Ventura’s Bright Spark Brewing has made its debut in a space well-known to local beer drinkers. The new spot, owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Tim Harbage & Linzy Mahoney, takes up their residence on Market Street in a craft beer-heavy section of Ventura.
Tim, who will lead the brew team, has held brewery leadership positions at several local breweries, and has a specialty in startup and expansion projects. He was the first hired brewer at Golden Road in the pre-Anheuser-Busch days, and ultimately became the head brewer at their LA brewery. He then joined Smog City to lead their brewery expansion several years back, and was most recently at Figueroa Mountain helping with their expansion in Buellton.
“Tim strives to craft beer that is approachable and balanced yet complex and interesting,” Mahoney said of her husband. “He is fond of saying that he wants his beers to be ‘Interesting enough that you want a second sip, but drinkable enough that you want a second pint!’”
Bright Spark takes over a taproom and brewery rich in local craft beer lore – for years, the space was occupied by Surf Brewery, one of Ventura’s first entrants in the modern wave of craft beer. Surf also had an on-site homebrew shop that supported the local homebrew community.
“The best thing about Ventura is its strong sense of community – giving new life to such a loved community space is so rewarding,” Mahoney said. “We bought homebrew ingredients from Surf back in the day, so some of Tim’s test recipes were likely brewed with Surf Brewery ingredients. The positive, supportive feedback we’ve been getting from people with fond memories of Surf as one of the first breweries in Ventura County has been incredible.”
Anchoring the space is the working brewery with a taproom on one side. They’ve also taken over the adjoining space that was formerly a restaurant, creating a giant, all-in-one hybrid taproom with all kinds of lounge, dining, and game areas.
Linzy, meanwhile, has been in the food and bev industry for over a decade; she previously owned and published Edible Los Angeles Magazine and brings a rich experience as a recipe developer to the food aspect of Bright Spark.
The menu prominently features bar pizza, a staple of pubs and dive bars in Linzy’s native South Shore in Massachusetts. These personal pies are served as a 10-inch pan pizza, with crispy cheese caramelized on the crust, and made with a variety of specialty toppings. They also have the expected rundown of wings, salads, and other snacks.
The aim is to brew laid-back, approachable beers, and they’ve had success thus far. Considering they’re coming off the first turns on a legacy brewhouse, the early brews of their core brands have been really impressive. The first beer brewed on the new system is appropriately called You’re The First. Originally intended to be an IPA, this pale ale was pivoted mid-brew to fall closer to something lighter and crispier, with a balanced tropical coconut component. Wonder Ale, their red rye ale, was brewed from a recipe originally designed for Tim & Linzy’s wedding.
There’s also Twilight, their robust porter, which gives off toasty dark chocolate dessert vibes but drinks light and roasty, and Shine, a solid down-the-middle West Coast IPA with a lean malt body, bright hoppy citrus and stone fruit notes. Currently in the tank, and due to debut soon, will be an American lager, a hazy IPA, and a Mexican lager with salt and lime, which will round out the core lineup.
Overall, Mahoney concluded, “a bright, dynamic, welcoming experience is what we want to create in our beer, food, and taproom atmosphere. Our goal is to be a community space with a little something for everyone.”
Bright Spark is open Tuesday-Thursday 3-9pm, and Friday-Sunday 11am-9pm.