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Posts by Ryan Lamb

Q&A w/ Douglas Hasker – Brewmaster, Gordon Biersch Mission Valley

Apr 4

Veteran Doug Hasker @ Gordon Biersch Mission Valley; all photos by Kristina Yamamoto (@kristinamoto)

How long have you worked at Gordon Biersch?
​I​ started at Gordon Biersch​ ​in ​1990 when they opened ​their s​econd store in ​S​an J​ose. I worked as a bar manager, and not too long after that I started brewing with Dan Gordon. The company started building the San Diego brewery restaurant in 1998, and in 1999 I started brewing here.

What’s the ownership structure?​
Gordon Biersch as of 2010 is owned by a subsidiary of ​Centerbridge Capital Partners called CraftWorks. They also have the Rock Bottom breweries and others like Boulder’s Walnut Brewery in their portfolio. In total I think there are more than 70 brewing operations; we’re the largest brewery restaurant group in the United States.

​That must give you tremendous buying power?
​Yes, we can contract all the hops and grain we want. I’ve been very fortunate to be in the position I’m in. I now oversee six breweries as a regional manager, so I’m on the road quite a lot.

As part of a massive company, how does that affect public perception?
​There are many who just see us as “the box in Mission Valley that makes lagers.” We’re trying to change that perception by making beers other than lagers and by staying involved with the local scene.

No more Reinheitsgebot?
Not anymore! Just over a year ago we got the green light to branch out. Since then, I’ve been leveraging my relationships around town to learn more about the hoppier side of brewing. It’s been an interesting learning curve; the biggest challenge with making these West Coast-style beers is that my tanks aren’t built for dry hopping. I have just a small opening at the top and the first time I tried to dry hop, the thing geysered on me and I spent three hours just cleaning up the place. The servers all had a good laugh. So I had to learn another way to make it happen, and now I clean and purge a tank, add the hops I want for aroma, and then bring the beer back over it.

What other styles are you making that you couldn’t before?
Right now we have a rye session IPA on tap, plus we’ve done Belgian wits and Belgian tripels. It’s fun to have brewers especially come in to try our new beers. I was honored that Travis Smith from Societe enjoyed our IPA.

You talked about staying involved with the local scene. What does that mean?
It’s something I talk with all of our brewers about; I ask them, “What are you doing to stay relevant in your local market?” For my part, I come in for a class on Post-Fermentation and Maturation once a semester at UCSD’s brewing program. Everybody joins that program to learn how to make West Coast IPAs, and I’m there to open another little door to other styles of brewing. I always invite the students to come have a beer with me at Gordon Biersch, and the feedback has been positive. I also recently gave a guest lecture on the same topic at SDSU’s program; George Thornton of The Homebrewer was gracious enough to give me about 45 minutes to speak.

I also try to do collaborations with folks around town. The most fun one in recent memory was at Karl Strauss’ Old Columbia brewpub. Scot Blair really wanted a Zwickelbier on tap, so I teamed up with other guys like Paul Segura (Karl Strauss), Cosimo Sorrentino (Monkey Paw/South Park) and Doug Duffield (Ballast Point) to brew. Blair was there all day long, and then Colby Chandler (Ballast Point) showed up, and so did Chuck Silva (formerly Green Flash, now Silva Brewing). My assistant Dan Anderson was in awe, and sat down with Chuck immediately and just started peppering him with questions. That day was a lot of fun. There’s also been talks of a collaboration with Doug Pominville (Ballast Point Grunion creator), Doug Duffield, Doug Constantiner (Societe), and myself. That beer might have a pretty funny name that starts with “4 Dougs” but we’ll see.

You seem to know tons of people in the industry?
That’ll happen after 26 years in the business. I’m fortunate that veterans like Lee Chase (Automatic/Blind Lady), Tomme Arthur (Port/Lost Abbey/Hop Concept), Tom Nickel (Nickel Beer Co) and others seek my advice on lagers. Grant from ChuckAlek and Ray from Fall Brewing were just in the other day to pick up yeast. Chuck Silva used to bring in his brew crew to sit at the bar and ask me questions. Jim Crute (Lightning) is a good friend of mine and he’s making a great pilsner in Poway. Those guys aren’t afraid to be seen in here, even though I’m a brewer at a big corporate company.

I like to make myself available to brewers; I love to learn and to teach. I gave some advice to Dan Egan at Mission Brewery when he wanted to make a great Bohemian pilsner. I don’t care about giving away trade secrets. I just want everyone to have better beer.

Can you tell us about your brewing assistants?
I’ve had many assistants in these two-plus decades. Some of them have gone to Siebel and other brewing schools, and some are nurtured from within. Carli Smith, who’s now the head brewer at Rock Bottom La Jolla, used to be a hostess here. But she asked once if she could help brew some time, and I said, “Sure, be here at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning.” She showed up and then I could never really get rid of her after that. And what’s so fun is that now the student has become the master — she gave me some great advice when I wanted to make a Belgian wit. I had never brewed with orange peel and coriander before under Dan Gordon. Her excitement about the industry keeps me excited. And the same goes for my current assistant, Dan Anderson. He was willing to stack grain and learn the process, so I started teaching; he’s probably my heir apparent in the brewery and does a great job promoting Gordon Biersch at festivals.

Dan Anderson with Doug Hasker

Dan Anderson with Doug Hasker

So why aren’t more local brewers making lagers?
Well I think there are a few reasons. First, most of the brewhouses in town aren’t built for it; here on my system I can really cook the grains the way I want. Secondly, most brewers aren’t willing or able to give lagers the proper amount of time to rest at cold temperatures. If you need a 21-day turn-around, then lagers aren’t for you.

Is there a future for lagers?
Of course. I see it especially at festivals where we’ll pour an IPA and a helles side by side. Folks in this town love IPAs, but during that last hour especially, we’ll have a long line for our Helles because people want something drinkable. Tastes are cyclical, and even though IPA is huge right now, I’m sure we’ll see a strong swing back towards lighter flavors at some point.

What’s your take on India pale lagers?
Honestly, I haven’t had any that I’ve really liked.

What do you think will happen in the next 5 to 10 years?
I wish I could see the future. I mean, if you had told me 10 years ago that we’d have 120 breweries in San Diego, I don’t know if I’d believe you. I hope that we’ll see more brewpubs, with more people focusing on doing a small number of things very, very well, like a Rocky’s burger for example. With all the battling for shelf space, I think that approach makes sense.

page31It’s amazing to see the growth of the scene. During the classes I’ve taught you see all the shirts and hats of these newer breweries that are popping up. For me, it’s been tough to keep up. I can’t download the rulebook every day about which brands are cool and which aren’t. I just drink good beer. I still drink Ballast Point because I know the brewers and I know they work hard to dump the grain in. But I understand why people may not think the same way that I do, and that’s okay. That’s why we vote with our dollar.

Do you have advice for newer brewers?
A. Stay true to yourself. B. Always be true to the quality. You have to make really, really good beer. And if it’s not good, you can’t sell it.

Do you have any upcoming events?
Yeah, around the 5th of this month we’ll be tapping a Czech pilsner, and on the 19th we’re having a Maibock release party. This style is brewed for the month of May and springtime, and my band The Barnacles will be playing some live music on the patio. Then, hopefully this summer, we’ll have a session Bonobos brewed at Gordon Biersch, but I’m still trying to convince Cosimo to jump on board with the idea.

Open Forum: Tomorrow

Mar 5

After interesting conversations with reps from excommunicated craft breweries from 10 Barrel and Saint Archer, a local brewer’s “open forum” for conversation about the changing beer landscape is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at Mission Brewery.

The event is open to the public, and begins at 2:30 p.m. Those interested in attending are asked to reply ‘going’ on this Facebook event.


120 Breweries in San Diego

Mar 1

Within the last two weeks, three brewing companies commenced pouring in San Diego County, bringing the active brewhouse count to 120. For some perspective, just 27 local breweries were in operation at the end of 2009.

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 11.49.56 AMBurning Beard Brewing held their soft opening yesterday in El Cajon. With the cessation of nearby URBN St’s brewing operations, they are now the only brewery in the area. The business is the product of two local homebrewers, Mike Maass and Jeff Wiederkehr, alongside director of brewing operations Chris Brown, who are working on a 15 barrel system with 30 barrel fermenters. The group are also planning a wild ale program to utilize the foeders (large wooden barrels) at their disposal. According to their Facebook, Burning Beard will be open at 3:00 p.m. today, serving two IPAs and a stout.

Culver Beer, now open in Carlsbad, had five beers on tap at time of press: a stout, hoppy saison, two Irish reds, and a Belgian blonde. If you don’t recognize the name, you may recognize Palomar Brewing, which was the group’s original moniker. Brewer Mike Stevenson worked at a small brewery in Germany after college, before returning to San Diego and taking a job at Twisted Manzanita. He also enrolled in UCSD’s Brewing Science Program, as well as interned at White Labs. He now helms the company’s 15 barrel system.

Resident Brewing has been highly anticipated by industry insiders, and the first beers showed up on tap last month at spots like Wonderland Ocean Pub, Bayside Landing, Rabbit Hole and The Local Pacific Beach. Brewer Robert Masterson is well known in homebrew circles, especially for his successful collaboration with Ryan Reschan on the beer that won Stone’s 2013 homebrewing competition, becoming R&R Coconut IPA (official name: Robert Masterson & Ryan Reschan / Rip Current / Stone R&R Coconut IPA). That beer has gone through a name change, and will debut as Vacation IPA on March 12. Resident Brewing is located inside The Local Downtown, having gone through a massive remodel last year.

Mikkeller Brewing San Diego, a partnership between Danish brewery Mikkeller and locals AleSmith, will be one of the next to open. They gave fans a teaser by adding a Facebook event to share the news that April 16 from 3-11 p.m. will be their Grand Opening. Earlier that morning, Mikkeller will host a 10K run followed by beers and a brewery tour; more details are still in the works.

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10 Barrel: Roundup

Feb 24

Instagram @starshinemarket

Observant local beer drinkers will have noticed that 10 Barrel is making its way onto store shelves and into keg rooms and upcoming beer festival lineups.

And based on the information printed (or not printed) on the label, the vast majority of consumers would never know that 10 Barrel is owned by ABI — which is what Stone’s Greg Koch is referring to when he repeats the word “obfuscation.” This is also the crux of comments sent to the downtown planning group before last week’s neighborhood use permit hearing on a now-likely 10 Barrel brewpub in the East Village.

In a Fortune article, San Diego Brewers Guild president emeritus Kevin Hopkins furthered those thoughts, accusing 10 Barrel of seeking “to deceptively communicate itself as being part of the locally grown marketplace” as well as leveraging “its resource as a corporation to compete against and ultimately harm the true local brewers and disrupt the market.”

Long-time beer writer Jay Brooks remarked that “this is setting up to be an interesting battle” in his Brookston Beer Bulletin. Brooks appeared intrigued that the press release from ABI included mentions of opposition that the corporation is facing. He also included the official San Diego Brewers Guild statement:

“The acquisitions that transacted last year and the news of AB-InBev’s intentions to open up in San Diego through 10 Barrel highlights the fact that San Diego is truly a world-class brewing center. That reputation is due to the hard work of locally-owned breweries and the San Diego Brewers Guild. Historically, it has been independent brewers who have built the thriving beer community that San Diego is now known for around the world. The risk underlying the acquisition of breweries by large, international corporations and the risk of businesses like the proposed 10 Barrel brewpub in San Diego is that beer drinkers here may think that when they patronize these businesses, and buy and drink beer, that they are supporting the local brewing community. That is not the case. Should the 10 Barrel project open in San Diego as proposed, consumers need to know that it is owned by Anheuser-Busch and not a local craft brewery or a craft brewery in general. Now more than ever, with the introduction of non-craft breweries to San Diego’s craft landscape, it is important to continue to support locally owned and operated San Diego breweries, like the brewer members in the San Diego Brewers Guild.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 11.11.20 AMOthers, like Scot Blair, whose Monkey Paw brewpub sits a block away from 10 Barrel’s site, decided to not object to the permit at last week’s hearing, but he instead shifted attention to the folks in charge of Makers Quarter, which includes 1501 E Street.

“These guys orchestrated getting 10 Barrel into this spotlight, because they knew ABI could spend all this money to renovate the site and increase the property values,” he told West Coaster. “Would any of the local breweries have been able to pay what they’re asking?”

When reached for comment, Michael Burton, the commercial broker for the bindery building and its property owner, told us that “the property was publicly marketed, and 10 Barrel was the only brewery to show interest in the location.”

Meanwhile, a local brewer’s “open forum” for conversation regarding the changing craft landscape, meant to include brands like Ballast Point, Saint Archer, and 10 Barrel in the discussion, is tentatively scheduled for March 6.

For their part, 10 Barrel founder Garrett Wales told Eater SD that the new location’s head brewer will be a native San Diegan who has brewed with the company for several years. These expansion plans, which have reportedly been in the works since before their sale to ABI, include a 20 BBL brewhouse. 10 Barrel also has a Denver brewpub in the works.

Calls For Conversation

Feb 22

In a Facebook post shared with the “SD Beer Friends” group this morning, South Park Brewing’s Cosimo Sorrentino put out a call for conversation. “I propose an open forum event to discuss the transition of the beer industry locally and nationally,” he said, with dozens of industry members immediately expressing interest.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 11.42.25 AMSorrentino’s post comes at a pivotal point in craft beer’s current trajectory.

Local breweries Saint Archer and Ballast Point notoriously sold majority interests in their businesses, while recently Stone and AleSmith both wrote op-eds declaring their independence.

And just last week, AB InBev-owned 10 Barrel Brewing cleared the first legal hurdle towards opening a brewpub in the East Village.

“We’re a creature of our own success,” said Kevin Hopkins, President Emeritus of the San Diego Brewers Guild, speaking about San Diego’s status as one of America’s top beer cities. He attended the downtown planning group’s hearing where 10 Barrel’s Garrett Wales spoke with excitement about joining the local craft community.

Like Sorrentino, Hopkins is interested in starting a dialogue: “I didn’t go to the hearing with the goal of blocking the permit. I just want to make sure there is a public commentary.” In a call with West Coaster he cited issues he had with (un)truth in advertising, or the “bait and switch” since 10 Barrel isn’t technically craft, increased property values thanks to Big Beer facilities that will deny access to market for the pint-sized operations, and the “win from within” mentality on the distribution side.

“The landscape is undoubtedly changing. This isn’t just about today; it’s about three years from now, ten years from now. How do we want to be perceived?”

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 3.11.55 PM

Sorrentino took up Wales’ open invite for beers at Monkey Paw, just a block away from 10 Barrel’s proposed site, after the hearing. “I had to tell him my feelings about him working for a company that uses profit to work against the guys that are trying to fulfill the same dream that he’s experiencing.”

Wales’ response centered on the amount of money he spends in the local economy, including the number of employees he pays. Wales went on to say that the amount of cash filtering through him on its way up to the big wigs and lobbyists is just one small avenue. “I was surprised to hear his side of it,” said Sorrentino, who also relayed a story about 10 Barrel’s craft beer neighbors receiving test kits to take advantage of the company’s new $200,000 laboratory.

Derek Gallanosa and Saint Archer's Nick Marron, collaborating February 17 on a Berlinerweiss at Abnormal

Derek Gallanosa and Saint Archer’s Nick Marron, collaborating February 17 on a Berlinerweiss at Abnormal

Sorrentino decided to similarly quiz Saint Archer’s barrel program supervisor Greg Peters at Friday’s Hamilton’s Tavern event. “Greg rattled off a long list of names that he’s sold hops or yeast to, and I had no idea, because I hadn’t gone out to have a pint with these guys and get their side of the story.”

Second Chance’s Marty Mendiola and Abnormal’s Derek Gallanosa are two local brewers who have benefitted from Saint Archer’s purchasing power. “They sold me hops with absolutely no mark up,” said Gallanosa. “I always tell people how important they are to San Diego craft beer.”

Details for the date, time and location of Sorrentino’s forum are currently being worked out.

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