Portrait of a Brewer: Brandon Green, East Village Brewing

Infatuation with San Diego and beer lured a young man to SDSU and, later, into the county's brewing fold

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There are hundreds of talented brewing professionals giving their all to help maintain the San Diego beer industry’s storied reputation. While these industrious practitioners share numerous similarities, each is their own unique person with individual likes, dislikes, methodologies, techniques, inspirations, interests and philosophies. The goal of San Diego Beer News’ Portrait of a Brewer series is to not only introduce readers to local brewers, but dig in to help them gain a deeper appreciation for the people making their beer and how they have contributed to the county’s standout craft-brewing culture, all while presenting them in the finest visual light care of exceptional local lifestyle photographer Matt Furman.

Today’s featured brewer is…

Brandon Green
of East Village Brewing

What is your current title? 
Owner, co-founder and Brewer

Where did you grow up? 
I was born and raised in the Central Valley. Riverbank near Modesto to be exact.

What brought you to San Diego? 
In middle school, my buddy moved to San Diego and I would visit him every summer throughout high school. I instantly fell in love, to the point where, when it was time to apply to colleges, I only applied to one school…SDSU. Luckily, I was accepted and have never looked back!  

What was the first beer and/or alcoholic beverage you ever had? 
The first beer I remember having was an MGD out of my great uncle’s garage kegerator.  

What was your a-ha moment that turned you on to craft beer? 
The first craft beer I recall was taking a sip of a Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale someone brought to a house party. I remember thinking, “Holy shit, there’s so much more flavor in this.” I very quickly started trying new beer styles and visiting breweries throughout San Diego. 

What led you to consider a career in brewing? 
I graduated from SDSU with a degree in Business Finance. I’ll be honest. After graduation, I was really at a loss for what to do next, as finance didn’t really spark any passion. My sister was starting school up in Chico, so I decided to visit and spend some time with her. During that trip, we did the tour at Sierra Nevada Brewing and it was a legit lightbulb moment – making beer can be a career?! I instantly knew what I wanted to do.   

Where did you first apply for a brewing job and where did you get your first brewing/brewery position? 
After my trip to Chico, I came back to San Diego and applied to almost every brewery I knew of. In an effort to get my foot in the door, I also applied for beertender positions at those breweries. I wasn’t getting much of a response, so I started showing up in-person with a copy of my résumé. During a trip up to Ballast Point Brewing’s Scripps Ranch location, I ran into Amber Crocker and she said to come back for a front-of-house interview the next day. When I came back, she said “Actually, there’s a brewery position that just opened up. Do you want to interview for that instead?” I interviewed and landed a part-time gig on the bottling line.

What breweries have you worked for over your career and in what roles? 
Ballast Point was my first and only brewery before opening East Village Brewing. I started on the bottling line and quickly moved to the filter-tech position. There, I got experience with everything from cleaning tanks to cellar tasks to operating a centrifuge and sheet filter. I was moved over to the brewhouse for a hot second before I was offered the first cellar manager position at the company. When Ballast expanded and opened their Miramar facility, I was brought over to help commission that equipment and build a cellar team. That facility quickly grew, and shortly before we installed the 300-barrel brewhouse, I was made director of brewing, where I oversaw all brewing and cellar operations. This role expanded again when they opened a massive Virginia facility, where I simultaneously oversaw brew and cellar operation at that 300,000-square-foot brewery, as well.

Who have been the individuals that have helped you the most to learn and advance in your career, and how? 
Nolan Tondee and James Murray were instrumental in giving me the opportunity I had at Ballast. Nolan first hired me and was a big part in getting me into the cellar, and James was my boss from that point on, allowing me to constantly learn and grow with the company. Other important team members were Nick Cain, Jack Northam, Tom Ainsworth, Alex Culver and Aaron Justus. We were a tight-knit crew during Ballast’s craziest expansion, supporting each other and making sure everything was handled.   

What singular piece of advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a professional brewer? 
Totally immerse yourself in the industry and learning. I can’t count the number of times I stayed well after my packaging-line shift to chat with the brewers and simply learn.  

What ultimate career goal would you like to achieve? 
I’m living it. There is no substitute to brewing whatever we want, answering only to each other and being the creators of our future. 

What is your favorite beer you’ve ever brewed, be it on a professional or amateur level? 
It may be a lame answer, but one of my favorite beers was Ginger Big Eye. Fresh Big Eye IPA alone was one of my favorite BP beers. The addition of ginger was just a bonus. 

What is your least-favorite beer you’ve ever brewed on any level? 
My first IPA homebrew. I didn’t fully understand bitterness and alpha acids, so I had the thought process that “if the recipe calls for one ounce in the boil, well if I add 10 ounces it will be 10 times as hoppy!” It was undrinkable.

What are your favorite and least-favorite hop varietals at present? 
If I’ve learned anything doing hop selection for Ballast, it’s that there is an insane amount of variation in the same varietal of hop depending on where they are grown and what farm is growing them. That said, I’m a sucker for the strawberry-bomb and piney Simcoe lots, and the blueberry, almost catty lots of Mosaic.

What are some of your favorite brewing ingredients that aren’t hops?
Some of my favorite ingredients that aren’t hops or malt are more in the spicing realm; mainly fresh ground coffee, citrus peel and zest, and ginger root. 

If you weren’t a brewer, what do you think you would do for a living? 
My dream ever since I was a little kid was to be a golf course designer.  

In your opinion, what non-brewing position is of great importance at a craft-beer company but often gets overlooked or less credit than those making the beer? 
I’ve always thought cellarmen don’t get enough credit. Brewers seem to be considered the “rockstars” of a brewery, even though the cellar takes that wort and creates finished beer. As far as folks that are in no way involved with making the beer, the front-of-house deserves a lot of credit. Much of the time, they are the face of the company and directly affect whether a customer has an alright time or becomes a life-long fan.   

What is your favorite beer style? 
I’ve been on a hoppy kick for years now, so I’d have to say West Coast IPA.

If you could wipe one style of beer off the face of the Earth, what would it be? 
I can’t stand super-sweet milkshake-style beers.

What single brewing company’s beers and/or ethos/style has been most influential on your style? 
Pizza Port IPAs were a game-changer for me; dry and hoppy as hell. 

What is your favorite San Diego County brewing company? 
Pizza Port Ocean Beach is my go-to. 

What is your favorite brewing company outside of San Diego? 
Whenever we would drive to Yakima for hop selection, we’d stop by Pfriem Family Brewers. They make some of the cleanest beer out there. I don’t think I’ve had a bad one from them yet. 

What three breweries that you haven’t yet visited—local or elsewhere—are on your current must-see bucket list? 
I’d like to hit Cloudburst Brewing, Green Cheek Beer Co. and Hill Farmstead. 

What are your favorite local beer events? 
Being a golf fan, I loved playing in Pizza Port’s Halloween golf tournament a few years back. 

If you were to leave San Diego, where would be the next-best place you’d want to brew? 
My family used to take annual trips out to Maui. It would be pretty awesome to live and brew there.

Which musical genre or artists are on your brew-day soundtrack/playlist? 
That changes day-to-day, though it is either rock, reggae or classic rock. 

What motto rules the way you brew and approach brewing in a professional brewhouse? 
It’s never clean enough.

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
My greatest professional accomplishment was simply getting my foot in the door to the brewing industry. I’m sure my parents were pulling their hair out at the thought of me taking a part-time, minimum-wage job right out of college, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. The things I’ve been able to do, the amazing people I’ve had the privilege to work with and the lessons I’ve learned are absolutely priceless. And, of course, it ultimately led to opening a dream brewery with a close friend.

What are you proud of having achieved in your personal life?
Family and friends are everything to me, so I’d have to say the building of a family with my wife and baby boy is by far the greatest achievement to date. 

When you’re not at work, what do you like to do for fun? 
I enjoy golf, bar games and playing cards with friends and family.

Where do you like to drink off-the-clock? 
I’m a huge fan of hitting Arizona in OB, having some beers and playing pool. 

What is your favorite beer-and-food pairing of all time? 
I love chocolate, especially dark chocolate, so pair me a stout with a decadent chocolate dessert and I’m a happy man.

If you could somehow plan your last beer dinner before dying, what would you drink and eat, and who would you invite to join you? 
I’m a simple dude. Give me an awesome black and bleu burger and a super-hoppy IPA…and of course a chocolate dessert. 

Who do you think you are (a purposely broad question)? 
I’m an executor. I’ve never been the most creative person, nor do I especially like analyzing beer styles, flavor profiles, etc. I enjoy taking a recipe and executing it flawlessly, as well as cleaning and maintaining the most pristine workplace possible.

If you’re a brewer at a San Diego brewing company and would like to be featured in our Portrait of a Brewer series, drop us a line at [email protected].

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