EARLIER THIS YEAR we posted a job opening for Head Brewer in Vista: the site of our original brewery and still-production facility for Southern California. The role is critical and we knew it was going to take someone with the right mix of technical brewing experience, management and leadership, as well as the creative ability to create boundary-pushing beers in the most competitive craft beer market in the world. Finding someone with that skill set is no easy task, especially when their boss and mentor is a thousand miles away. As fortune would have it, a very talented, award-winning gentleman, by the name of Bret, joined our team, bringing with him experience, brewing know-how, and the hardware to prove it.
Having started approximately the same week that the Covid-19 outbreak impacted California and all it's breweries, Bret's opportunities were almost instantaneously sidelined as we made some tough decisions about our business. Reinforcing what we already suspected about his character and work ethic, Bret stepped up to the plate in the absence of a full-time production workload and began helping us by visiting key retailers every day to make sure shelves were stocked and buyers were happy. Its this kind of dedication and flexibility that we know will make Bret a valuable asset to our organization. Getting to really know someone in quarantine does present its challenges though, especially in an industry where shaking hands and exchanging laughs over a proper pint is practically an ancient form of communication (even before social distancing rules were imposed). So, in the absence of a bar to belly up to, we decided to give him the third degree and see how he handled it.
Q: When and how did you get your start in the craft beer industry?
A: I started my career in 2004 when I got hired at Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware. I was hired as a forklift driver and the only thing they asked of me was to show up every day and not destroy anything. I immediately fell in love with the craft beer industry and knew I wanted to make a career of it.
Q: What styles of beer do you like to brew the most and why?
A: I love brewing a clean crisp Pale Ale. I believe that style of beer really shows off the talents of the Brewer. Nothing to hide behind, Great ingredients and precise technique.
Q: What was it like having Covid-19 essentially shut down the brewery a week after you started? How did you adjust your expectations and redefine your role here?
A: Very disappointing at first. I was all prepared to start here and just become a member of the team and learn the Mother Earth way. But very quickly it became 'what can I do to keep things moving forward and keep the Mothership afloat?'. There was never a doubt that we would make it through this and be even stronger in the end. So I went from Head Brewer to Sales Associate and hit the streets promoting and making sure our product was fully stocked in the San Diego Area.
Q: What do you think the brewery landscape will look like after things with Covid-19 start to relax? How will it affect the careers of brewers like yourself?
A: I believe that there will always be a need for local breweries. People are going to need more than ever now a place to get together and show community support for not only local breweries but for each other. Someone once told me that people drink beer when times are good and people drink beer when times are bad. So as a brewer If I can bring a little happiness into someone’s life and maybe help them forget their problems even for a little while, I’m a success.
Q: What can folks expect once the brewhouse gets going again, especially locally in SD?
A: Expect a little bit of everything. Of course new variations of Hazy IPAs and Pale Ales. I’m from the East Coast so I would love to get into some Stouts, Porters, Ambers and of course Seasonals. I also have been working on an Imperial Gose that I’m really excited about.
Q: What is your favorite Mother Earth beer?
A: I really like Boo Koo IPA. At 6.5 ABV its right in my wheelhouse.
Q: What do you like to drink when you aren’t drinking beer?
A: In the Summer when it gets really hot I enjoy a refreshing Vodka Tonic with lime
Q: What kind of music do you listen to and how does it inspire your brewing?
A: I’m a huge Deadhead. I always believed that breweries have a flow to them and that happy yeast makes awesome beer. So Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead always bring the appropriate tunes to make a happy brewery for me.
Q: What’s the worst job you have ever had?
A: I once had a job in production where I stood at the end of the line that took steel and produced nails. 8 hours a day picking up handful of nails and stacking them into a bin. It was the most monotonous task I ever had to do.
Q: Clean or Hazy?
A: Clean and crisp
Q: Cheese-Its or Goldfish?
A: Pretzel Goldfish
Q: Coke or Pepsi?
Q: CBD or THC?
Q: White or Wheat?
Q: Biggie or 2Pac?
A: This is a tuff one. I’m from the East Coast so Biggie, but I live in California and love the California soul. How about Snoop!
So there you have it. We are certainly questioning his judgment on the pretzel goldfish thing, but other than that he's a good dude. Follow him on IG @zmancraftbeer.