Portrait of a Brewer: Tommy Kreamer, Gravity Heights

Retracing steps that took an experienced brewer to new heights...Gravity Heights!

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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…

Tommy Kreamer

of Gravity Heights

What is your current title?

Head Brewer

Where did you grow up?

San Jose, California

What brought you to San Diego?

Warmer ocean water and better tacos

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

It had to have been a sip of my mom’s margarita.

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

In college, I had an older friend who would buy me beer. At some point he stopped bringing the usual 32-ounce High Lifes I would request and brought bombers of Red Tail Ale and Anchor Steam instead. It carried on from there.

What led you to consider a career in brewing?

I wanted a job that would keep me active and would not keep me tethered to a desk. The promise of free beer for life was also rather enticing.

Where did you first apply for a brewing job?

North Coast Brewing

What breweries have you worked for over your career and in what roles?

I started volunteering at Green Flash Brewing and then FiftyFifty Brewing. I got my first paid brewing job at North Coast Brewing up in Mendocino County. From there, I went to the The Lost Abbey/Port Brewing as a Shift Brewer, spent some time as Lead Cellarman, and when I left I had the Lead Brewer title. I left there to help open Gravity Heights as the Head Brewer. 

Who have been the individuals that have helped you the most to learn and advance in your career, and how?

Todd Ashman from FiftyFifty was an early influence and helped open my eyes to what a career in brewing could look like. Greg Peters (formerly of The Lost Abbey, currently at JuneShine) has taught me a lot, but unfortunately he hasn’t taught me how to make hard kombucha yet. 

What singular piece of advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a professional brewer?

Read books and ask lots of questions. Just make sure to read the books before asking the questions.

What ultimate career goal would you like to achieve?

Being able to retire would be a great achievement.

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

I really enjoyed working on sour blends during my time at The Lost Abbey. It didn’t matter what beer it was, it was always a fun challenge to get the blend right. 

What is your least-favorite beer you’ve ever brewed on any level?

I homebrewed an orange-cardamom porter once. I have no clue why I thought that was a good idea.

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

Favorite: Simcoe; Least-favorite: Brewer’s Gold. It’s not really that bad, but it’s definitely a huge misnomer.

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

I always thought being a park ranger would be fun.

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?

I think every position gets overlooked. If everyone isn’t working together, the brewery just isn’t going to last.

What is your favorite beer style?

West Coast IPA, with German pils as a close second.

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

Not sure if this counts because I don’t think it is a real style to begin with, but smoothie IPA?

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

Russian River Brewing. They always seem to get straight to the point.

What is your favorite San Diego County brewing company?

Eppig Brewing

What is your favorite brewing company outside of San Diego?


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

Jester King Brewery, Anchor Steam and Pilsner Urquell

What are your favorite local beer events?

I’ve always enjoyed the Mission Valley Craft Beer and Food Festival. I wish all beer fests included food!

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

I’m gonna have to go with Italy.

Which musical genre or artists are on your brew-day soundtrack/playlist?

I believe in observing Honky Tonk Tuesday, Grateful Wednesday and Funky Friday.

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

Don’t overthink it. Simple is both beautiful and delicious.

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

Surf, ride bikes, take my son for walks and play or listen to music.

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

The kegerator in my kitchen or The Lost Abbey’s Cardiff-by-the-Sea tasting room, The Confessional. 

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

Sour beer and a charcuterie board

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’d invite all my friends for the world’s largest fondue party. There would be kegs of Anchor Steam to wash it all down.

Who do you think you are (a purposely broad question)?

I think I’m a friendly guy who likes to make beer, drink beer and talk beer.

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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