Portrait of a Brewer: Jeff Lozano, Ballast Point Brewing

After hanging out on nearly every rung of the occupational ladder, an industry vet is happy right where he is

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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…

Jeff Lozano
of Ballast Point Brewing

What is your current title?
Brand Ambassador for Ballast Point Brewing

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the city of Calexico in Imperial County, California

What brought you to San Diego?
I moved to San Diego to attend nursing school.

What was the first beer and/or alcoholic beverage you ever had?
Damn, first beverage? Hmm, I’m pretty sure it was a beer. But I can for sure tell you the first beer that woke me up a bit. I was drinking Budweiser at a backyard punk gig when this older dude who I always thought was pretty cool was carrying a little personal cooler. He turned to me and said, “Want something better?” He handed me a Newcastle and I fell in love with it, mostly because I thought it was cooler.

What was your a-ha moment that turned you on to craft beer?
Arrogant Bastard Ale. I didn’t know you could use that word on any sort of labeling so I thought it was pretty punk rock. I loved everything about the branding and Stone Brewing became one of my first real craft-beer infatuations. The beer was tough to stomach. The label said I couldn’t handle it, so I took it as a personal attack and made myself start to like it. It took a bit, but the acquired taste left a lasting mark. 

What led you to consider a career in brewing?
A trip to Redlands. A very close cousin who lives close to Hangar 24 Craft Brewery took me to go check it out in its earlier days. It was literally in a hangar and the place was as intimate as you can get. A series of excuse-me’s and coming-through’s from the brew team as we stood in line to order beer made it seem like such a small, homegrown operation. That evening, the sunset hit pretty different as the place was flooded by locals, all coming together to hang out and enjoy Orange Wheats. It made me fall for the “vibe” of a brewery and kinda set the tone for the next few years.

What was your first brewing/brewery position?
My first position was weekend graveyard “facilities coordinator”. To this day, it’s the fanciest way I’ve ever heard someone refer to a janitor position. 

What breweries have you worked for over your career and in what roles?
I’ve been at Ballast and Ballast only. But the roles I’ve had within the company are part-time janitor, full-time janitor, bottling line production worker, kegging line operator, cellarman, filter technician, brewer, specialty brewer, marketing, sales and ambassador.

Who have been the individuals that have helped you the most to learn and advance in your career, and how?
This one is tough. So many people helped me along and taught me valuable lessons. If I had to pick some significant ones though, I’d start with Eddie Pittman. This guy was my introduction to the cellar. This dude would give me drills and time me as I set up filter loops. He taught me the art of tri-clamp and was funny as f***. Steven Anderson is a legend. Nobody has ever made brewing and barrel-aging as gangsta as this dude. He is quick, efficient and humble. James Murray taught me how to think strategically about career moves within the industry. He was also a huge part of my success and survival during the Constellation Brands era. I’m glad to call him a good friend today. Then there’s every single production worker I have ever worked alongside. There was a magical time at BP where we all “clicked” burning the midnight oil together. I spent more time with these folks than my own family at the time. They, in fact, became my family and I cherish every one of them.

What singular piece of advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a professional brewer?
Really think about why you want to do this. I’ve had some of the best conversations of my life over a beer. I’ve made great friends over beer and even lost some over a few. Beer is supposed to make shitty times good and good times better. The gig can be very physically and mentally taxing. If you can always go back to why you want to create this stuff, you’ll be able to add a few imaginary zeroes to that number on your paycheck. 

What ultimate career goal would you like to achieve?
I definitely want to help bring beer to the white tablecloth. If I can piggyback off of what Colby Chandler and guys like Tyson Blake have already done, I think beer can have a place at your favorite restaurant and help chefs elevate their creations with ours. I love me some wine, but when it comes to versatility of food-pairing I’m not sure any other booze can compete. 

What is your favorite beer you’ve ever brewed, be it on a professional or amateur level?
Ballast had a “Roots to Boots” program where any employee, regardless of department, could participate in the beer-making process down at our Little Italy location. It was a pretty rad team-building retreat without the trust falls. Anyway, I had this idea to take the “roots” part of it a bit further and created a beer that had more of a cultural element to it. So I made an agave blonde. Boring, right? Well, my fondest memories with my dad were in Jalisco, drinking tequila together and making memories. So I had some blue agave imported from a buddy and made a very drinkable, semisweet ale that was delicious and had a bit more behind it. My dad loved it, and that’s all that counted. 

What is your least-favorite beer you’ve ever brewed on any level?
Barmy Ale was an absolute pain in the ass to brew. It was a high-octane beer that must have kept all the bees in business with how much damn honey we had to throw into it on the hot side and whirlpool. It was like 13% alcohol-by-volume so it definitely took you places, but man….the destroyer of lumbars. 

What are your favorite and least-favorite hop varietals at present?
Centennial has been and will always be my favorite. Big up to Big Eye IPA. I don’t really dislike any hop when used appropriately, but U.S. Goldings can take a hike if I was kicking anyone off the tour bus. 

What are some of your favorite brewing ingredients that aren’t hops?
Purées, CO2 and clarifying agents. I am Team Clear Beer.

If you weren’t a brewer, what do you think you would do for a living?
Shit man, probably trying to open up a small dive bar somewhere; a place that looks like it smells like cigarettes. ”Jeff’s” has always had a nice ring to it. 

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?
Cellaring. 100%. The cellar is where you can make or break the beer, so those folks have a ton of responsibility. If the beer tastes phenomenal and consistent, it’s because of great cellar practices. Also, the warehouse. You can’t taste the beer if you can’t get the beer. 

What is your favorite beer style?
My favorite beer style is probably Munich dunkel.

If you could wipe one style of beer off the face of the earth, what would it be?
Anything with the word “murky” on it.

What single brewing company’s beers and/or ethos/style has been most influential on your style?
Stone’s enamel-ripping style has always tested my limits, Pizza Port can’t miss in my opinion in terms of both beer and tasting-room structure, and then there’s Sierra Nevada. Gotta kiss the ring.

What is your favorite San Diego County brewing company?
Fall Brewing. The times I’ve had in there are some of my highlight-reel moments.

What is your favorite brewing company outside of San Diego?
Hangar 24 in Redlands. I’m usually there with family and the spot takes me to a happy place.

What three breweries that you haven’t yet visited—local or elsewhere—are on your current must-see bucket list?
Guiness. Schlenkerla and Russian River, just to name a few

What are your favorite local beer events?
Oktoberfest at Eppig Brewing, 91X’s Beer X beer-and-music festival and the San Diego Beer News Awards, foo’!

If you were to leave San Diego, where would be the next-best place you’d want to brew?
If I wasn’t here I’d want to go brew somewhere near San Bernardino. It’s close to some of my family and I think there’s room for some more great breweries in the area. 

Which musical genre or artists are on your brew-day soundtrack/playlist?
Red City Radio, The Flatliners, NOFX, Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers, Rancid, Teenage Bottlerocket, Alkaline Trio, Wire, The Stooges, Buzzcocks…OK, you get it.

What motto rules the way you brew and approach brewing in a professional brewhouse?
Leave the next person in a good spot.

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishments?
The comfort of knowing I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. I started at the very lowest position in this company and I’ve loved every minute of it. 

When you’re not at work, what do you like to do for fun?
Hanging out with my family and friends. That’s it. That’s all that matters. I work to do exactly that. 

Where do you like to drink off-the-clock?
I really like to have a beer anywhere coastal. Ocean Beach, in particular. 

What is your favorite beer-and-food pairing of all time?
IPA and pad Thai

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?
With my wife, kids and family, eating my father’s famous enchiladas. It would be at my mom’s house and we’d be drinking Negra Modelo right out of the bottle.

Who do you think you are (a purposely broad question)?
I think I’m just a dude that thinks about his eulogy too often. I’m trying to live a life that consists of making great friends and meeting great people. And if I’m paying attention and learning a thing or two from them, I can hopefully absorb some of those admirable qualities and pass them along to my children. I want my kids to be excited to be here. I think surrounding yourself with great, kind, interesting people is the only way to fully experience this thing. When I’m over and done with, I would hope that the memories that make “final cut” are those with my wife, children, closest family and friends, and, of course, good beer. 

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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