The Brewhouse at Uncommon Brewers in Santa Cruz

Not getting the job at Alesmith was admittedly a tough blow. After over two months of looking for a brewing job, I was getting more and more stressed. I started to think that things were never going to come together. I followed up with a couple more San Diego breweries but still nothing. It was time for a shift in strategy.

The Bay Area is no slouch when it comes to breweries. There are literally dozens of breweries in the greater Bay Area, many of them making outstanding beer and doing quite well for themselves. But where to start? Two of my main sources for finding out about industry job openings have been probrewer.com classifieds and the email blasts that Siebel sends out to alumni. Many breweries send their job ads to Siebel, and VP Keith Lemke has a master list of all the students and alumni who want to keep up to date with them. Keith sends out a lot of emails, but I’m not sure if I ever actually saw anything in the Bay Area besides Pyramid.

On Probrewer there had been a couple local ads, and even one in the Santa Cruz Mountains town of Boulder Creek, but that one had been filled before I even responded. Another lesson for the job hunt: if you see an opening that you are interested in, get on it as soon as humanly possible. Boulder Creek Brewing Company is a dinky little brewpub in a tiny little town tucked up in the San Lorenzo Valley, and the manager told me that they had over 850 responses to the ad that they put up on the site. I was one of the lucky 50 or so that actually heard back. I kid you not. These jobs are in high demand even when they aren’t that great. No matter the brewery, assume a few hundred other people are interested.

Like I’ve said before, face-to-face interaction can go a long way, so I decided to get a checklist going of all the breweries in the area and try to visit them all and feel out any possibilities. I had decided that the East Bay was my top prospect. Oakland seemed like a good place to live, what with my top two beer bars in Northern California calling it home (The Trappist and Beer Revolution). I visited Drakes, Linden Street, Pyramid, and Trumer, but with no luck. I had previously written Pyramid off as too big of a company to work for (North American Breweries) but was now wishing I had pursued opportunities when they had arisen a couple months earlier in some job ads. The South Bay was also covered. Gordon Biersch operates the largest brewery in the area, near downtown San Jose. I can’t say I love their beers, which are a mix of boring German styles and uninspired contract brews for Costco, but they were worth looking in to. Tied House/Hermitage was out due to making plain shitty beer. That left Faultline, Firehouse, Los Gatos Brewing Company, and Rock Bottom Campbell. All brewpubs and all not hiring. Los Gatos told me they might be interested and would get back to me. I still haven’t heard back, but it’s their loss. There was one more: Campbell Brewing Co., formerly called Sonoma Chicken Coop. I heard their assistant left to brew at Tied House. Not a good sign.

The South Bay isn’t exactly a beer mecca if you haven’t noticed, but the job prospects honestly weren’t any worse than Santa Cruz itself. Would it have been nice to get a job in my hometown? Sure, but leaving was just as attractive as long as it wasn’t to some horrible shit-hole of a town. Santa Cruz actually does alright as far as the number of breweries in the county. We have five by my last count: Seabright Brewing (brewpub), Santa Cruz Aleworks, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, Uncommon Brewers, and Boulder Creek, which has a brewpub in Boulder Creek as well as a second restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz that serves their beers. Then we have two more set to open this year: Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Capitola, and Corralitos Brewing Company in Freedom. All very small breweries with very few employees. And so far, none making beer that I love, though I have very high hopes for Sante Adairius. So for now Santa Cruz was not on my radar. Years down the line I might look into working in the area or starting my own brewery, but that’s a very distant idea at this point.

So what’s the point of all this? Hell if I know. I did have a great meeting with my friend Mike from Lagunitas and Adam Lamoreaux, proprietor of Linden Street Brewery, at Beer Revolution in Oakland. It was great to get Adam’s take on the industry in the east Bay. I also got to meet Bruce Paton, who has ben known as The Beer Chef for some years now and has recently started his own brewing company called Oakland Brewing Company. They are rocking the partner brewing thing right now but are looking to open their own brewery in the near future. Then Adam is letting another brewer use his brewery to make some batches of English session bitter and mild under the Dying Vines brand. So things are happening in the East Bay these days; just not for me.

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