Portrait of a Brewer: Jeff Bagby, Green Cheek Beer Co.

A towering figure in the San Diego beer scene is a purist, globetrotter, husband and lifelong brewing devotee

Image Name Alt

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 Bagby
of Green Cheek Beer Co.

What is your current title?
Brewer for Green Cheek Oceanside

Where did you grow up? 

What was the first beer and/or alcoholic beverage you ever had?  
I don’t recall.  Probably Coors Banquet, as my Dad drank that when I was a kid. 

What was your a-ha moment that turned you on to craft beer?  
When I realized there was better beer out there. Too many years ago.  

What led you to consider a career in brewing?  
I loved beer and the fact that I was actually able to have a career in it.   

What was your first brewing/brewery position?  
Stone Brewing in 1997

What breweries have you worked for over your career and in what roles?  
Stone Brewing: delivery and then Brewer; White Labs: Sales Consultant; Oggi’s: Head Brewer; Pizza Port: Delivery Driver, Assistant Brewer, Bartender, Brewer, Head Brewer and Head of Brewpub Operations; Bagby Beer Company: owner, co-Founder and Head Brewer; Green Cheek Beer Co.: Brewer

Who have been the individuals that have helped you the most to learn and advance in your career, and how?  
There are several people. I have to start with Steve Wagner and Lee Chase back in my days at Stone.  Definitely Tomme Arthur (The Lost Abbey) and Skip Virgilio (AleSmith, Gravity Heights) back in my early time with beer in San Diego. Tom Nickel (Nickel Beer Co.) and Brit Antrim (Anderson Valley Brewing) for several years, also starting back in my early days in San Diego beer. Gina and Vince Marsaglia for all the Pizza Port years. All of these people gave me opportunities and/or taught me an immense amount.     

What singular piece of advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a professional brewer?  
No matter how long you’ve been a brewer, always remain open to learning something new.

What ultimate career goal would you like to achieve?  
I’ve already achieved my ultimate goal, which was to own and operate my own brewery with my wife, Dande.    

What is your favorite beer you’ve ever brewed, be it on a professional or amateur level?  
I don’t have a single favorite. I enjoyed improving on beers each time I made them. Definitely some of the beers I brewed in the last year of Bagby were some of my favorites. 

What is your least-favorite beer you’ve ever brewed on any level?  
Hmm. Maybe a Belgian-style beer we brewed at Bagby long ago. The yeast – first generation from the lab that I won’t name – just did not produce the aromas and flavors that I was used to getting. I ended up having to completely adapt the beer into something else.

What are your favorite and least-favorite hop varieties at present?  
I like older classic hops. All the “C hops”, also Amarillo and Simcoe. I actually don’t like many of the newer hop varieties that I’ve come across. Many of them are just too intense and come off as off-putting. A lot of them have a garlic, onion, sweaty-sock and cat-pee character.  

What are some of your favorite brewing ingredients that aren’t hops?  
The other main three come to mind…

If you weren’t a brewer, what do you think you would do for a living?  
No idea. Probably something very close to the service industry.  

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?  
There are several. Lab, cellar, packaging, accounting and maintenance are all important positions that I don’t believe get the same recognition as the brewer position.

What is your favorite beer style?  
I don’t have a single favorite. Just a love of all the classics.

If you could wipe one style of beer off the face of the earth, what would it be?  
Hazy anything, pastry anything, milkshake anything and cheap-slash-quick “sour” beer.

What single brewing company’s beers and/or ethos/style has been most influential on your style?  
There isn’t a single one. My style has come from many years of visiting different cities, enjoying several beers and talking with countless people. 

What is your favorite San Diego County brewing company?  
Pizza Port

What is your favorite brewing company outside of San Diego?  
Bierstadt Lagerhaus

What three breweries that you haven’t yet visited—local or elsewhere—are on your current must-see bucket list?  
Schönramer, Samuel Smith’s Brewery and Klosterbrauerei Andechs   

What are your favorite local beer events? 
Low & Slow Lager Fest, Brewbies and Pizza Port’s Strong Ale Festival

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

Which musical genre or artists are on your brew-day soundtrack/playlist?  
I don’t listen to music in the brewery. I’m always listening to the brew and equipment.    

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishments?  
Owning and operating my own brewery and restaurant.

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].

Furman Photography Ad
Back to top button