Beer engines at Toronado SD. We had several good sessions here while I was in San Diego.

Only a couple days after hearing back from Hollister I was on a plane down to San Diego. Might as well scope out one of the biggest job markets in the industry, right? The main reason for my visit was actually to attend the West Coaster launch party at the South Park Abbey that weekend. Mike and Ryan had planned a party to officially introduce West Coaster to the community and got Hess Brewing Co. to brew a special “West Coaster IPA” for the event. The afternoon before the party we went over to Hess to try the beer and bottle up a couple cases to give out to friends. Hess is about as small as breweries come, but they brew some fine beers. West Coaster IPA was a big San Diego-style double IPA. A dangerous beer to serve in the commemorative West Coaster/Hess Brewing German half-liter becker glasses that they had made. After some some fun with Kalya’s new camera and the Blichmann Beer Gun (which we managed to break halfway through filling but got back on-line) we bid The Mikes at Hess adieu and headed back to North Park to get ready for the party.

The West Coaster launch party was not without some hiccups but overall the night was a success. All the commemorative glasses sold out before some of our friends could get in (and some never got in at all, which sucked) and we kicked something like 8 half-barrel kegs. There were some problems with kegs being left out earlier in the day and pouring foam for the first hour or so, but things were smooth after that. South Park Abbey has much to learn about running a busy craft beer event, but they will get there if they want to. I was overwhelmed by how many friends showed up to support us. People drove all the way from LA for the night and deserve a huge thanks for the support.

When the weekend was over we headed back up north. Something had changed though. I couldn’t help but feel that I had found somewhere where I felt perfectly at home–a place who’s pulse for beer could actually match mine. We had stopped by Ballast Point’s Home Brew Mart before we left and I picked up a job application. This looked like it could be my ticket down.

I was hanging out at home back in La Selva a few days later when I got a phone call from Ryan late in the morning. He and Mike had been looking up some leads on brewing jobs and felt like the time was right for me to come down for a few days and try my luck and landing something in the area. That night I was on a plane back down to San Diego.

A few days turned into a few weeks. It turned out that having another writer on the ground was very beneficial to putting the March issue together, which was focused on the women of the San Diego beer scene. We had a lot of interviews to cover. The positive side effect of all this activity was that I was going around and meeting people at many of the local breweries. At every opportunity I was talking with brewers about job openings. A common theme started to develop. “We aren’t ready to hire anyone right now but we will be in (insert any number of months here).” Ballast Point was looking for a warehouse person but they likely would never see the brewery. Green Flash and Mission were both several months away from looking to expand their staffs. Things weren’t looking great but it felt like only a matter of time before something came together.

Then Alesmith happened. The three of us stopped by to inquire about a female employee that we wanted to include in the new issue, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask if they were looking for anyone in the near future. Owner Peter Zien greeted us and when I inquired about a job, his reply was “This is good timing. We’re actually looking for someone right now.” This was the opportunity that I had been waiting for for the last couple weeks. Turns out they were looking for a brewery assistant that would help out with cleaning and general operations all around the brewery. I came back a few days later and we set up a date for a phone interview with their HR woman, who was actually the same woman we were interviewing for the issue, Vicky Davis. Felt a little weird to interview and be interviewed by the same person, but Vicky was a pro. We had a phone interview a few days later where she asked me about my homebrewing, education, and work experience and what my goals were in the industry. Then we set up a physical interview at the brewery with Peter and Tod Fitzsimmons, one of Alesmith’s original brewers.

The interview at Alesmith was surprising to say the least. It was conducted in one of their offices and I honestly could have been interviewing for a job selling copy machines. Very standard HR-type stuff like how I’ve resolved a conflict with a coworker or improved a workplace procedure. They did ask what it would take for me to consider a career at Alesmith, but there were no brewing or beer-related questions at all. Peter and Tod were very nice about everything, but it just felt odd. I left the interview a little perplexed, but figured that I had made a good impression and had a good shot at landing the job.

At this point, I had been down in San Diego for three weeks and figured that this was going to be my ticket if I was to get one. I went home to Santa Cruz the next day with the belief that if I got the job I would need to get ready to move down as soon as possible and would need to get stuff from home, and if I didn’t, I couldn’t afford to stay down there any longer and keep looking indefinitely. A few days later I got a call from Vicky while I was at home. It turned out that they really liked me and thought that I had the potential to be a great employee, but they had another candidate that already lived in San Diego and had experience doing exactly what they needed. They couldn’t afford to wait for me to move down and learn what they needed. Lesson two: when a growing brewery needs someone in production, don’t underestimate the advantage of being local and ready to get down to business as soon as possible. That just wasn’t me in this case.

Overall, by time in San Diego was a great experience. I met a ton of cool people in the industry and had great times living the West Coaster life with Mike and Ryan. It takes a lot of work to put out a monthly publication and maintain a website and those guys cover a lot of ground. We interviewed over a dozen amazing women for March and I think that we ended up with a really cool issue. It’s the people in San Diego that make the scene so amazing, and telling their story is what it’s all about in the end.