Rear View Beer: Council Brewing

Recalling an ostensibly unstoppable force of a brewery, the memory of which endures years later

Rear View Beer header

In a world that’s moving faster than ever, with our attention being pulled in so many directions, it’s easy to get caught up in the here-and-now. But we can’t know where we are going without knowing where we have been. It’s important to take time to look back and survey the landscape gracing the route that led us to where we are today for context and clues as to what may lie ahead. Such is the case with the San Diego brewing industry, a faction both revered across the country for the quality of its beers and the companies that produce them, as well as its positive impact at home and abroad.

San Diego’s brewing industry and overall beer scene didn’t spontaneously occur. It was forged over decades by thousands of entrepreneurs, craftspeople, employees and fans. And key to it all have been the brewing companies that have added their own unique spirit, personalities, motifs, influences and, of course, ales and lagers to the equation. In San Diego Beer News latest feature, Rear View Beer, we are taking a moment to look back and honor brewing operations that are no longer with us; companies both large and small that leant their passion, ideals and liquid wares to the local scene before exiting it. Today we remember Council Brewing with co-founder Curtis Chism.

Council Brewing logo

In 2013, when Liz and Curtis Chism (pictured above) decided to ascend from award-winning homebrewers to commercial brewery owners, their plan from the get-go was to go full blast, give it all they had and accomplish as much as they could. With Liz in the brewhouse and Curtis doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes, the couple made a quick name for their small but mighty Kearny Mesa concern, Council Brewing. With IPAs, Belgian-style ales, dark beers and wood-aged sour and strong ales, there was a little something for every taste, resulting in a tasting room packed with diverse individuals getting to know each other over house brews which was just what the Chisms wanted. In 2018 they expanded the business, taking over a brewery and tasting room in Santee. It was risky, but they were nearing a five-year deadline they had set for themselves to make the company work from a financial standpoint or close it down. Despite legions of fans and quality beers, the latter came to pass that December. Half a decade later, Council and the Chisms still come up in local beer enthusiasts’ conversations about what could have been.

How did you gain an affinity for craft beer?
I got into craft beer when I lived on 30th Street back in 2008 and frequented Hamilton’s Tavern, and I got Liz into craft beer when we met in 2009. I met Mike Hess when he was opening his brewery, then learned about homebrewing and Liz gave me a homebrew kit for Christmas. We started brewing multiple batches a week, joined QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity), became BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) judges and began winning homebrewing awards.

What did you aim to bring to the San Diego brewery scene with Council?
Our motto was “community and craftsmanship”, and we sought to cate the highest quality beer and have it be highly drinkable. We poured into our company culture to create an opportunity for our staff to grow and for our customers to have a truly amazing experience and make lasting friendships. Many of our staff moved on to some pretty awesome jobs after we closed. We’re proud of that.

How did you put your personal stamp on the business?
We are extremely detail-oriented, so we sought to make beers that were true to style, but also loved experimenting. We loved creating a warm place for our customers and we really dedicated our energy to making that happen.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments from your time as brewery owners?|
Our quarterly beer diners where we brought in chefs to create amazing beer-and-food pairings and sponsored charities were big highlights. Winning Best of Show in 2015 and 2016 at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition and San Diego International Beer Competition were huge highlights, as well.

Council Brewing interior

What do you hold most dear from that era?
The friendships we formed with our customers and the brewing community in San Diego.

If you could do it all over again, what, if anything, would you change?
We would have kept a taproom-only sales model, most likely with limited distribution for special events.

Which of your beers do you miss the most?
Bully Pulpit IPA

Who do you feel a sense of gratitude toward from the Council days
Our staff, our customers and the early supporters from amazing bars like Tyson Blake at O’Brien’s Pub, Scot Blair at Hamilton’s Tavern, Jeff Crane, who helped us with our barrel program, and our intrepid tasting room and general manager, Kelsey Eck.

How have things been since closing the brewery and what are you up to now?
Following the closure, I took a year off doing odd jobs to pay the bills while figuring out what was next. I ultimately moved into real-estate sales, which has gone very well for me. I hit the top 5% of agents in San Diego. I still sell in San Diego, but we moved to Idaho in 2022, where I focus most of my efforts now. Liz helps businesses systematize their operations to regain their time and boost their profits, and we have three amazing kiddos that our lives revolve around.

Back to top button