We’re back In the Moment with Vista’s Five Suits Brewing owner and head brewer Nick Corona. I’ve touched base a few times with Nick over the past year.
Five Suits was opening simultaneously with the pandemic putting years of planning on the back burner, but with breweries reopened for on-site consumption, and mask mandates (currently) in the rearview for vaccinated customers it felt like a good time to check in to see if their Vegas-themed vibe is finally coming to fruition.
Cheers!: Hey Nick, thanks for catching me up on what’s going on at Five Suits. We’re more than halfway through 2021. What has the past year been like for you and your team?
Nick, Five Suits: My pleasure Ryan. It’s been an unbelievable experience. As if launching a startup business wasn’t already going to be difficult, to do so during a worldwide pandemic was simply unfathomable. We had been working on this for years, and negotiations to purchase Barrel Harbor began before the pandemic began.
We really didn’t have a choice with the timing, but once we recognized what we were facing, we just decided that we would go to work with an operational plan to simply survive. We knew our chances of survival were slim, but we also felt that if we could, it would make one hell of a story.
With things continuing to return to relative normalcy, we’ve had a chance to reflect on our first year in business, and it was anything but normal. The hoops that we had to jump through, the rules that we were forced to implement, the operational policies that we needed to apply, the demand and supply fluctuations that we faced…at times, our heads were spinning and the outlook was very bleak.
But we knew there had to be light at the end of the tunnel. So we just kept moving forward with the support from our friends, family, & some incredible regulars who loved our story (and) saw our vision and were immediate fans of our beers.
With that support, it really didn’t take long for us to realize that we were going to make it. Things got very real during the 7-week shutdown that began in December. That was the height of the pandemic and absolutely the most difficult part of our survival.
But again, we saw this community come out and not just support us, but support one another through our little business. We implemented a “Beers 4 the ICU” program that allowed our guests to “buy” a beer for doctors and nursing staff at local hospital’s ICUs. We took part in a wonderful free food pantry program called “In The Weeds.”
We saw so many great people on a daily basis support us, our local hospitals, one another… While the bank account was being drained, our hearts and our minds were being filled with the incredible outpouring of love and support from the types of people who truly emulate our brand and what we’re all about.
We really can’t say enough good things about our fans. While the world was seemingly falling apart around us, the people right here in our San Diego community came together in a way that you would have to see to believe.
Cheers!: For someone who isn’t familiar with the Five Suits brand, will you explain the theme or vibe, and how that translates into the beer?
Nick: That’s a great question. We’re a local, family-run and owned independent brewery. My family has been here in San Diego since 1977, and it’s always been a dream to open our own business. I had moved to Las Vegas in 1999, where I met my wife, who had moved there from Yakima, Washington. I was working as a casino manager and she was a Showgirl.
We fell in love and moved back to San Diego to raise our family. As we began our business, we knew we wanted our family name and our Las Vegas story reflected in the business, but as you might guess, opening a brewery with the name “Corona” could come with some issues.
As many people already know, Corona means Crown, so we decided to create a fifth suit in the deck of cards, and make it the Crown. And there you have Five Suits Brewing!
I’ll never forget my first visit to Las Vegas as a child. One of the casinos had the hometown of each team member printed on their name tags. It struck me as just the coolest thing to have so many people from different walks of life–different parts of the country–all together in one place centered around fun and entertainment.
Growing up in Las Vegas for years and experiencing all the glitz, glamour, entertainment, nightlife, and intimate settings around town, we knew that’s what we wanted to bring to our little spot.
While many breweries have focused on creating a niche, we decided that we wanted to create a space similar to Las Vegas, where people from all walks of life would feel comfortable, be able to relax, and simply enjoy themselves. When people walk into our tasting room, we really get a kick out of their reactions.
Our location is off the beaten path, so it takes a bit to find us. We’re in an unassuming industrial park, without much on the outside, so when people walk in and encounter vintage Vegas curtain-lined walls, a vintage piano bar, huge chandelier, gold throne chair, etc…they are very surprised to say the least.
So how does that translate to beer? I’ve always had an affinity for craft beer, but one thing that I didn’t like was some of the stigmas associated with beer when compared to wine. We wanted to elevate our guest’s experience when they enjoy our beer, and we feel we do that with each visit.
I pride myself on the quality of our beers. I wouldn’t put a beer on the line that I’m not even remotely satisfied with, and that will never change. Quality is everything, but what we really pride ourselves on is the guest experience.
When you come to Five Suits Brewing, you are getting an experience unlike any other brewery in town, and you can see it on people’s faces as you look around the room. We absolutely love providing that escape for people.
We’re also starting to notice a bit of a trend, and while unintended, it has been pretty cute to see. With our location a little tucked away, the low lighting, tufted booths and fun music, our spot gives off a somewhat romantic feel that has caught the attention of lovebirds looking to get away for a low-key, hidden dating spot.
Cheers!: I know live music was something you were really building into the business when you were planning to open before Covid hit. Have you been able to have music at the brewery yet since restrictions have eased, and what sort of emotion did that evoke?
Nick: Yes we have live music every weekend. People have really taken to the bands and entertainment. We wanted to provide the feel of a Las Vegas nightclub or lounge, and when we have a singer or two in there it really brings the entire room together. We’re excited to continue with more live entertainment as we grow. My wife has been dusting off her showgirl outfits, so who knows what’s coming next?
Cheers! What does the near future (2021) for Five Suits look like?
Nick: We’ll continue to focus on providing extremely high-quality beers. We will never sacrifice that quality at any point. Growing up in North County, I’m very familiar with a lot of the local cities and spots around town. We’ll be expanding to a tasting room as soon as we find a location that is right for us.
We’re interested in pursuing a joint venture with our friends at Al Toque as they have expressed the same desires. We like being able to offer our guests high-quality food for them to enjoy with our beer, and the Peruvian Food that Al Toque puts out is absolutely restaurant quality.
Cheers!: Let’s talk about beer. Is there anything coming out that your team is particularly excited about or proud of?
Nick: We’re honestly excited about all of the beers that we put out, but our Hazy IPA, Planet Nectaron, has been such a hit with everyone who tries it, that we’ll be making some new iterations with the same hops once the 2021 crop comes in. Nectaron hops (New Zealand variety) were extremely limited last year and they already sold out this year, but we’ve contracted enough that we’ll be putting out some more styles with that hop.
We are releasing a very big Chocolate Stout [on] July 17th that is a part of the Homebrew Series put on by San Diego Beer News and sponsored by Ballast Point. We partnered up with well-known homebrew club QUAFF members and Father/Son duo Kevin and Brandon Holt, or more affectionately called, “The Incredible Holts” for their award-winning beers. This beer is sure to be a hit amongst any and all chocolate lovers and stout fans!
Cheers!: What is the best way for North County residents to get their hands on your beer?
Nick: We have a few retail accounts around town, Notorious Burgers, HopStop, Old Cal Mining Co, Barrel & Stave, The Draft, Thai One On, but we really focus on providing 4-packs, crowlers, and of course, pints through our tasting room. We love it when people come out and see all that we’ve brought into our little spot. We want to spoil them while they enjoy our beers.
Cheers!: Anything else you want readers to know about Five Suits Brewing right now?
Nick: Just a huge thanks to this North County community for embracing us so quickly and being an early part of our growth. This is exactly what we envisioned in our organic growth, so to see it come to fruition has been a blessing. We’ve seen numerous blessings in our first year and they all center around this great city and the people in this community.
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