Back in June, Copenhagen brewery Mikkeller introduced a new hire for its 12-foeder, wild-ale brewhouse, Baghaven: "This is Ehren Schmidt, our new Master Blender," the announcement read, "A man that knows his shit."
9368 Cabot Drive, Miramar
Schmidt had previously been head brewer of Vista's Toolbox Brewing Company, earning accolades there as a wild-ale producer. When Mikkeller founder Mikkel Borg Bjergsø opened a brewery here in Miramar two years ago, Toolbox beers caught his attention. Eventually, the job offer came for Schmidt to go make beer in Europe.
"I have a lot of the same freedoms I had in San Diego, plus some," he writes from Copenhagen. The brewer reports working with a Danish university to identify the wild microbes in his beers and collaborating with some of my favorite European brewers. "It was also great to start something from the ground up," he adds, "and put my mark on the business/portfolio from the get go."
Schmidt isn't the only head brewer to be lured away from San Diego to build something new elsewhere. In the case of Carli Smith, the opportunity to leave San Diego itself drove her to accept the position as head brewer of freshly opened Bold Missy Brewery, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
8980 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla
A San Diego native, Smith has never lived anywhere else and was interested in the experience of someplace new; and, apparently, someplace new was interested in her experience. As head brewer of Rock Bottom La Jolla, Smith had already been on Bold Missy's radar as a head-brewer candidate before she visited the brewery earlier this year during a trip to North Carolina.
"It reminded me of San Diego’s scene from five to ten years ago," she says of Charlotte. "I felt that I could bring a lot to the market out here with my brewing style."
16990 Via Tazon, Rancho Bernardo
Former Abnormal Beer Company head brewer Derek Gallanosa feels similarly optimistic about the burgeoning Sacramento beer scene. "There are over 60 breweries in the area with many more in the works," he writes from the state's capital. "It reminds me of San Diego around 2012."
Gallanosa had a personal motivation to leave town: he moved to Sacramento with his fiancée. As the original head brewer of Abnormal Beer Company, Gallanosa helped the Rancho Bernardo brewery get off to a very fast start in 2015. Now, he's found himself once again taking a head-brewer role in the opening of a startup brewery: Moksa Brewing Co.
It didn't take any time for this San Diego native to find a new gig, either. Connected by a mutual friend, Gallanosa met with the Moksa team on his first visit to Sacramento, and within four months they had worked out a deal. "I knew it would be smart to shop around for a bit," he writes, "but the initial offer to me was very attractive so I devoted all my efforts into making this deal happen."
6550 Mira Mesa Boulevard, Mira Mesa
In 2015, longtime Green Flash brewer Chuck Silva left to start his own brewery in Central California; last year, Stone Brewing head brewer Mitch Steele pursued a partnership opportunity in Atlanta, Georgia. However, those men each spent more than a decade working for craft breweries that grew to be among the nation's largest.
The latest round of head-brewer departures suggests the cachet of experience in San Diego's competitive beer scene can open doors with as few as two or three years in a head brewer's role.
Says Smith, "I believe people take that as a huge résumé booster that I am capable of running with the big dogs in San Diego.”