything from strategic “paw-tnerships” to buy-outs. It is hard for us to admit to ourselves much less put it out there, but on our own we simply cannot make the financials work anymore.

For those wondering how Marty and I are doing, the last six months have been the hardest in our lives. We don’t have kids. We had a brewery, our team, investors, the best fans and pups. The loss of the brewery and tasting rooms – and the community they cultivated – has brought on a profound grief, replete with copious tears, deep sadness and “what-if” musings. 

When we started Second Chance, it was the realization of a lifelong dream for Marty, who became a professional brewer back in 1997, before it was cool. Looking back, we could not have anticipated all that we would accomplish, the hurdles we would overcome and the community we would build. 

Being a space for birthdays, weddings, retirement parties, baby showers, trivia nights and dog adoptions gave us purpose beyond profit. We miss hosting our friends, family and community leaders in the taprooms, and, of course, we miss all the dogs. We know we’ll make it through, but it’s been an ineffable challenge, no doubt. We are so grateful for all the love and support that continues to pour in from our craft community, so thank you.

Who might want to give Second Chance Beer a second chance? A SoCal brewing company that could use an extra 2,400 in projected barrelage this year, including ~30% in hard-won chain placements at grocery and liquor stores, including Albertsons, Vons, Ralphs, Whole Foods Market, Grocery Outlet, Total Wine & More, BevMo! and ALDI, as well as exclusive venues like Disney theme parks, Sheraton, Hyatt and Marriott hotels, and military exchanges. A brewery that could benefit from established award-winning beers like Fistful of Gummies Fruited Sour and Fluffy Tangerine Clouds Tangerine Hazy IPA, which have no year-round competitors and meet the flavor-forward demands of younger drinkers. A brand that experienced year-over-year growth in distribution until 2023, when, quite frankly, we were ecstatic to be flat given the tumultuous future we faced. Perhaps the best thing about Second Chance is the enduring brand we’ve built, which isn’t subject to the contemporary whims of “coolness”, but rather connects with fans’ hearts. Who doesn’t want to drink award-winning beer and know they’re supporting dog rescues at the same time?

Beyond the beer, the ideal paw-tner or buyer also would have a passion for dogs that goes beyond posting on social media for high engagement. Second Chance’s mission is to give pups a second chance through support of dog rescues, and we lived it wholeheartedly through our “1% for the Pups” program, frequent dog-adoption events in our tasting rooms and a personal commitment to foster that has left more than one of our team members with a fur-ever friend. (Shout-out to Chinook, Chuck and Punk Rock Betty!)

So if you love beer, have a passion for rescuing dogs and would like an established, unique, respected brand to add to your arsenal, contact us to explore paw-sibilities.

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