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Simon and Nina Lacey of New English Brewing in San Diego. Photo by Paul Body
Simon and Nina Lacey of San Diego's New English Brewing. Photo by Paul Body (@paulbodyphoto)
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Cheers! North County: In the moment with New English Brewing

Last week we featured a new San Marcos brewery (Blue Fire Brewing), and this week, we look to a longtime stalwart of the San Diego brewing industry.

New English Brewing is coming up on its 15th year of pleasing locals with classic core beers and new favorites. I reached out to Simon Lacey, founder and owner of New English Brewing, and Nina Lacey, VP of marketing at New English.

Cheers!: New English Brewing has been a lauded San Diego brewery since 2007. Why do you think you’ve continued to succeed?

Nina Lacey: I think it comes down to three things: (1) the beer, (2) being innovative, and (3) our customers.

First of all, the beers speak for themselves; they have won about 50 awards, including GABF [Great American Beer Fest] and World Beer Cup Awards. We’ve expanded our portfolio to offer a wide range of beers, so there really is something for everyone.

We’re currently serving 17 different beers in our tasting room. Maybe most importantly, the quality and consistency of New English beers have contributed to our success.

We continuously strive to improve and are always looking for opportunities to make our procedures more robust and repeatable, from brew day, in the cellar process to kegging or canning quality is our number one goal.

Being a small brewery owner is challenging, and we’ve had to innovate and adapt to changing consumer demands as well as market conditions to make it work. We started as a purely packaging microbrewery without any on-site retail.

Then we added a tasting room on-site that brought us closer to our customers but meant adding space and staff. Once the pandemic came along, we were fortunate to have added canning capability about a year prior. This meant that we could still maintain a to-go business during the first lockdown.

New English Brewing’s outdoor patio near the state Route 56 bypass in San Diego. Photo by Paul Body (@paulbodyphoto)

We have adapted further—as have all businesses—as the pandemic has progressed and we now feel confident that the worst is behind us. This business can be humbling and it pushes you to your edge, so you really have to dig deep for workable solutions. We’ve also evolved over the years, so who we started out as is not necessarily who we are today. Just as in life.

To me, it’s really about the people. I feel very fortunate to have met so many incredible people over the years, and across a variety of cultures and walks of life. Our success would not be possible without our wonderful customers, to whom we are very grateful.

Cheers!: I first learned about New English Brewing when someone gave me a Zumbar Chocolate Imperial Stout. Quite a few beers in your line-up are long-standing core beers. What is the brewery’s beer-making philosophy, and how does it translate into beers that are still in demand despite whatever beer fad may be popular at the moment?

Simon Lacey:  Our basic brewing philosophy is to create new and interesting beers that are true to style but bring something different to the conversation. In a town like San Diego, there are so many options for consumers that generic isn’t an option!

Case in point is the Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout you mentioned. There are a few other well-known Russian Imperial Stouts in town, but we partnered with local coffee roasters Zumbar Coffee & Tea, and, using their whole beans with Belgian dark chocolate, we created the beer that went on to win 2 GABF medals as well as many other awards. It’s one of the beers we are most proud of and will always be in our core lineup.

So other than core beers, we try to brew a seasonal beer at least four times per year and this fall we added a Berliner-Weisse kettle sour fruited beer to our fall lineup. So far it’s proving very popular and probably a little unexpected from us. Also new in our line-up is a Juicy IPA [with] very little bitterness and tons of hops flavor from Galaxy, Warrior & Strata hops among others.

Stacks of New English Brewing four-packs. Photo by Paul Body (@paulbodyphoto)

Cheers!: You made a big overhaul of the space to include a big outdoor patio that came online in mid-2020, but I assume that was in the planning phase before the coronavirus hit. What was the last year and a half like for your team, and what were you thinking during the construction process?

Simon: Our new landlord Longfellow Real Estate Partners had planned the outdoor remodel when they acquired the complex a couple of years before the pandemic hit, construction started just as the first lockdown went into place and was mostly finished by September 2020, so the timing was not so disruptive since we were mostly closed anyway during that period.

Longfellow had selected the space with the brewery and outdoor area to be the amenities and hub for their tenants to connect.

As I’m sure is the case for all small businesses, the last year and a half has been very difficult. Our staff were amazing and kept up a great attitude. We implemented all recommended protocols against the virus and maintained a safe workplace throughout. Construction was interesting and progressed at pace.

Based on the site design and renderings we were excited to see the finished product and now that it’s been fully open for over a year we feel very grateful to be part of the project. It’s given New English yet another set of possibilities as we start our 15th year in business!

Cheers!: Now that the patio is open, what can customers expect to experience on a visit to New English Brewing?

Simon: Patrons and tenants alike mingle in the amenity area, either on the hard patio, the grassy area or the wooden deck area. There are a variety of seating options, from individual chairs to family-style tables or cozy armchairs around a fire pit or tables.

New English Brewery's newly remodeled pub. Photo by Nina Lacey
New English Brewery’s newly remodeled pub. Photo by Nina Lacey

Inside the brewery is the Barrel Room, our large, open-plan tasting room or our newly (re)opened, renovated original tasting room that is now called “the Pub at New English” and features several new TVs plus a dedicated games room with darts and soon to be added a pool table or two.

Overall the experience hasn’t changed that much in that we offer a wide selection of world-class, locally brewed craft beers, in a friendly setting with knowledgeable and approachable staff. There are just a few more seating options now. Finally, we are happy to announce that the Craft Taco Truck will now be on-site at New English—exclusively—every day we are open, serving their excellent gourmet Mexican street and craft taco menu.

Cheers!: Do you have any new beer/products coming in the near future that you are particularly excited about?

Simon:  As I mentioned above, we produce a range of seasonal beers that change constantly. Our next new beer is in the tank now and is a Hazy Double IPA with Azaca, Ekuanot and Citra hops, we’re super excited to try it. We are also about to release our first barrel-aged beer since the pandemic started it’s a new version of the Brewers Special Brown ale, aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels with should also be delicious!

Cheers!: If you were going to suggest ONE beer off the tap list to a visitor passing through, which beer would it be and why?

Simon: It’s hard to suggest just one since every beer is different and each customer has a different preference, but if I were heading off to my desert island and could only take one it would have to be Pure & Simple IPA — a clean and crisp West Coast style IPA with tons of tropical flavors from a blend of Citra, Mosaic and Amarillo hops. It’s a balanced and approachable take on a San Diego iconic style and features in our motto: “San Diego, Independent, Pure & Simple.”

Cheers!: Is there anything else we should know about New English Brewing right now or you have planned for the future?

Simon:  Having survived the pandemic, we are just thankful to still be here, thanks to the overwhelming support of our customers, staff and our landlord. Future plans are to keep doing what we have been doing all these years and stay true to our passion for great beer.

Cheers!: What is the best way for beer drinkers in North County to try some New English Brewing?

Nina: Visit us at the brewery! New English is centrally located right off the I-5/805 merge and just off the state Route 56 bypass. Loads of parking makes it even easier. We’re open six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday.

Follow @newenglishbrewing on Instagram and Facebook to see the latest brewery updates and new beer releases. Don’t forget! The Roast! West Coast coffee podcast has returned for a third season. All new episodes are released on the Coast News Podcast page every Tuesday and Thursday.