Portrait of a Brewer: Teddy Gowan, Societe Brewing

A circuitous route led Societe's VP or Brewing Ops from the East Coast to the Far East to sweet home San Diego

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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…

Teddy Gowan
of Societe Brewing

What is your current title?
Vice President of Brewing Operations

Where did you grow up? 
Hamilton, New York. 

What brought you to San Diego? 
Family, education and the job at Societe

What was the first beer and/or alcoholic beverage you ever had? 
For as long as I can remember, I used to take gulps of my fathers Molson Export before dinner. He now drinks exclusively West Coast IPAs. 

What was your a-ha moment that turned you on to craft beer? 
I think it was an evolution. I have always loved beer, and I drank a lot of all kinds of beer before I realized I could make a career out of it. Trying a bottle of Pliny for the first time while brewing back east made me realize I had to go west. 

What led you to consider a career in brewing? 
When I first got excited about beer as a career, it was because I could be a part of something that people were so passionable about and that there was more than a lifetime of history, science and process to learn.  

Where did you first apply for a brewing job and where did you get your first brewing/brewery position? 
I started as an assistant brewer-slash-bouncer at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery. I learned a lot about the band, Tool, and how effective it is to clear out a bar full of locals at 2 a.m. Otherwise, It was a lot of hours of cleaning and filling growlers that eventually, after consistent pestering, led me into the brewhouse and laid the foundation of my brewing knowledge. 

What breweries have you worked for over your career and in what roles? 
Besides Lake Placid, I took a chance at Dr. Beer as the head brewer in Shanghai, China, then as a shift brewer at Hangar 24 Craft brewery, and at Societe as a brewer in 2014.

Who have been the individuals that have helped you the most to learn and advance in your career, and how?  
This list could be 10 pages long! Everyone that I have met along the way has taught me something. So many people have helped me along the way. This industry is really small and it’s always surprising how often things come full-circle.

What singular piece of advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a professional brewer? 
If you come to work every day excited and willing to learn, good things will come. Ultimately, if you can keep the fire and passion alive for beer, every day will be an adventure. 

What ultimate career goal would you like to achieve? 
To continue to learn and grow from mentors and mentees alike. 

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

What is your least-favorite beer you’ve ever brewed on any level?
A chocolate porter. It didn’t help that, at the start of my shift, I knocked out into a whirlpool that was open to the drain, sending 75 percent of the batch down the drain.

What are your favorite and least-favorite hop varietals at present? 
HBC 586 has been really exciting for us recently, especially in Cryo form. We have been working on getting our hands on some Anchovy hops, but have not had the opportunity to try them. They are on the short list. I’m not a huge fan of Sabro and the majority of the Neomexicanus lineage. We haven’t been able to tame the coconut-cream character.

What are some of your favorite brewing ingredients that aren’t hops?
It is continually astounding to me how much you can change the flavor of a beer with a slight tweak to the salts you add. I love salt and It makes sense when you think about food. You can recognize under- or over-salted foods immediately. It’s more subtle in beer, but hitting it right makes a good beer great.

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

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? 
Packaging. The unsung heroes of the production team. The amount of patience and grit it takes to master a canning line is beyond my grasp. A seemingly repetitive task that moves so fast, where minor adjustments or loss of attention to detail can completely derail a straightforward day, and destroy a great beer.

What is your favorite beer style? 

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

What single brewing company’s beers and/or ethos/style has been most influential on your style? 
Benchmark Brewing’s “beer-flavored beer” always drew me in.  Really just listening to the company’s co-founder and brewmaster Matt Aiken explain why table beer is important. His passion is palpable and a refreshing reminder of why we are all here in the first place.

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

What is your favorite brewing company outside of San Diego? 
I love Allagash Brewing.

What three breweries that you haven’t yet visited—local or elsewhere—are on your current must-see bucket list? 
I have never been to Belgium. I went to Europe to visit a friend in high school and we said we were taking the train to Brussels and ended up in Amsterdam. My mind was expanded in a different way. I don’t think I would have appreciated the beer experience back then, but now I’d love to visit any three breweries in Belgium. 

What are your favorite local beer events? 
Pucks and Pints! Guild Fest on Friday night and Battle of the Guilds at Toronado. 

If you were to leave San Diego, where would be the next-best place you’d want to brew?
I would love the opportunity to brew in Europe at a brewery older than the U.S.

Which musical genre or artists are on your brew-day soundtrack/playlist? 
I get a lot of heat for this at the brewery but it’s mostly the Grateful Dead. It’s even better when the Grateful Dead is singing Bob Dylan songs. 

What motto rules the way you brew and approach brewing in a professional brewhouse? 
Creativity through the process. 

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishments? 
Navigating COVID in a leadership position was relentlessly humbling. It was a non-stop rollercoaster, and I feel fortunate to have come out the other side healthy and stronger as a leader. 

What are you proud of having achieved in your personal life? 
My family. Not that I “achieved” them, but they are a hoot and they make me proud on a daily basis.

When you’re not at work, what do you like to do for fun? 
Spending time with my family, playing the banjo and drinking beer in an ice-hockey locker room

Where do you like to drink off-the-clock?  
I don’t get out much. Mostly at my house, or see the above answer.

What is your favorite beer-and-food pairing of all time? 
I absolutely love beer and cheese. They compare and contrast on so many different levels.   

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? 
It’s going to be family and close friends with multiple kegs of cold beer on an Adirondack lake in the fall with Solo cups and lots of meat and veggies being cooked over a fire.

Who do you think you are (a purposely broad question)?
A Herb Brooks wannabe.

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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