I just got off the horn with my friend Sage over at Port Brewing/Lost Abbey. We’ve been informed of a sweep of tasting room shutdowns across San Diego County by the San Diego County Health Department. Any breweries that have tasting rooms but no food prep license have been served or will be served with cease and desist order. This includes Port Brewing/Lost Abbey, who have just finished renovating their tasting room to accommodate more visitors.
For those of you not familiar with the San Diego tasting room scene, many San Diego brewers have a small bar with a few taps of their beer in some cases, to their entire lineup. Most of the time, these samples are free, and in the Lost Abbey’s case, would cost a nominal fee that would go towards your take out order (growler fill). When I asked Sage who else this might affect, off the top of his head he said Ballast Point, Alesmith, Alpine, Oceanside Aleworks, Green Flash, and Lightning Brewery. The purpose of these tasting rooms is to introduce new beers to new drinkers and old ones alike. Having this happen to these small brewers is just bad news. According to Sage, renovations to their tasting room could include tile flooring, food grade sinks. Even better, folks who have to get a food prep license are required to go to a food serving class.
Much like the raids on the Pennsylvania beer bars last month, this smells like a personal vendetta coupled with money hungry state government. The county of San Diego will make money while these small brewers will lose money, and have to make up for it with a price increase on beer. So not only do they lose in this situation, but we do too.
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