Portrait of a Brewer: Danny Garcia, Northern Pine Brewing

Will having moved on to a new position at a different brewery change a brewer's answers? Let's find out!

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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…

Danny Garcia
of Northern Pine Brewing

What is your current title?
Head Brewer

Where did you grow up?
Los Angeles, California

What brought you to San Diego?
The craft-beer community! I was commuting 55 miles each way from the Inland Empire when I first started out because I wanted to make beer in San Diego County so badly. Now I live and work in Oceanside.

What was the first beer and/or alcoholic beverage you ever had?
My dad gave me a Budweiser as a child to show me I wouldn’t like the taste and to keep me away from alcohol, ha! My first beer as an adult was a Guinness with a few buds who were able to walk me through the complexity of it. But the beer that really made me fall in love was Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA.

What was your a-ha moment that turned you on to craft beer?
Being impatient, for sure. I wanted to make bourbon, but I was far too impatient to wait years at a production level to see the final product. I started homebrewing and loved brewing frequently, constantly working on the products I was coming up with.

What led you to consider a career in brewing?
I was a web developer for nine years. Although the money was great, I just couldn’t sit in a cubicle all day anymore. I love coming to work now.

What was your first brewing/brewery position?
I moved from LA to the Inland Empire and was trying to help in winery cellars. There were plenty of wineries in the area, and after a year or so it ultimately didn’t work out. I was then asked to help at a local brewery and have been at it ever since.

What breweries have you worked for over your career and in what roles?
Black Market Brewing in Temecula, Manager and Cellar; Kitchen Sink Brewing in Riverside, Head Brewer; Culver Beer Co., Brewer; Black Plague Brewing, Production Brewer; Northern Pine Brewing, Head Brewer

Who have been the individuals that have helped you the most to learn and advance in your career, and how?
This community is amazing and I’ve been fortunate to meet so many who are an open book of knowledge. Ranging from tightening up fundamentals to larger-scale techniques. I definitely have a few people who have been instrumental in my growth, including Andrew Kelly from Embolden Beer Co., Mike Stevenson from Culver, Greg Turk from Rouleur Brewing and Aeryk Heeg from Black Plague.

What singular piece of advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a professional brewer?
Know what you’re getting into. It’s hard work and there are absolutely no shortcuts. Things take time and not everyone starts off as a brewer. Get in with a good brewery and learn all you can. The industry is filled with amazing, knowledgeable people. Work hard and it’ll pay off.

What ultimate career goal would you like to achieve?
Make it to the, “Who have been the individuals that have helped you the most to learn and advance in your career?” question for someone else.

What is your favorite beer you’ve ever brewed, be it on a professional or amateur level?
Skeleton Krew West Coast Pils, a collaboration with Craft Coast Beer & Tacos when I was at Black Plague. That was pretty rad. Definitely a staff favorite. I miss that beer.

What is your least-favorite beer you’ve ever brewed on any level?
I had to make a red lager from a previous owner’s odd recipe. I wish I could take that one back.

What are your favorite and least-favorite hop varietals at present?
My favorite hop is Simcoe. My least favorite right now might be Sabro. I can’t seem to put my finger on the changing of flavor I don’t prefer.

What are some of your favorite brewing ingredients that aren’t hops?
Can’t go wrong with Weyermann malts. Weyermann, if you’re seeing this, sponsor your boy!

If you weren’t a brewer, what do you think you would do for a living?
I probably would have found my way back into web development and UX design.

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?
You definitely need a good cellarman to help finish your beers.

What is your favorite beer style?
Hoppy Lager! I’m really digging the dry-hopped West Coast style of lagers.

If you could wipe one style of beer off the face of the earth, what would it be?
Usually I say hazy, but now I think taking any beer away from anyone wouldn’t be cool. All the beers can stay on Earth…for now.

What single brewing company’s beers and/or ethos/style has been most influential on your style?
Sierra Nevada started it all for me. I’d have to go with that

What is your favorite San Diego County brewing company?
Let’s go with Craft Coast. Beer and tacos are two of my favorite things and they do both so good.

What is your favorite brewing company outside of San Diego?
Highland Park Brewery. It’s home.

What three breweries that you haven’t yet visited—local or elsewhere—are on your current must-see bucket list?
Aw man, last time I said Anchor and since then they’ve closed! Let’s go with Sierra Nevada, Augustiner and Allagash Brewing.

What are your favorite local beer events?
Lately it seems everyone’s anniversary party is a beer festival. It’s become a reason for all the friends to get together and I’m digging it.

If you were to leave San Diego, where would be the next-best place you’d want to brew?
I’d probably go somewhere in the middle of the country and spread the joy of hoppy beer.

Which musical genre or artists are on your brew-day soundtrack/playlist?
Old school hip-hop, outlaw country, metal and alt 90’s are a weird but common mix while brewing.

What motto rules the way you brew and approach brewing in a professional brewhouse?
Since I’ve recently taken over the beer program at Northern Pine I’ve been thinking of a Winston Churchill quote: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” I’ve been tweaking, changing and creating a lot of new processes and beers here. Taking on changing some staples for the last six years here is daunting, but I’m enjoying the challenge.

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishments?
Growing within my community. The San Diego beer scene is still very important to me and being able to help a brewery grow in this environment is very rewarding to me.

What are you proud of having achieved in your personal life?
Successfully changing careers! Moving away from home, working on myself, staying focused and being able to support myself in a coastal California town while taking a major leap and direction change is something to be proud of.

When you’re not at work, what do you like to do for fun?
Check out live music, enjoy the coast and go to LA Galaxy matches.

Where do you like to drink off-the-clock?
You can catch me at Craft Coast pretty regularly.

What is your favorite beer-and-food pairing of all time?
Mexican food and Mexican lagers

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?
Mexican lager, tacos, my friends and loved ones, maybe some comedians, and my childhood heroes: Ken Griffey Jr. and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Who do you think you are (a purposely broad question)?
Just a dude trying to learn every day, hug my friends and pet dogs.

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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