The San Diego brewing scene is growing so quickly that the open positions for brewing personnel seemingly outnumber the pool of qualified candidates. This means digging through droves of homebrewers for potential blue chips capable of making the successful transition to the pros, a la a minor league call-up. Or, there’s the road becoming more and more traveled these days…the restricted free agent route, wherein a company makes an offer to an already employed brewer, typically offering them more. “More” can mean many things: higher salary, greater freedom, a stake in the business. But most often, it’s what was offered to Chris West — the opportunity to be the head honcho.
West’s name may be familiar to those with a grasp of the players in the local brewing scene. When Cosimo Sorrentino was invited to the bigs by Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery owner Scot Blair, he brought his long-time friend and homebrewing teammate along with him as his cobrewer. Brewing at Monkey Paw includes the task of bartending. It was while slinging suds that West became acquainted with a pair of Point Lomans with a pie-in-the-sky idea for opening a brewery. Months later, a few stars aligned (the duo had a nice location fall in their lap and found a third investor from Yakima, Washington who had numerous connections to hop growers in that area) and all that was needed to get the project off the ground was a qualified brewer. They remembered impassioned conversations about beer at Monkey Paw and asked West if he’d be interested in helming their project from a brewing standpoint. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse and, six months later, he’s putting the finishing touches on a new 20-barrel system from Premier Stainless Systems and ramping up for a targeted April debut for Bay City Brewing Company.
The name references a longtime but lesser-used nickname for America’s Finest City. Everything from hotels to restaurants to saloons and even Mission Brewery — which was originally established as Bay City Brewery — have used this moniker as a mark of locality. The name conveys the “coastal urban” thematic the brewery will feature. In referencing San Diego, West intends to honor the San Diego brewing tradition by using his scientific knowhow (his education and inherent interests are in the cognitive sciences) to craft 11 core beers (that is not a misprint) split into three categories: hoppy beers, malty beers, and sour beers. He will do this from a patio-equipped space at 3760 Hancock Street that borders the freeway and Point Loma’s Valley View Casino Center and is a few short blocks away from Modern Times Beer’s brewery and tasting room.
West had been on the inside track to head brewing operations at upcoming Monkey Paw spin-off, South Park Brewing Company, but cited the liberty to make a vaster array of beer styles as a primary reason for eschewing that opportunity in favor of Bay City Brewing. His plan to brew nearly a dozen year-round offerings certainly speaks to his desire to create great variety.