How British Prime Minister David Cameron Inspired San Diego Craft Beer Debates
June 5, 2013 1:28 p.m.
Greg Koch is CEO & co-founder of Stone Brewing Company and moderator of the Craft Beer Debates.
CAVANAUGH: What does the British house of commons have to do with San Diego craft beer? As it happens, both inspire spirited debate. The second in a planned series of beer debates will be held at Stone Brewing Company at liberty station. And in case you think this is just a lot of inebriated rambling, are the topics are chosen, an advisory board sets the tone, and if you speak, the usual bureaucratic gobbledygook will not be tolerated. Omar Passons is an attorney in San Diego, the founder of the craft beer debates. Welcome to the program.
PASSONS: Thank you for having me.
CAVANAUGH: And Greg Koch is CEO and cofounder of stone brewing company and moderator of the debates. Good to see you.
KOCH: Good afternoon!
CAVANAUGH: How did watching British prime minister David Cameron speak in parliament inspire the San Diego craft beer debates?
PASSONS: I suppose it was a combination of that and some of the drier political debates that have been on over the last year. Like, 85 debates during the primaries last year? So this was about how do we make it more interesting for people?
CAVANAUGH: What did you see in those interchanges in parliament? I like to watch them too. That you thought was missing in our own dialogue?
PASSONS: Well, if I'm being honest, I'm sort of a champion of civility in public discourse. So those may be skip that civility a little bit. But what they add is a reality to it that allows people who don't necessarily spend all their free time doing wonky educational or public policy stuff to feel like they can get in and participate in a conversation.
CAVANAUGH: And also the civility that you saw in that parliamentary, it's spirited, people are aggressive, they're not above name-calling at times, and yet they rely on words instead of emotions to get their message across. That's what I'm attracted to. How about you?
PASSONS: Well, it's a beautiful example, I think, when focused and add just a little bit of structure of how to create a different way to get civically engaged. So that was the thing about what I saw there that I thought could yield a good product here in San Diego and help people get more involved in our local system.
CAVANAUGH: Why did you and stone brewing want to get involved in these debates?
KOCH: Well, Omar approached me about potentially being a moderator. And and first off, I love the idea of the craft beer debate business because beer is a social lubricant. It really helps the flow of ideas in conversation instead of just a quiet room when nobody wants to raise their hand and peep up. It inspires an environment where people are very active and engaged. And Omar asked me to moderate, and he set the tone for me, and I said that's terrific. Because frankly, I'm tired of debates that are just full of logical fallacies and resort to same old same old, retrenched into the little gobbledygook, the babble speak, or whatever you want to call it, that so many people take when they're taking a position. So what I get the great pleasure of doing is holding it all together. And if you speak out of turn, if you just start spouting logical fallacies, I cut you off. Your words, by your determination have become invalid. So it's onto the next person.
CAVANAUGH: Well, let me play just a little clip from what happened at that first craft beer debate in San Diego so people can hear and listen to the tone of things. Here's that clip.
NEW SPEAKER: All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much. Well done first couple of rounds. Now is the time for each panelist to be able to ask another panelist a question. The format is that you will get to have one minute response from the person -- excuse me, a two-minute response from the person, and you will have the ability to give a one-minute rebuttal to their response to your question. Understood? Terrific. With that, mark, I will open this up to you to pose the first question to another panelist and give them a two-minute response.
NEW SPEAKER: Eric, I guess my question would be, San Diego is in a unique situation here. Because the public owns 266 acres of land that now costs the public money rather than generates money for the public. So looking at all these other examples all around the country, I'm wondering how relevant they are, and why we aren't talking more about the opportunities we have here rather than what they did in some of these other cities.
CAVANAUGH: Good question! You were the moderator for that
KOCH: And clearly I had already enjoyed a beer by that time.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: But you're discussing important, significant local topics, the proposed Chargers stadium in this case. But that series is tempered with laughs and levity. So how structured are these debates?
PASSONS: Well, the goal is to provide a basic framework. So we try to get people in and out on the times that we say. And there are rounds that provide -- as you heard on the clip, two minutes for this, and one minute for that. Greg gets to cut people off if they go astray. And the other important piece is the audience is encouraged to participate during that process. They don't have to just sit idly by. And later in that debate you would have seen sometimes where there were questions and answers, and an audience member would raise their hand, and Greg would say okay, jump in here. And you get a level of free-form participation that just didn't exist in most debates.
CAVANAUGH: And so it's up to you to make sure that this doesn't devolve into some sort of shouting match or that you guys stay on topic.
KOCH: Right. I'm there to learn. I want to learn and understand the topics just as much as everybody else in the room. So all that fluff and bluster that gets in the way of that, we want to cut through it, and we can have fun. And we can engage upon in a little bit of good natured name-calling because it gets a little bit of the raucous, right? But it's the difference between being genuinely insulting and dismissive of somebody with another point of view and actually engaging each other in a friendly elbow in the ribs. And you just want to have a good-natured, well-respected debate. And that's what it's all about.
CAVANAUGH: You heard you say thank you to the gentleman of the discussion. Where are the ladies?
PASSONS: Well, I'll tell you, it has been a bit of a difficulty, both in the advisory stage. I reached out to six or seven women they wanted to participate on that side of things. And then also in seating the panelists. We had one woman panelist who had to back out at the last minute last time. So we weren't able to have her participate. There are two panelists on this date, Helen Griffith and Rachel Lang are parts in this debate. One a professional who is raising two children in public school, and the other the new principle at the library. I do have to say, one thing that needs to be clear is that the goal of this debate is not to have a winner and a loser. It's to give regular people with some nuggets of information that allow them to make decisions about how to participate in our civic process in San Diego.
CAVANAUGH: I wonder Greg, I know that you're not serving during this, but I wonder if there's any kind of ebb and flow of how much craft beer is actually consumed.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: During the beginning, the middle and the end of these debates. Do you have any idea?
KOCH: First of off, I'm not sure what you want by not serving during the event because we mostly certainly do.
CAVANAUGH: No, I mean you personally.
KOCH: Oh, I'm enjoying the beer. I'm going to open one right now just for a little bit of inspiration.
CAVANAUGH: Okay, we always want to lubricate things here as well.
KOCH: Fortunately KPBS has a large binder clip they was able to use.
CAVANAUGH: You may have to just knock it against the window.
[ LAUGHTER ]
KOCH: There we go. So yes, actually it's all about that process. Spirited debates, they start off with one tone as you're enjoying your first beer. And they move on through the evening. Yeah, you certainly don't want to get what would be considered to be inebriated. But I'm participating with everybody else, and it just -- it's fun. I look forward to this week.
CAVANAUGH: Omar, how do you choose the topics?
PASSONS: Well, a guy named Erik Bruvold, the president of National University.
CAVANAUGH: A frequent guest on this program, yeah.
PASSONS: I had met him somewhere, probably through Twitter, where there are a ton of very interesting conversations going on, by the way. And he said why don't you bring together a "advisory council?" So I reached out to a bunch of people I knew, I tried to make sure a friend of mine who was a community involved person we met around Northpark where I live, and southeast San Diego where he lives, so I asked him to come and participate. I asked a female CEO, entrepreneur here in town, who is very involved in the craft beer industry to come out. So pulled that group together at Slater's, actually, and said okay, what does -- what do you think? What are some ideas? Ben basonic, emissary relations joined in. And they came up with I good realm of ideas. And I've noticed we have had to evolve a little bit. And I'm hopeful, this is a shameless plug for more female participants who might be interested in helping out with the advisory council part of this, I want more robust topics and also to do things that will be relevant to what's going on, whether it's how do we get a million dollars for sidewalk assessments for the City of San Diego or what do we do about some equality issues? There are a lot of topics that we could cover. And it would be good to have people help.
CAVANAUGH: Besides having more women involved, you have thought about inviting public officials?
PASSONS: Well, Richard Barrera is on this panel. But the important thing is not so much the public officials. If they overlap with the topic, great. But the idea is people who understand that the goal is providing a format for the audience to really engage, and for them to provide their expertise in that framework. So there are some I could certainly see, my council member, Todd Gloria, is very, very good. I've got some friends who say, are hey, let's find a place or topic that's regionally significant.
CAVANAUGH: How many people would you say attended the first debate?
KOCH: I think we were around 60.
PASSONS: Yeah, I think it's in the neighborhood. And we had some in and out -- it was a smaller venue that we were working with, and they were very, very gracious. But I think that was about right.
CAVANAUGH: And what do you want the participants to take away from that debate? Obviously it's going to be a good time, right? That's one thing that you want to make sure people come here, have a good time. But do you want them to -- you want something significant to come out of this. At least going on in people's heads after they have had this good discussion.
PASSONS: I'll take a quick crack. I'll tell you that my hope, coming from a place -- I have a firm that widely supports civic engagement and participation. And they are allowing me to be in a position to say I want people come to come out of this with two, three, four nuggets of information that they can go back to their parent, teacher, councils, the soccer practice, are the dinner table, the next pub they go to and say hey, I just went to this debate on education. Now the next time there's a bond measure or an issue before the School Board, they have a sense of a way to engage the topic.
KOCH: Well, and as we grow this series, as it gains more attraction as a forum to really exchange ideas and concepts, it could be taken further.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, indeed. Now you broadcast, didn't you? Did you do a live web broadcast? Or just post it afterwards?
KOCH: We ended up just posting it on the web. The radio am they was in for the last one, we couldn't get the wireless to work. I was going to do YouStream. We couldn't -- the wireless was too spotty. So we just said for the first debate we won't do it. But as we evolve, I'd like to be able to do that.
CAVANAUGH: So people can sit with their craft beer in their living rooms eventually and perhaps watch this.
PASSONS: Exactly. Or there are a number of small independent businesses in San Diego. I'm a big supporter of 30th Street in Northpark and south park. And it's this great opportunity to be in Tiger Tiger or whatever, and just participate virtually.
KOCH: Those are such great venues.
CAVANAUGH: What's on the agenda tomorrow night?
PASSONS: That's a good question. I've called it the future of education debate. But really what we're doing is confronting whether we need to stay the course with the A-G curriculum focus, every child college-ready, that is sort of the imprimatur of the district, or change to a focus that is more related to alternative or vocational or other styles of training to meet the needs of San Diego for the future.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: And Greg, did you learn anything from the first time that you're going to change your style a little bit or add for moderating this debate?
KOCH: Absolutely. We all learn along the way. And the format is going to continue to get refined, but the response from the public, people there, were very, very engaged. And you talked about women being involved, and there were a couple of women in the audience who had probably the most intelligent things. There was one woman who was extremely versed in public land-use policy that brought quite a bit to the discussion. So yeah, I'll probably wait 20 minutes from my first beer into it.
[ LAUGHTER ]
KOCH: Make sure that my diction is maintained. And just for the record, I poured you one of our brand-new release beers, the stone enjoy by 7413 IPA. I know you're still working on your craft beer curve.
CAVANAUGH: I am, I am. But before, I want to toast this next great craft beer debate, but before I do, I want to let everyone know that the second one is going to happen tomorrow. It is at capacity now! But you can sign up for future debates at craftbeerdebates.com. Gentlemen, let's toast the success of the great craft beer debate!
PASSONS: Cheers to you.