Portrait of a Brewer: Daren Rudy, Ataraxia Aleworks

Having a place where he can share his beers with folks who enjoy them is a dream come true

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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…

Daren Rudy
of Ataraxia Aleworks

What is your current title? 
Owner/operator…that includes brewer, cellerman, bartender, janitor, events coordinator, sales and everything in between.

Where did you grow up? 
San Diego, born and raised

What was the first beer and/or alcoholic beverage you ever had? 
I thought I’d be funny and ask a family member for a sip of her beer when I was eight or nine, and instead of saying “no”, she said, “here you go.” It was the most foul, disgusting thing I had ever drank and I didn’t know how or why people would choose to drink it. My first beer of choice was New Belgium’s Fat Tire, and it was the first six-pack I legally bought on my 21st birthday.

What was your a-ha moment that turned you on to craft beer? 
Disliking IPAs the first time I ever drank them. That being said, I couldn’t figure out why I was constantly craving them. Eventually, like many other San Diegans, they became my favorite style for several years.

What led you to consider a career in brewing? 
I started homebrewing when I had a lot of time on my hands. One day, I went into Home Brew Mart to get ingredients and saw they were hiring. I applied and got the job. During the interview, I had mentioned that I wanted to open my own brewery one day, and after almost a decade with Home Brew Mart and Ballast Point, I was able to turn my dream into a reality.

What was your first brewing/brewery position? 
I was a homebrew clerk and beertender for about a year before advancing through the ranks with Ballast Point.

What breweries have you worked for over your career and in what roles? 
Ballast Point is the only brewery I’ve worked for, and I only officially held three titles: Homebrew Clerk, Assistant Manager and Brewer. I opted to step down from the assistant manager role in order to pursue the brewing route.

Who have been the individuals that have helped you the most to learn and advance in your career, and how? 
I owe most of my success and continued passion to Aaron Justus, the former Brewing Manager At Ballast Point who is now owner and brewer at East Village Brewing. He was my manager for several years, and he had an unwavering passion for the craft, which he made a point to extend to every brewer he knew. He has a wealth of brewing knowledge and took every brewer to the next level by teaching them the intricacies of each and every different ingredient. I think my current love for darker beers – both drinking and brewing them – was heavily influenced by that next level of understanding of each different type of malt. This answer also wouldn’t be complete without mentioning San Diego craft-beer legend Colby Chandler. His palate and the way he views beer and brewing are on another level, and I am fortunate to have worked under his expertise for so long.

What singular piece of advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a professional brewer? 
Don’t lose the love for the beer. The beer just tastes better if it’s brewed with passion.

What ultimate career goal would you like to achieve? 
Now that I’ve fulfilled my dream of owning my own brewery, I just want to continue to grow and reach more and more people. This is what I love doing and I enjoy sharing the fruits of my labor with everybody that’s willing to drink it.

What is your favorite beer you’ve ever brewed, be it on a professional or amateur level? 
We currently have an imperial porter with vanilla on tap. It’s a beer we’ve been wanting to brew since we opened, but the timing never really worked out. It’s based on an old homebrew recipe of mine and it’s currently my favorite and the favorite of many of our customers. 

What is your least-favorite beer you’ve ever brewed on any level? 
It’s gotta be my second homebrew ever. The first one went fine, but I got a little overconfident with the next one. It was a learning experience, at least.

What are your favorite and least-favorite hop varietals at present? 
Mosaic is my all-time favorite. Since the first time I ever had a beer brewed with it, very few hops have come close. El Dorado is probably my least favorite. There have for sure been some great beers brewed with it, but I just can’t seem to get behind its flavor.

What are some of your favorite brewing ingredients that aren’t hops? 
I like playing around with different types of fruit. I love brewing Berliner weisses because I can get creative and add different mixes of fruit to them. I also really like brewing with vanilla, but it can be easy to overdo if you aren’t careful.

If you weren’t a brewer, what do you think you would do for a living? }
I’d probably blow the dust off my engineering degree and put that to some use. Or maybe I’d go back to school for business.

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? 
It pains me to say this as a brewer, but sales for sure. It doesn’t matter if you brew the best beer in the world if nobody is drinking it. Now having to do both brewing and sales, I realize just how important it is to put your face and name out there, and be present around bars, restaurants and even other tasting rooms. If you show up to a bar to try to sell your beer, there’s a good chance they won’t buy it, but if you don’t show up, that chance drops down to zero. I’m also a firm believer that cellar work is more important than brewing the beer itself. Anyone can follow a recipe, but it’s the care taken between brewing and packaging that can turn a good beer into a great beer.

What is your favorite beer style? 
My palate switches all the time from wanting bitter, hoppy beers to dark, malty beers, but I’d say a good porter is probably my all-time favorite. Deschutes’ Black Butte, Pizza Port’s Bacon and Eggs and our very own Great Deliverer are some of my favorite beers of all time.

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

What single brewing company’s beers and/or ethos/style has been most influential on your style? 
Sierra Nevada Brewing. No brewery even comes close to the influence they have had on craft beer as a whole.

What is your favorite San Diego County brewing company? 
I really love what Pizza Port is doing with their food and beer. All the locations always have so many different varieties of beer and they’re always so good.

What is your favorite brewing company outside of San Diego? 
Cascade Brewing. I enjoy sours and they have some of the best I’ve ever had.

What three breweries that you haven’t yet visited—local or elsewhere—are on your current must-see bucket list? 
I’ve always wanted to see the workings of a macro-brewery, so I think it would be a great experience to see the main Budweiser plant in St. Louis, Missouri. I’ve heard the St. James Gate Guinness brewery in Ireland is an amazing experience, so I’d want to check that out at some point. I also want to check out Firestone Walker Brewing in Paso Robles. I visited the Buellton Barrelworks location last time I drove up the coast, but was unfortunately way too hungover to visit the Paso Robles brewery on my way back down.

What are your favorite local beer events? 
Anything with good food and/or live music.

If you were to leave San Diego, where would be the next-best place you’d want to brew? 
Reno, Nevada. Ataraxia Aleworks was originally slated to open up there, but the pandemic threw a monkey wrench into our plans. We had certain criteria for where we would want to open a brewery, and Reno checked all the boxes. There are about 20 breweries in the Reno and Sparks areas, half of which I have visited and loved. Without even really looking into San Diego, we stumbled across a brewery that was closing down. The price was right and we ended up sticking around our hometown of San Diego.

Which musical genre or artists are on your brew-day soundtrack/playlist? 
Some form of metal. I brew early, so it’s always good having something to wake me up.

What motto rules the way you brew and approach brewing in a professional brewhouse? 
Have fun. I’m doing what I love and never forget that.

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishments? 
In my 20s, I set my mind out to open a brewery, and in my 30s I made it happen.

What are you proud of having achieved in your personal life? 
Not just opening my own brewery, but owning my own business, in general. Everyone in my extended family has been self-employed at one point in their lives and it’s really cool to be able to continue that trend.

When you’re not at work, what do you like to do for fun? 
Go out with friends, play soccer, play video games and see live music.

Where do you like to drink off-the-clock? 
The localest, diviest bar or another tasting room I’ve never been to before.

What is your favorite beer-and-food pairing of all time? 
A juicy steak with a good stout or porter

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 would eat my favorite beer-and-food pairing from the previous question and invite as many of my friends as would fit at that table.

Who do you think you are (a purposely broad question)? 
Check out this gif for a purposely ambiguous answer.

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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