Benchmark Brewing Co., Bay Park [CLOSED]
<NOTE: San Diego beer lovers were saddened to hear that Benchmark Brewing permanently closed on June 9, 2019.>
I've been really looking forward to this place opening. I first saw it announced as "coming soon" in summer 2017. By winter when I asked them about progress, they told me that it might not happen because of permit complications. I was bummed--and I know they were, too, since they had committed a lot of time and resources. Fortunately, a couple of months ago I heard the project was again "on". Then, out of the blue in the second week of July, they posted to Instagram that they were finally set to open! They called it a squishy (not even a soft) opening for Friday, July 13.
I headed down to Bay Park around noon and saw through the windows that they were still feverishly getting things ready, so I took my laptop a couple doors down to an artisanal pizza and craft beer bar called The Poseidon Project. That was a fortunate choice: good pizza, good beer, good people. Keep them in mind for food when you are visiting Benchmark Bay Park.
A little before 3pm, I walked down to Benchmark and learned they were going to start pouring in just a few minutes. I would have been the first customer except that a minute before I was going to head in, three guys swooped in ahead of me. But that shows you how highly anticipated this tasting room has been.
The only strike against the location is that it is a bit difficult to drive in and out of Bay Park, and that it is difficult to find parking. Adding this tasting room (and a restaurant nearing completion a block south) is only going to put further pressure on parking. The folks at Poseidon told me people just park in the surrounding neighborhood. Maybe a Lyft is the best choice anyway.
The interior is clearly not finished--the old, rough concrete floors need treating, the walls are bare cinderblock, the lower bar front needs to be finished, and the large back room (where there will eventually be a lot of seating plus games) is just a bare shell with the roof open to the sky in places.
Despite the fact that things aren't quite finished (even after they opened, I saw beer podcaster/construction contractor Brian Beagle doing a last-second plumbing job to get a sink drain ready), it is a great space. The cool breeze off Mission Bay blows in through a kind of porch and the open front door. The proportions of the main space make it feel roomy and comfortable. The vibe is already great. Given how well-done the interior design is at the original Grantville location, I expect this spot will soon look beautiful, too. I'll post an update here when they have finished it out.
Given that they had only made a couple of posts to social media to announce the squishy opening, the fact that about 40 people flowed through in the two hours I was there is very good. The room buzzed with happy people, and you could see on owners Matt and Rachel Akin's faces how pleased and excited they were.
In honor of the occasion, they have created a new IPA called Bay Park. It was excellent. They recently released a DIPA called SD-71 that is also very good. Benchmark consistently live up to their slogan, "Beer Flavored Beer," creating standard styles executed extremely well, and that's why they are so well-liked. I am a particular fan of their Oatmeal Stout (winner of last year's Sore Eye Cup for the best beer in San Diego--not to mention two recent GABF medals). I really like their Brown Ale. Benchmark is also justly famous for their Table Beer, a light, sessionable Belgian style that is crisp and clean and delicious. One thing I really appreciate about Benchmark is that the vast majority of their beers are on the low end of ABV while delivering lots of flavor. That suits my preferred drinking style to a T.
I'll certainly be back--Benchmark's beer is so good, and this fun new Bay Park location is just 12 minutes from my house.
http://www.benchmarkbrewing.com/ 4112 Napier St, San Diego, CA 92110