Portrait of a Brewer: Danny Garcia, Black Plague Brewing

A member of Black Plague Brewing has soft spot for hoppy lagers, buds and pups

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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…

Danny Garcia

of Black Plague Brewing

What is your current title?

Production Brewer

Where did you grow up?

Los Angeles, California

What brought you to San Diego?

The craft beer community, actually. I lived in the Inland Empire for a few years and was commuting 55 miles each way because it meant more to me to make beer in San Diego County than any other place.

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

The first beer I had was probably a Budweiser that my dad gave me as a child at a party 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. I was lucky enough to have friends who were able to walk me through the complexity of it, but it did take a moment for my palate to adjust to beer. Funny enough, the beer that really made me fall in love was Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA. Bitterness for the win.

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

I think the real reason was my lack of patience, ha! I was enamored with bourbon, but I was far too impatient to wait possibly years (at a production level) to get the product I would enjoy. I started homebrewing and had countless breakthroughs to get me where I am.

What led you to consider a career in brewing?

My dislike of my previous career made me dive head first. Web development for nine years basically made me not want to look at a computer screen for eight hours a day ever again. 

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

When I moved to the Inland Empire, I 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?

After my first brewery, I worked as a head brewer in the Riverside area called Kitchen Sink Brewing, which has since moved. Then, I decided to join the San Diego community and took on brewing duties at Culver Beer Co. in Carlsbad before coming over to help my friends at Black Plague Brewing as the Production Brewer. All-in, I’ve been brewing about six years now.

Who have been the individuals who 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 pretty instrumental in my growth including Andrew Kelly (Embolden Beer Co.), Mike Stevenson (Culver), Greg Turk (Rouleur Brewing), and my current team with Aeryk Heeg and our leadership, Jarred Doss and Jordan Hoffart.

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. You can not hide a mistake. Work every day with the mentality that you’re a curator of something that matters to those who purchase your products and you’ll be fine.

What ultimate career goal would you like to achieve?

Some meaningful accolades are next on the list for me. 

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

Honestly, it was a beer shared with very little people. When I was brewing at Kitchen Sink, I made a beer that was my version of my all-time favorite, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. When shared with my peers, I was told it was hard to distinguish the two, I think I ended up drinking it all, ha.

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. The flavor of it hasn’t stopped haunting me.

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

For favorite, I’ll probably go Simcoe. Our hop-forward beers shine with it. For least favorite, I’d probably go Galaxy. Not my jam.

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

Designing, I’d just go back to the creative side of web development…or modeling.

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?

Cellarman, by far. You definitely need a good cellarman to help finish your beers.

What is your favorite beer style?

Hoppy Lager…I get more hops on a lager. Win-win.

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

Hazy…not here for it. 

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

Probably Sierra Nevada, having hop-balanced beers has always been a goal of mine.

What is your favorite San Diego County brewing company?

Fall Brewing is my vibe. The beers are solid and the production crew is a great group.

What is your favorite brewing company outside of San Diego?

Highland Park Brewing, the China Town location, is not far from where I grew up. It’s home.

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

Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Augustiner

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

Maybe I’d 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?

I definitely had an odd mix going, ranging from Ice Cube to Charley Crockett to Bad Religion to Slayer to Tom Waits…it can get kinda weird.

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

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away.” I love to make the best beer I can without over-complicating processes or ingredients. 

When you’re not at work, what do you like to do for fun?

Watching live music and going to soccer games. Go Galaxy! 

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

Lately, I’ve been visiting my friends at Pizza Port and Pure Project Brewing, or I’ll drive up to Murrieta for Solaris Brewing & Blending.

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

Mexican food with a Mexican-style lager

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?

Modelo, 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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