What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?
My current position is brewmaster at Karl Strauss Brewing Company [in San Diego, Calif.]. I’ve been with the company since January 2000. Before that, I was brewmaster at several pioneering breweries in the 90s. I began homebrewing in 1989 and I’ve been brewing commercially since 1994. I was a member of the first graduating class of the American Brewers Guild in 1994—back when it was still at Davis, and still being taught by Dr. Michael Lewis.
What’s new at Karl Strauss?
Man, all sorts of stuff—new beers, new equipment, new brewery openings, new oak barrels, new markets, new partnerships. We recently expanded our distribution into Northern California, Japan, and Australia. We’ve got several brands that are selling like mad: Red Trolley, Tower Ten, and Pintail. We just opened a brewery-restaurant in Temecula and completely renovated our Sorrento Mesa location. We now have one large production brewery and eight small breweries in southern California. We’re using the small breweries as R & D labs and letting our brewers come up with all sorts of crazy new stuff. They’ve hit some home runs with some of those beers, like our new Mosaic Session Ale. We recently bought 100+ oak barrels, which takes us to more than 400 of them. Our oak-aging program and sour beer program are both in full throttle now.
What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?
I love everything about it. I’ve been a craft brewer for 20 years now and I never get tired of it. I love seeing all of the new creative beers people are coming out with. Also, I love the camaraderie that exists within the industry, coupled with a friendly competitive spirit. We’re all like-minded, creative people who want to brew awesome beer.
What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?
When I’m not spending time with my beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters, I play lead guitar in a gigging classic rock cover band. We’ve actually gotten quite good over the years and we now play all over San Diego, including one of the largest beer festivals. I also love mountain biking, seeing live concerts, and visiting nearby breweries.
What’s your favorite food and beer pairing?
I have many favorite pairings. However, Karl Strauss makes a dish called Drunken Cioppino using beer in the herbed broth. I like to pair it with Tower Ten IPA. Sweet mystery of life! The spicy cioppino is loaded with shrimp, scallops, mussels, and squid. The spicy flavor of the hoppy Tower Ten stands up well to the spices in the broth, and the dryness of the beer cleanses the seafood flavors and leaves you wanting the next mouthful. Pure heaven.
What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?
Without question, that would be helping to raise my two awesome daughters, making sure they get through school and grow up to be smart, beautiful women. We’re almost done—just a couple more years of college.
What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?
I’ve always been a fan of a Belgian oud bruin called Liefman’s Goudenband. Such a great beer! So drinkable! Every sip leaves me wanting another sip. It’s got just the right amount of delicate sweetness, tartness, and dryness. Two years of aging and it’s absolutely heavenly.
What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?
A couple of months ago, I was fortunate enough to do a collaboration brew with Gage Roads Brewery in Fremantle, Western Australia. They distribute our beer down under, so I was able to find it in stores and bars. I had a couple bottles of Pintail Pale Ale in an historic hotel/brewpub called the Sail and Anchor in Fremantle. I was extremely happy that the beer still tasted fresh and hoppy, the code date was less than a month old, and everyone there was digging it as much as I was. Memory of a lifetime.