There are hundreds of hard-working brewing professionals giving their all to help maintain the storied reputation San Diego’s brewing scene has earned over the past several decades. Some have risen to great fame among industry pros and craft-beer enthusiasts. Some ply their trade in obscurity (and are more than happy to do so). Some are Instagram famous, trendsetters with cult followings that would rival social-media influencers. And while they share plenty of similarities, each is their own unique person with their own likes, dislikes, methods, techniques, inspirations, interests and philosophies. The goal of San Diego Beer News‘ Portrait of a Brewer series is to not only introduce you to local brewers, but to have some fun delving into the aforementioned areas so you can get to know them a little better and appreciate them and their contributions to the county’s standout brewing culture. All that plus stellar portraits from brewery lifestyle photographer extraordinaire Matt Furman.
Today’s featured brewer is…
of Athletic Brewing
What is your current title?
Where did you grow up?
What brought you to San Diego?
A friend’s family moved to San Diego the summer after high school ended. I came to visit and never wanted to leave. I packed my car and drove out after I finished college.
What was the first beer and/or alcoholic beverage you ever had?
Budweiser, I think.
What was your a-ha moment that turned you on to craft beer?
Being introduced to Guinness let me know there was a much bigger world behind the American light lagers I had known up to that point.
What led you to consider a career in brewing?
The prospect of blending science and art.
Where did you first apply for a brewing job and where did you get your first brewing/brewery position?
Ballast Point was one of the first breweries I applied to when I moved to San Diego. Soon after, I got a job there working on the bottling line.
What breweries have you worked for over your career and in what roles?
Ballast point starting on the packaging lines, then filter technician and brewer. Juneshine as a Lead Brewer. Then I started with Athletic as a Lead Brewer to open the San Diego facility, and am now the Brewing Manger.
Who have been the individuals that have helped you the most to learn and advance in your career, and how?
Greg Peters, the Chief Brewing Officer of Juneshine, taught me the importance of delegating projects and trusting your team to follow through. Kevin Henschel, the Director of Brewing for Athletic, taught me how to deal with difficult situations and conversations.
What singular piece of advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a professional brewer?
Going outside your comfort zone to learn the strengths and weaknesses of other departments allows you to fill in the gaps and make things run smoother. Always be asking questions.
What ultimate career goal would you like to achieve?
This is it! I love my position. Spending most of my time trying to problem-solve and still being able to get out on the floor to help the brewers is a dream.
What is your favorite beer you’ve ever brewed, be it on a professional or amateur level?
Barrel-aged tart saison
What is your least-favorite beer you’ve ever brewed on any level?
Sour IPA. Too sour, too bitter.
What are your favorite and least-favorite hop varietals at present?
Simcoe and Mosaic are tried and true. I have a love-hate relationship with Sabro.
If you weren’t a brewer, what do you think you would do for a living?
I’d be a mechanic of some sort.
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?
Warehouse. It takes a lot of work to keep a large warehouse well organized.
What is your favorite beer style?
If you could wipe one style of beer off the face of the Earth, what would it be?
Hefeweizen. Not for me.
What single brewing company’s beers and/or ethos/style has been most influential on your style?
What is your favorite San Diego County brewing company?
What is your favorite brewing company outside of San Diego?
Surly Brewing in Minneapolis
What three breweries that you haven’t yet visited—local or elsewhere—are on your current must-see bucket list?
Jester King Brewery. New Belgium Brewing and Almanac Beer Co.
What are your favorite local beer events?
Oktoberfest at Eppig Brewing
If you were to leave San Diego, where would be the next-best place you’d want to brew?
Denver, Colorado is a great beer town and a great place to be outdoors.
Which musical genre or artists are on your brew-day soundtrack/playlist?
Metal all day
What motto rules the way you brew and approach brewing in a professional brewhouse?
A careful and calculated approach. If that fails, just send it.
When you’re not at work, what do you like to do for fun?
I mountain-bike every chance I get and build things: motorcycles, cars, furniture, anything really.
Where do you like to drink off-the-clock?
Pizza Port and Eppig
What is your favorite beer-and-food pairing of all time?
I feel like a spokesperson for Pizza Port.
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’d have a few-course meal that ends in a tuna steak and a rich red sour beer with my partner Emily and my dogs. I’d rather spend nights at home with them.
Who do you think you are (a purposely broad question)?
Johnny Cash, “The Man in Black”
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].