Be Social, Drink Local at Fallbrook Brewing Company
Love brings out the best in people. For proof, look no further than Chuck and Jaime McLaughlin. The former’s infatuation with the latter after meeting the Fallbrook native 15 years ago led to him chasing her all the way to her north-inland stomping grounds. The two married and moved into a 500-square-foot studio apartment they playfully dubbed “the lodge.” These small yet significant first-steps toward a shared life have yielded not only a strong and lasting marriage, but also Fallbrook’s first and only local brewery, Fallbrook Brewing Company.
Being a community’s first anything can be daunting. When looking to bring their fermentation fantasies to life, the McLaughlins explored cities with more established, proven brewing scenes: Vista, San Marcos, Oceanside. But in the end, they decided they wanted their hometown to benefit from the positive impact of having its own brewery.
At the time they signed for their spot on Main Avenue in Fallbrook’s downtown area, there were more vacancies than occupied spots. Their hope was that by settling there, they could provide locals a fun place to hang out and have a good time without having to drive out of town. Hence, Fallbrook Brewing’s mantra—Be Social, Drink Local!
Fast forward three years, Fallbrook’s main drag has more life to it, Fallbrook Brewing enjoys the patronage of a faithful following and the McLaughlins have teamed with another local business—The Rib Shack—to open a second venue under its tasting-room license. That spot, Firehouse Que and Brew, is a restaurant installed within an old firehouse roughly a half mile south on S. Main Ave. Opened in late 2015, it features decadent barbecue fare served in tandem with homespun craft beer flowing from a dozen taps. It’s as local as it gets—and, as ironic as it sounds, that has a good deal to do with out-of-town breweries.
Rather than fill every tap with beers from his own operation, Chuck adds guest beers, most of them brewed by individuals with roots and ties to Fallbrook, whom he refers to as “alumni.” There are far more than one might initially think, including fermentation specialists from Coronado Brewing, Ironfire, Duck Foot, Iron Fist, Firestone Walk, Green Flash, Mission Brewery and Bolt Brewery. The latter originally opened in Fallbrook in 1987, two years before San Diego County’s longest continually operating brewing company, Karl Strauss. Bolt experienced a rebirth in La Mesa in 2014.
Before Firehouse was even a twinkle in the McLaughlins’ eyes, Chuck reached out to some of the alumni (Bolt owner and brewmaster Clint Stromberg, Coronado head brewer Ryan Brooks, Green Flash assistant brewer Lucas Nelson and Ironfire co-owner John Murino), asking if they would be interested in brewing a collaboration beer to release during Fallbrook Brewing’s one-year anniversary weekend festivities. They signed on with enthusiasm, and before Chuck knew it, they were driving to a grove to pick fresh local citrus fruit for the beer. Tangelos, navel oranges, lemons, grapefruit and prickly pear were added to a saison base along with avocado-blossom honey and a blend of Citra, Equinox, Polaris and Simcoe hops. Those lupulin-laced botanicals came from all of the brewers as a result of Chuck’s BYOH brew-day invite. The resulting Belgian-style farmhouse ale—Homegrown Saison—came in at 7.6% alcohol by volume and was well received by locals and imbibers across the county.
This year, Chuck plans to bring more Fallbrook alums into the fold and continue to collaborate with them to brew up even more good reasons to be social and drink local.