Many San Diego brewing companies come on the scene as quietly as possible, treading lightly as they introduce their first draft beers to a population that, more than most cities, knows its craft beer. Earlier this year, Saint Archer Brewery (9550 Distribution Avenue, Miramar) went with a much different approach, announcing the arrival of their company, which was built to go far fast behind experienced brewers from noteworthy operations and the financial backing of numerous action sports stars. They secured distribution and, within a month of their official open, had their beers—IPA, Pale Ale, and Blonde Ale (which was last week’s Beer of the Week)—on tap throughout San Diego County.
From a consumer standpoint, all looks so bright for Saint Archer that it seems the type of custom sunglasses several of the company’s investors are sponsored by are in order, but it's not all roses and hop flowers. A greater percentage of the industry veterans that provided promise for Saint Archer are no longer there. The first to go was Mike Mellow, who was to head up the company’s sales efforts. At the time of his hire, he was considered by most to be one of the best suds sales guys in San Diego, and his hire was looked at as an astute move. He did not make it to Saint Archer’s launch and has since been replaced by Jeff Hansson, who came over from Coronado Brewing Company after spending a number of years at The Boston Beer Co. (the makers of Samuel Adams).
Salesmanship in no way improves the quality of a company’s beers, so Mellow’s departure meant very little to consumers. That is not the case with Ray Astamendi, a brewer with San Diego roots who returned to America’s Finest City from Left Coast Brewery to take the helm at Saint Archer. Known for making sound beers, his addition was looked on positively by local brewers, several of whom recommended him for the job. News comes in today that Astamendi is no longer employed by Saint Archer either, leaving his former right-hand in the brewhouse, Kim Lutz, in charge.
Lutz is a highly respected brewer, as well, having come to the mainland from Maui Brewing Co., where she was its lead brewpub brewer. Brewer Cy Henley, who splits his time at Pacific Beach's Amplified Ale Works, is also still working for Saint Archer, but the loss of a brewmaster is significant and, for an operation with this one’s size and aspirations, it may prove particularly tough to navigate.