3812 Grim Avenue, North Park
Last October, I received an email from a colleague of a professional brewer Jason Stockberger asking if I knew of any open brewing positions. Stockberger’s job as head brewer was eliminated when national chain Rock Bottom closed the Gaslamp Quarter brewpub he’d headed for the past four years. I wasn’t aware of any positions that fit with his criteria — to get in with a larger operation with stability. Fortunately, good brewers don’t stay idle for long in this town.
In mid-October, Stockberger was hired by Mike Hess Brewing Company to assist head brewer Nate Sampson. Two months later, Sampson announced he would be leaving the company to return to his old stomping grounds in Oregon, where he brewed for many years before moving to San Diego to take the position with Hess. After a month or so of overlap, Stockberger was promoted to head-brewer status.
The company’s founder, Mike Hess, has actually known Stockberger for some time. Hess considers him a friend as well as an employee, and tells stories of how he used to get much of the yeast used to fuel his startup-era beers from the downtown Rock Bottom. The need for having brewers on staff for multiple shifts is what created the opening for Stockberger, who has since implemented many repeatable, system-like processes, and helped to birth new beers.
Among the new offerings are Hess’ first session or “small” (read, low-alcohol) India pale ale, a 5.6% alcohol-by-volume number called Grim Ave. IPA — a nod to the street where the company’s production brewery and tasting room are located. According to Hess, it’s been the fastest-growing beer in the young brewery’s history.