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Green Flash's new brewmaster takes the wheel with a steady hand

Brewer Profile: Erik Jensen

Erik Jensen brings experience and confidence to his position as brewmaster of a 100K-barrel-per-year brewhouse.
Erik Jensen brings experience and confidence to his position as brewmaster of a 100K-barrel-per-year brewhouse.

Within minutes of Chuck Silva's resignation as brewmaster of Green Flash last September, owner Mike Hinkley promoted head brewer Erik Jensen to the position. It was a tremendous vote of confidence for Jensen, suddenly entrusted with the legacy of the first San Diego craft brewery to expand distribution to all 50 states.

Meeting Jensen, it's obvious where this confidence comes from. He's got a calm, confident demeanor and strong communications skills. His brewing experience goes back more than two decades, much of his career spent in leadership roles. "Every brewery I work for I end up being the guy who's in charge of everything," Jensen recalls.

A member of the first class to graduate from the American Brewers Guild back in 1994, Jensen's first gig was as intern at Berkeley's Golden Pacific Brewing Co. He started out washing kegs, then quickly worked his way through most of the jobs in the brewhouse.

He moved to San Diego and took a job with Karl Strauss in 1996, working as head brewer until 2002. Over the next ten years he ran couple of brewpubs. Then, in 2012 Jensen joined Green Flash, which is on pace to produce 100,000 barrels this year. So, while being in charge isn't new to the veteran brewer, the way he spends his days has definitely changed.

Most of his work these days involves managing budgets and schedules of a 30 person brewstaff, plus designing a second brewhouse for Green Flash's expansion to Virginia Beach. "When you work at a brewpub, you can kind of do whatever the heck you want," Jensen says. "There's not really a huge risk." Not so with a large production brewery, where up to 500 kegs are brewed at a time, and beer releases are plotted a year in advance.

"There's a lot of conscious decisions made when designing beers now," he notes. While Silva's West Coast IPA recipe put Green Flash on the craft beer map, and helped globalize the concept of its aggressively bitter style, Jensen says his approach to new releases will reflect a beer landscape where nuance has come into favor over boldness. "That might be a tack that I take," he says, "going for one of these beers that's not aggressively bitter but still has a lot of hop flavor."

He dreams of making a dry-hopped lager, a hoppy wheat beer, and a kettle sour. Jensen and team develop recipes on a five-barrel pilot system, which are served in the Green Flash tasting room long before getting a bottle release. Consequently, Mira Mesa is currently the best place to sample the new brewmaster's work.

Some of Jensen's first national releases will continue Green Flash's Hop Odyssey series. Over the course of 2016, this variety of single-hop ales will explore the flavor profiles of Styrian Golding, Pacific Gem, and Nugget hop varietals. "It's not only going to teach us something about those hops," he says, "but hopefully it teaches the people who are drinking them."

And possibly a little about the guy making them.

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Erik Jensen brings experience and confidence to his position as brewmaster of a 100K-barrel-per-year brewhouse.
Erik Jensen brings experience and confidence to his position as brewmaster of a 100K-barrel-per-year brewhouse.

Within minutes of Chuck Silva's resignation as brewmaster of Green Flash last September, owner Mike Hinkley promoted head brewer Erik Jensen to the position. It was a tremendous vote of confidence for Jensen, suddenly entrusted with the legacy of the first San Diego craft brewery to expand distribution to all 50 states.

Meeting Jensen, it's obvious where this confidence comes from. He's got a calm, confident demeanor and strong communications skills. His brewing experience goes back more than two decades, much of his career spent in leadership roles. "Every brewery I work for I end up being the guy who's in charge of everything," Jensen recalls.

A member of the first class to graduate from the American Brewers Guild back in 1994, Jensen's first gig was as intern at Berkeley's Golden Pacific Brewing Co. He started out washing kegs, then quickly worked his way through most of the jobs in the brewhouse.

He moved to San Diego and took a job with Karl Strauss in 1996, working as head brewer until 2002. Over the next ten years he ran couple of brewpubs. Then, in 2012 Jensen joined Green Flash, which is on pace to produce 100,000 barrels this year. So, while being in charge isn't new to the veteran brewer, the way he spends his days has definitely changed.

Most of his work these days involves managing budgets and schedules of a 30 person brewstaff, plus designing a second brewhouse for Green Flash's expansion to Virginia Beach. "When you work at a brewpub, you can kind of do whatever the heck you want," Jensen says. "There's not really a huge risk." Not so with a large production brewery, where up to 500 kegs are brewed at a time, and beer releases are plotted a year in advance.

"There's a lot of conscious decisions made when designing beers now," he notes. While Silva's West Coast IPA recipe put Green Flash on the craft beer map, and helped globalize the concept of its aggressively bitter style, Jensen says his approach to new releases will reflect a beer landscape where nuance has come into favor over boldness. "That might be a tack that I take," he says, "going for one of these beers that's not aggressively bitter but still has a lot of hop flavor."

He dreams of making a dry-hopped lager, a hoppy wheat beer, and a kettle sour. Jensen and team develop recipes on a five-barrel pilot system, which are served in the Green Flash tasting room long before getting a bottle release. Consequently, Mira Mesa is currently the best place to sample the new brewmaster's work.

Some of Jensen's first national releases will continue Green Flash's Hop Odyssey series. Over the course of 2016, this variety of single-hop ales will explore the flavor profiles of Styrian Golding, Pacific Gem, and Nugget hop varietals. "It's not only going to teach us something about those hops," he says, "but hopefully it teaches the people who are drinking them."

And possibly a little about the guy making them.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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