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 Abnormal Beer Co.
What is your current title?
Where did you grow up?
The mean streets of Carlsbad!
What was the first beer and/or alcoholic beverage you ever had?
I believe it was a 40 of Mickey’s.
What was your a-ha moment that turned you on to craft beer?
My first craft- beer experience consisted of a 22-ounce bomber of The Reverend from Avery, followed by a six-pack of Stone IPA. Both were completely undrinkable for me, but I managed to choke down that bomber, straight out of the bottle, of course. When I moved to the IPA, that was even worse. I’m not sure if I even finished the bottle. A few weeks after that amazing experience, I had a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale… and everything changed. I began to understand the flavors, not well, but it was incredibly enjoyable!
What led you to consider a career in brewing?
I homebrewed for about a decade before I decided to get in this mix. I had not been happy at other jobs, so I went for it and started at the bottom.
Where did you first apply for a brewing job and where did you get your first brewing/brewery position?
I applied at many breweries before landing a job. Mother Earth Brew Co. was my first production job.
What breweries have you worked for over your career and in what roles?
Pizza Port Carlsbad (bar back and security), Mother Earth Brew Co. (started as a keg-washer and moved to brewer), Fall Brewing (brewer) and I’m currently with Abnormal Beer Co.
Who have been the individuals that have helped you the most to learn and advance in your career, and how?
Chris Baker of Mother Earth gave me my first brewing job and moved me up the ladder quickly. I was brewing on the pilot system within my first year. Podcasts are a huge source of info, and I thank every brewer that opens up–good and bad–about their path!
What singular piece of advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a professional brewer?
Be prepared for change. This industry is always evolving.
What ultimate career goal would you like to achieve?
That’s hard to say. I want to keep growing and keep an open mind!
What is your favorite beer you’ve ever brewed, be it on a professional or amateur level?
Dry-hopped lager. It’s really tough to pick one. Probably Faber’s Mosaic. It was one of the first lagers I did at Abnormal. We put in a massive dry-hop on this simple pilsner-inspired lager, which was a first for all of us. Everything about that beer made me happy!
What is your least-favorite beer you’ve ever brewed on any level?
Sin-Tax Stout. It was a pain in the ass to lauter and the peanut flavor we used smelled like flowers.
What are your favorite and least-favorite hop varietals at present?
Riwaka! Hands down, my favorite. It’s very versatile and I can’t wait to use it in a lager! Hallertau Mittelfrüh would be my least favorite. That hop is too earthy for me and reminds me of beets.
If you weren’t a brewer, what do you think you would do for a living?
If you can call that living. At this point, it’s so hard to think about doing another job. It all sounds miserable to me. It would have to be something where I could be creative and provide a product.
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 controller. Cash is the blood and the controller is the heart! Big shout-out to Sarah Clark, who holds the company together!
What is your favorite beer style?
Pilsner! So many variations can be made. I love how complex they can be with such simple ingredients.
If you could wipe one style of beer off the face of the Earth, what would it be?
Anything made with com. It has an overpowering flavor to me. I would have to say cream ale.
What single brewing company’s beers and/or ethos/style has been most influential on your style?
Sierra Nevada, they are the Godfather of craft brewing!
What is your favorite San Diego County brewing company?
Bagby Beer Co.
What is your favorite brewing company outside of San Diego?
Almanac Beer Co. is what I buy most of the time. They have a fantastic sour program!
What three breweries that you haven’t yet visited—local or elsewhere—are on your current must-see bucket list?
Sierra Nevada, Cantillon and Weihenstephaner
What are your favorite local beer events?
Zwanze Day, Low & Slow and Brewbies!
If you were to leave San Diego, where would be the next-best place you’d want to brew?
Austin maybe, but I’m not sure. There are so many great spots in this world!
Which musical genre or artists are on your brew-day soundtrack/playlist?
Metal, folk, punk, rap, surf rock. I am all over the place. Maybe some Magnolia Electric Co. then some Slayer going in to Orville Peck and Gang Star. Or maybe I’ll listen to Subhumans all day.
What motto rules the way you brew and approach brewing in a professional brewhouse?
Every step is equally important! One misstep can ruin an entire batch.
When you’re not at work, what do you like to do for fun?
Concerts and cigars. Wrangling kids.
Where do you like to drink off-the-clock?
Bagby Beer and Pure Project Brewing are where I go most often.
What is your favorite beer-and-food pairing of all time?
The Friendly smash and a Hamm’s or beer and tacos! Yes, both of those!
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?
A Porterhouse and gueuze! My Wife and my Kids would be with me.
Who do you think you are (a purposely broad question)?
I have the privilege of leading a fantastic team at work and in my home! I am very grateful for what I have!
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].