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Hillcrest Brewing Company to open in mid-June, may be world's first LGBT microbrewery

SAN DIEGO -- Construction is moving swiftly along on Hillcrest Brewing Company (HBC), thought to be the world's first LGBT brewery.

Hillcrest Brewing Company, located at 1458 University Ave. at Normal Street in Hillcrest, is slated to open in mid-June.

HBC will be operated by the company that makes up the "Mo's Universe" family of restaurants, which includes Urban Mo's Bar & Grill, Baja Betty's and Gossip Grill, all owned by longtime business owner and community activist Chris Shaw.

HBC will specialize in handcrafted beer and stone oven pizzas with bottles, growlers and kegs to-go. The brewery will feature four initial microbrews with plans to add up to 12 more. Pouring only grains and grapes, the 24 beers on tap and assorted selection of wines will be paired with specialty pizzas, baked in the brewery’s double-lined stone ovens.

The remainder of the taps have been reserved for “guest” brewers from other local micro breweries.

As for the atmosphere, Shaw says that HBC will have the same comfortable environment customers have come to expect at his other establishments.

"Our businesses have always been a place to come as you are and be who you are and the Hillcrest Brewing Company will follow in the line of our other restaurants in providing our guests with the best product and an extraordinary experience every time they visit us,” Shaw said.

Joe Kraft, HR Manager and partner in the restaurant, added that the food quality will also be in line with the other Mo's Universe selections.

"The pizza will be perfectly orchestrated with a focus from the water and flour to create its crust, to the fresh Italian Roma tomatoes with fresh toppings and cheeses before it is fired in stone ovens,” Kraft said.

The brewery plans to follow closely in the footsteps, "but on high heels," of Queer Beer in Europe, Purple Hand & Salamandra Beers from Mexico, and Gay Pride Beer from Vermont, all of which have previously marketed specifically to the LGBT community. HBC, however, is distinguishing itself as the "Queens of Beer" and the first and only openly gay brewing company in the world.

HBC's interior will feature an open ceiling with sealed concrete floors and a 15-foot chandelier made with 97 sustainable 22-oz beer bottles that will hang within a 23-foot copula. Additional clusters of hanging beer bottle chandeliers will give life to a "Frankenstein" set-up, with much of the equipment being home-made, including a steam-punk style bottling machine built from scratch.

A 13-foot garage door will open to an L-shaped outdoor patio with cushioned keg barrel seating and planters with local varietal hop vines that can grow up to 25 feet along horizontal trellises.

HBC General Manager Joey Arruda, formerly of Baja Betty’s and a partner in the project, says the brewery will employ 15 to 20 people that will include the HBC’s "breweristas," chefs and management.

"Our staff is being carefully selected to ensure we carry on the passion and commitment that our other playgrounds are known and recognized for," Arruda said. "This is also true for our beers - which we invited employees from all of our restaurants to submit names for us to consider."

HBC's house beer names will include Brain Lubricant, classified as American strong; a red beer called Crotch Rocket; a pale ale named Perle Necklace; and an IPA called Eighth Day.

“Many of our beers are a little outside of convention," David White, head brew master and partner said. "I started brewing to create beers that I liked, rather than to win competitions. As a result, many of my beers blur the BJCP guidelines here and there. Brain Lubricant, for example, is a strong ale, with a long hoppy finish that could only be entered in the specialty beers category. And Perle Necklace is a subtle pale ale using pearl hops in the recipe.”

A grand opening celebration will take place in early June. The community is invited to follow the brewery's progress online, on Facebook or via Twitter @QueensOfBeer.