Just off the 15 freeway in the Rancho Bernardo community of San Diego, lies what used to be a small artisanal winery known as Abnormal Wine Company. Earlier this year, AWC (Abnormal Wine Company) announced that they were closing their doors to begin an expansion process that would transform their 1,500 square foot location into a 5,000 square foot all-inclusive winery, brewery and restaurant. This trifecta of crafted ventures were to be known as Abnormal Wine Company, Abnormal Beer Company and The Cork and Craft.
After many months of construction, remodeling, rebranding, training and hiring, the doors for this three-in-one establishment opened yesterday, Sept. 18th, 2014, in which I was fortunate enough to attend the Grand Opening.
As I stepped out of my car after parking on a nearby street, the first thing that caught my attention was the distinct aroma in the air eminating from the Abnormal building. Hints of wood fire, pork and cheeses lingered outside and seeing as I hadn’t had dinner yet, I knew my stomach was in for a treat.
Abnormal Company is a beautiful escape located within the local business district – offering 40 taps of carefully selected craft beers, a variety of house-made wines and an incredible menu from the restaurant. The large space is divided into two sections, with one side offering a bar area for patrons to enjoy their beverages as well as order food from the other side of the dining experience known as The Cork and Craft. Dim lighting offers an inviting yet relaxing ambiance to the entire establishment and made me want to stay there for hours on end – which I ended up doing.
According to Abnormal Company’s website, “We wanted to create a dynamic environment that encourages our guests to learn about what we do and how we do it.” The open space feel of the entire building does just that by offering a glimpse in to the kitchen, winery and brewhouse of Abnormal.
From our table, we observed Executive Chef Mike Arquines and Chef De Cuisine Phillip Esteban, as well as their highly trained kitchen staff, prepare delectable comfort food dishes for patrons to feast upon. It was clearly apparent that the passion and attention paid to each dish was present among every chef in the kitchen.
Some of the notable items on the menu we sampled included House “Pan De Sal” Rolls, house made crispy chicken skins, braised pork belly, a sampler of their daily cured meat and cheeses dubbed “The Gaston” and Wood Fired Scallops that were cooked to perfection and paired beautifully with my Port Brewing 2011 Older Viscosity.
On the topic of beers, the tap list for their Grand Opening was a solid line-up of 40 guest craft beers that ranged anywhere from Alpine’s deliciously dank Hoppy Birthday to Stone Brewing’s latest collaboration release Xocoveza Mocha Stout. Did I also mention that their Executive Chef, Mike Arquines, was responsible for the Mostra Cold Brew infused in this delicious beer? Bravo Mike!
Resting behind the bar lies an impeccable brewhouse which will be home to Abnormal Beer Company.
Head Brewer, Derek Gallanosa, will be brewing up a whole array of mainstay beers in the coming months and I look forward to re-visiting the brewery once the beers are ready.
What I admire most about Abnormal and the entire team is their dedication to each and every one of their crafts. Weather it be the kitchen staff curing a meat, a friendly greeting by General Manager Rusti Gilbert to make sure everyone is enjoying their meal, owner James Malone greeting customers at the front door, or Derek slinging beers over the bar, the Abnormal Company truly encapsulates a team of abnormally talented individuals who share an undying drive and passion about what they do best. Their enthusiastic and charismatic approach to their business make it far from being a business and more about being a family.
What I expected to be a quick stop in for some food and drinks, turned into an evening full of familiar faces, laughs, smiles and well, bottle shares. I’m always amazed by the amount of generosity amongst the craft beer community and bottle shares are the finest example of enthusiasts and traders sharing the liquid wealth. Afterall, BottleTrade was founded upon this camaraderie and was created to help bridge the gaps between craft beer enthusiasts.
The idea of transforming a small winery into a winery/brewery/restaurant combo may seem like a daunting and scary idea for some business owners, but to see this idea come to life and executed in such a finely-crafted fashion is nothing short of astounding and admirable. James Malone and crew have introduced another prosperous establishment into the already enriched craft community of San Diego, and I wish them nothing but success in the years to come. Below are some more moments that I was able to capture at the Grand Opening of Abnormal Company.