This story was originally published on June 13, 2022. It was updated in November 2023.
“It just seemed desolate and run-down,” Kevin Lewis recalls. In 2015, his business partner Steve Garcia suggested they look along Chula Vista’s Third Avenue for a brewery space to take their home-brewing hobby into the professional realm. While Lewis wasn’t sold, “Steve saw something on Third.”
His vision proved prescient.
Six years later, craft beer fans now have a variety of tasting rooms (Groundswell Brewing Company), beer-centric restaurants (Tavern at the Vogue, Third Avenue Alehouse), and even festivals (Avenue Amps & Ales, Taste of Third) to choose from on Third Avenue alone.
As the first brewery to open on Third, the team at Chula Vista Brewery has had a front-row seat to the craft beer renaissance in the South Bay. Chula Vista Brewery co-founder and owner Tim Parker explains that, while he’s thrilled to have people from outside the area starting to recognize what Chula Vista has to offer, their priority will always be remaining hyperlocal.
“We are definitely a community-based brewery, and the community has always come out to support us,” Parker says. “Our main focus is our community first.”
Lewis echoes Parker’s sentiment. “We’re making beer for the locals,” he says, pointing to the massive population as a huge pool of consumer potential. “Chula Vista is the second-largest city in San Diego [County]. There are a lot of people here, and a lot of people who want to drink beers.” He also gestures toward future developments like the Chula Vista Bayfront Project, which promises to bring a huge swell of new residents thirsty for unique culture—which hasn’t historically been craft beer’s strong suit.
“When people walk into bars and breweries, it’s one type of culture,” Parker says, describing a tendency for many craft breweries to gravitate towards industrial aesthetics, catering to a relatively homogenous audience. “A lot of people are starting to realize instead of [following] the standard format of breweries, it’s okay to have your culture as part of the brewery. […] That’s what you get when you come to Chula Vista. You get our culture.”
It’s worked out well for Parker, so much so that his team was able to open a sprawling second location in Eastlake last year, complete with an onsite barbecue restaurant. Parker laughs, saying they occasionally see guests at both locations on the same day. And, although Parker’s focus remains squarely on serving his local community, he hopes local word-of-mouth convinces out-of-towners to check out the South Bay. “It’s starting to happen—a lot of people are recognizing that Chula Vista has something to offer, especially when it comes to craft beer,” he says.
As the South Bay beer scene grows, Lewis promises Thr3e Punks will continue to churn out high-quality beer guided by local palates, not craft beer trends. And in the meantime, he’s happy with their bet on Third Avenue. “South Bay was the right choice,” he says. “It’s really popping down here.”