Portrait of a Brewer: Andrew Kelly, Embolden Beer Co.

Embolden Beer Co. head brewer gets same joy out of craft as he did homebrewing

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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 NewsPortrait 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…

Andrew Kelly

of Embolden Beer Co. / New Motion Beverages

What is your current title?

Head Brewer

Where did you grow up?

I mostly grew up in Chula Vista and also spent some years in Tijuana as a kid. 

What was the first beer and/or alcoholic beverage you ever had?

I’m pretty sure it was Mike’s Hard Lemonade or some sort of fruity wine cooler I’d sneak off with at family parties as a young teen.

What was your a-ha moment that turned you on to craft beer?

I’m pretty sure it was trying Sam Adams seasonal mixed-packs or Guinness.

What led you to consider a career in brewing?

I started homebrewing with my brother, Brian (who is now killing it at Fall Brewing), and my dad, and after a few years, that addiction of brewing hit me and my brother. I knew we wanted to do that!

Where did you first apply for a brewing job and where did you get your first brewing/brewery position?

I applied to Coronado Brewing a few months after my brother got a job there. He told me they had an opening and I took it, then never looked back.

What breweries have you worked for over your career and in what roles?

I’ve been the Lead Brewer at Coronado Brewing, Brewer at Mission Brewery, and am currently Head Brewer at Embolden Beer Co. and New Motion Beverages.

Who have been the individuals that have helped you the most to learn and advance in your career, and how?

There have been many people who have helped me get to where I am currently, but right off the top of my head, my brother, Brian, and my dad in our homebrewing days when I was learning to just have fun making beer. Ryan Brooks who brought me on at Coronado. He always had a rad view on brewing, and always shared any and all knowledge he had. Cody Morris, who I worked with at Mission and currently working alongside at Embolden. He continues to help make work fun every day. So many other friends in the industry have continuously helped me out more than they probably know and that list is way too long.

What singular piece of advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a professional brewer?

It’s a lot of work, definitely a labor of love.

What ultimate career goal would you like to achieve?

I’d like to think it’s similar to other brewers, and that it’s winning a medal at the Great American Beer Festival or World Beer Cup. 

What is your favorite beer you’ve ever brewed, be it on a professional or amateur level?

That’s definitely an answer that changes every day, but a few at Embolden have been Glorious Revival brown ale, Seeking Aotearoa New Zealand pilsner, and Beyond Borders Mexican lager. 

What is your least-favorite beer you’ve ever brewed on any level?

Has to be some of the early homebrews when I was still trying to learn how to use specialty malts and hops. 

What are your favorite and least-favorite hop varietals at present?

My favorite hop varietal is a tie between Mosaic and Centennial. My least favorite is Sorachi Ace.

If you weren’t a brewer, what do you think you would do for a living?

I’ve always enjoyed cooking, so probably that!

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?

The cellar workers. They usually don’t get credit for taking care of the fermentations, dry-hops, filtering and carbonations. If those are done right, the beer brewed will be exactly what the brewer intended. Also, beertenders. If they are knowledgeable and care about the brewery’s beers, they will help maintain clean lines and help guide customers in the right direction to have them come back many more times.

What is your favorite beer style?

My favorite beer style is Mexican-style lager.

If you could wipe one style of beer off the face of the Earth, what would it be?

I’m okay not having pumpkin beers again.

What single brewing company’s beers and/or ethos/style has been most influential on your style?

I really like how the Harland Brewing team works together and the fun beers they pump out. I strive to have fun experimenting with ingredients like they do. 

What is your favorite San Diego County brewing company?

Fall Brewing, the consistency in beers and classic styles they make are great. I’m stoked to also have my brother making some of my favorite beers in the city.

What is your favorite brewing company outside of San Diego?

Delahunt Brewing in San Clemente. Kyle is making some great beers! 

What three breweries that you haven’t yet visited—local or elsewhere—are on your current must-see bucket list?

Sierra Nevada Brewing, Cantillon and Jester King. Everyone I know that has visited those spots has loved every minute of it. 

What are your favorite local beer events?

Guild Fest and Collabapalooza

If you were to leave San Diego, where would be the next-best place you’d want to brew?

I’d definitely want to stay on the West Coast because of the weather and staying coastal. I can see myself brewing in most places on the coast up to Oregon.

Which musical genre or artists are on your brew-day soundtrack/playlist?

This one is all over the place. Every brewer at Embolden will play what they’re feeling at any given time. It ranges from old punk and hardcore all the way to Katy Perry everyday. 

What motto rules the way you brew and approach brewing in a professional brewhouse?

I learned these from Ryan Brooks: “It’s just beer” and “There are a thousand ways to do this right” Those two things have stuck with me and I’ve tried to pass them on.

Where do you like to drink off-the-clock?

If I’m not at work, I usually like to be out and about, eating and trying new restaurants. I like to check out other local breweries after work so I can hang out and continue to learn from others if I can. Most people are open books and always willing to share their knowledge. 

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

You can never go wrong with beer and cheese. It’s a pairing I can’t get tired of. 

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 eat tacos and drink Mexican-style lagers with my family.

Who do you think you are (a purposely broad question)?

I’m someone who’s trying to stay as happy as I currently am.

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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