Jeff Smith 2:30 p.m., June 26
Imbibe blares, "Blair's the man!"
Local craft beer champion named Imbibe Magazine's Beer Person of the Year
A few weeks ago, San Diego bar owner Scot Blair and I were touring the Malheur brewery in Buggenhout, Belgium. About an hour in, he leans in and discreetly announces to me that he’s been named Beer Person of the Year by national adult beverage publication, Imbibe Magazine. As with most newsworthy announcements I receive first-hand, it was whispered with the request to keep it under wraps.
If I had a nickel for all the big doin’s I’ve been scooped on when I’d known about these items for weeks or even months before they’re first report (Jeff Bagby leaving Pizza Port, Green Flash Brewing Company expanding to the East Coast, Brian Malarkey’s concept for Burlap and Gingham, the arrival of Mission Hills' Brooklyn Girl, and so much more), I could probably take a second pricey trip to Belgium.
Last week, the most recent issue of Imbibe hit subscribers’ mailboxes, so I can finally share the good news—that a local business owner has been awarded this highly respectable title and, in the process, brought more eyes and attention to our outstanding craft beer scene. I don’t mind not breaking this. I’m just jazzed to share the news.
According to Imbibe, “San Diego is a beer city to its core, and serial entrepreneur Scot Blair might be the scene’s greatest champion. Blair’s four beer bars have played a vital role in educating and strengthening the San Diego beer community—each celebrates local breweries with rotating tap space and an approachability designed to draw new consumers to craft beer. His first venue, Hamilton’s Tavern, transformed a long-standing dive bar into a haven for serious beer drinkers. Its focus on hospitality and beer education, plus a carefully curated, rotating list of locally made beers paved the way for Blair’s subsequent projects, the beer and cocktail den Small Bar, live music venue Eleven, and the brewpub Monkey Paw, which has won three medals and brewed more than 25 styles of beer since it opened in 2011.”
Blair eats, sleeps, breathes and, of course, drinks craft beer. His infatuation with high quality beer is rivaled only by his intense ADD. The guy can’t slow down, much less sit down, allowing the necessary time and energy to accomplish all that he has; opening three craft beer bars and his own brewpub within the span of five-plus years, stocking them with some of the consistently best product lists in San Diego, and making successes of them all.
Before Belgium, I’d only received glimpses into Blair’s world, but after spending several days straight with him, I’ve never been so sure of the authenticity he brings to the beer biz. He really cares about beer and, beyond selling it, wants to help everybody understand exactly what excites him about it. His greatest excitement comes from sharing a beer with someone, turning them on to something they’ve never had. In my opinion, this is exactly what someone anointed Beer Person of the Year should be, and it’s good to see Imbibe take notice so publicly.
In some small way, I’d like to think I had a hand in alerting them to Blair with the article about San Diego’s craft beer and cocktail cultures I wrote for Imbibe last year, and maybe I did. But honestly, it was only a matter of time before they found out for themselves if they hadn’t already. Good work like his, by virtue of its ability to garner fans in and out of the industry, can’t be kept under wraps. Kudos to Imbibe’s Beer Person of the Year (and the woman beside the man, his wife Karen, who also does an amazing job with their quartet of businesses and deserves serious recognition for that).
And since Imbibe leaked other things I already knew about, might as well share one of them here, too. Blair is toying with the idea of opening a second location for his Monkey Paw Pub & Brewing. But not here in San Diego. Instead, he’s looking to another thriving beer metropolis—Portland, Oregon.