Soon after they selected Columbia Street, next to the B Street Cafe, a large office tower went under construction.
"We were a bit premature at first," said Rattner, "but now everybody says, 'Wow, what a great location.' "
The building formerly housed architectural offices, so the place had to be gutted, $250,000 worth of brewing equipment installed and the restaurant built. Now the space features a long bar, from which patrons can view the gleaming stainless-steel brewing vats, and a raised dining area accented with wood and brickwork.
Permits from the BATF and the state's Alcohol Beverage Control office had to be obtained. City zoning officials asked for reassurance that the brewery wasn't going to be a nuisance.
"They thought we'd have smokestacks coming out all over the place and big trucks rolling down the street," said Rattner, laughing. "I explained that it was really going to be more like a beer kitchen than a beer factory."
Cramer's hopes will ride on the product the beer kitchen produces. Marty Johnson, the on-site brewmaster, will be using no artificial ingredients in the brews.
"Uncle Karl would never stand for it," said Cramer. "Someone, during one of our meetings, said, 'Gee, can we make green beer during St. Patrick's Day?' Uncle Karl looked at him with horror on his face and said, 'Absolutely not.' "
As for the San Diego city water used in the brewing, Johnson claims that it is specially treated by a secret process to remove its notorious taste.
Secondly, says Strauss, "We are making an all-malt beer. The beers you buy on the market are not all-malt beers. Finally, in contrast to having to make something for mass consumption, we can make small batches of different types of beer. The big brewers can't afford to do that."
Of course, it would be tougher to get beer any fresher. After the ales have fermented for 16 days and the lagers for 21 days, they are filtered and pumped directly into "bright" beer tanks, the tanks in which the beer is cooled and the carbonation stabilized. These tanks are connected to the taps at the bar.
Strauss has started with three different brews, an amber lager, a golden ale and a dark ale. Since the beers are brand new and without a brand, they can call them whatever they like. Thus, the ale is Gaslamp Gold, the lager Old Columbia Amber Lager, and the dark ale is Downtown After Dark. Those are the three that will be available for the pub's opening party Thursday (it's open to the public from noon to 2 a.m., with beers going for $1).
According to Cramer, the brewery will eventually feature about 10 brews. They also plan to sell seasonal beers like bock, porters and Christmas ales. Strauss will be involved with every new beer. Prices will range from $1.75 for a 12-ounce glass, to $2.75 for 23 ounces.
Johnson, who went to Point Loma High School with Cramer, will oversee the daily operation of the brewery. Johnson studied fermentation science at UC Davis and got additional training from Strauss and one of his longtime associates from Pabst.
Now that the brewery and restaurant are about to open, San Diegans will judge whether the Cramer/Rattner "concept" is really a good one. But Strauss doesn't have "concepts" or "projects" or restaurant consultants on his mind.
"I've lived beer all my life," he said. "I think it's fine my name is going to be on the brewery, and I guarantee it's going to be good beer."