Late last year, the journalistic tables were turned on me as I, the perennial interviewer, became the interviewee. The reason for this 180-degree shift was the release of my e-book, the San Diego Beer News Complete Guide to San Diego Breweries. A number of publications, television and online outlets contacted me and assisted in getting the word out about it. One publication’s line of interrogation went beyond my work’s virtual front and back covers, querying me about the local beer scene and some other related subjects. They were thought-provoking questions, but due to space limitations, they never made it to print. Writers hate to waste words, and given those questions relevance to craft beer, I thought I’d share them via my own column.
Where do you see the San Diego beer scene in five years? I see the number of smaller operations going up, but larger companies with aspirations to be the next Stone Brewing Co. or Green Flash Brewing Company becoming rare among the incoming class. I also foresee a number of closings. The rate of closure is rising each year. Right now, that percentage is minuscule, but as more open, the market will be harder to compete and survive in.
How about in 10 years? I feel that, in order for smaller breweries to survive, more attention will have to be afforded to goal-setting from the get-go. Right now, many breweries open and their goals are either too high on the aspiration scale or hardly defined, if at all. In a decade, it will be essential for brewery owners to understand what it is they aim to accomplish. For many, that will mean being realistic in order to be satisfied. I foresee a return to the Old World model from the early days of brewing where breweries are established to serve their immediate communities. It's both easy and noble to envision a nanobrewery opening in a remote neighborhood that’s not already home to a brewing company with the express mission of being known as Community X's brewery. Given the fact that most of the homebrewers making the jump to the pro ranks these days are getting into the business because they prefer it to their current vocation and want to do something that makes them happy for a living, a goal like this represents a win-win for the brewer and their patrons as well as a sustainable business model.
What’s the most memorable new brewery you tried in 2013? I'm a big fan of Benchmark Brewing Company. The beer styles are simple and being produced directly to beer-judging specs. It goes to show what a difference it makes when a brewer waits until they have a solid foundation of on-the-job experience before going into business for themselves. If you haven't tried the oatmeal stout, do yourself a favor and seek it out. In my opinion, it's the best example of that style in all of San Diego.
What’s your desert island beer? I seldom drink the same beer twice in one session, but if I were stuck on a floating pile of sand and could only have one beer, I would hope it was a magical place where bottles of The Lost Abbey Veritas 006 are present in lieu of coconuts. Or, hopefully, the island's climate would be one that accommodated drinking AleSmith Speedway Stout on an everyday basis.