Portrait of a Brewer: Tomme Arthur, The Lost Abbey

The Lost Abbey's co-founder shares hopes for moving the needle and much more

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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…

Tomme Arthur

of The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing

What is your current title?

Co-founder and Chief Operating Owner

Where did you grow up?

In Rolando Heights, which is the preferred way of saying near College Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard these days.

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

Coors Banquet before it was brewed at the edge of cold.

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

There have been more than a few, but the first Rodenbach I ever had was epiphany material.

What led you to consider a career in brewing? 

Free beer for life had a nice ring to it.

Where did you first apply for a brewing job and where did you get your first brewery position?  

The first job I ever applied for was to be chief bottle-washer at Brewer’s Union. Never got a sniff. Luckily I was hired to work at Cervecerias La Cruda in the Gaslamp, long before anyone thought there was good beer downtown. That lasted a whopping nine months.

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

TnT Beer Works was my homebrew label. I spent those nine months at La Cruda before forging ahead with nine years at Pizza Port Solana Beach then giving the last 15 years of my all to Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey.

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

La Cruda’s brewmaster, Troy Hojel, gave me my first job and drilled in my head that there is a level of mastery you must work towards. AleSmith Brewing’s founder, Skip Virgilio, showed me how to mash in and get a proper surf session in while Vorlaufing for 90 minutes. Pizza Port’s founders, Gina and Vince Marsaglia, reinforced in me to trust my imagination and brew the beers that I wanted. The list of people to  thank is nearly endless. There have been so many talented individuals whose ears I’ve been able to bend.

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

While it seems glamorous, you really should ask yourself, “Do I love beer?”  If the answer is “yes”, then ask it again…

What ultimate career goal would you like to achieve? 

Someday, I hope they give out gold-colored, awful-looking blazers for making the Hall of Fame. In lieu of that, I’d settle for being in this business for 50 years. That would be cool. (I’m currently at 25.)

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

The artist in me hesitates to respond, but when we get a perfect batch of Hop 15 time stands still.

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

I once brewed a smoked weizenbock. I have no idea why. It sucked. I hate smoked beers and wheat isn’t high up my list either.

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

Like many, I really enjoy Mosaic and Simcoe. The combination of spice and orange is pleasing. Citra always makes my nose go sideways…

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

I was supposed to be a teacher of the English language. I love teaching and coaching baseball. So having a job that never looks the same twice is my answer.

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? 

Finance, for one. Without a solid plan of how money gets spent, things are tough. In terms of the unsung heroes, I’m going with anyone in packaging, and the lab crew is right there with them.

What is your favorite beer style? 

A perfectly executed Pale Ale from Chico. That’s actually a style these days. Only made by one brewery in the world (two if you count their other facility).

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

Pastry pilsners. They haven’t landed yet, but when they get here like the murder hornets…God save the queen.

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

I don’t think I can answer this. I have fond memories of great beers.  

What is your favorite brewing company outside of San Diego? 

Everyone knows my allegiance to Sierra Nevada is unwavering.  

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

I’d like to visit the original Urquell Brewery. Beyond that, I have been blessed to see many of the trappist breweries but have not been on the grounds at Westvleteren. Getting back to visit Duvel would be nice, as well.

What are your favorite local beer events? 

I think any beer fest where the vibe is solid and the people are stoked is good for me. That being said, it’s been too long, so I need to find one.

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

Good question. I’ve traveled to a ton of awesome brewing cities, but if I’m forced to leave this great city, I’d choose a place with a nice beach…to replace ours.

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

A lot of people might be surprised, but it’s served me well: “To thine ownself, always be true…”

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

I’ve been spending a ton of time on my bike these days. I don’t exercise enough, so I’m really trying to find time for health and wellness.

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

Black iced tea in the AM and beer in the PM

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

Duck confit spring rolls served with a cherry dipping sauce paired with fresh Cuvee de Tomme at Monk’s Cafe.

If you could somehow plan your last beer dinner before dying, what would you eat?  

Probably going full carnivore: In-N-Out cheeseburger with a big plate of Cardiff Crack.  

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

I think I am a person who was blessed to find an identity in beer and has always sought to make meaningful connections in this business. At the end of the day, I want people to look back and think the beers we put forth mattered, inspired and ultimately moved the needle. So in a word, I hope and like to think I am a difference-maker.

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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