Wednesday, July 4, 2012
San Diego is known as a hot spot for craft beer. And from tapping ceremonial kegs to pouring grand opening pints, Mayor Jerry Sanders has done his part to promote the industry.
SAN DIEGO When Douglas Constantiner decided to open up a brewery, San Diego was the obvious choice to him. He stands in the chilly, refrigerated room where barrels of freshly brewed beer are kept and explains his decision.
"I mean, it’s like no other city in the world. You see everybody, everywhere gets a good beer," he said. "And it’s not just, oh it’s a big beer city, it’s good beer."
Constantiner and his brewing partner Travis Smith just opened Societe Brewing in Kearny Mesa. They join 11 other breweries now operating in the city of San Diego. Two more are scheduled to open by the end of the year.
It seems like every time you turn around these days another microbrewery or beer bar is opening in San Diego. The booming local craft beer industry has attracted national attention. And Mayor Jerry Sanders is at the center of it all.
The mayor was on hand at Societe’s grand opening. Clad in a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops, Sanders poured a ceremonial beer and presented Smith and Constantiner with a proclamation from the city.
"This is the best day of being a mayor," Sanders joked as the sold-out crowd cheered and clapped.
But while being the guest of honor at a brewery opening may be a perk of the job, the local craft beer industry is something Sanders takes seriously.
I recently sat down with the mayor at Toronado, a beer bar in North Park. We began to talk about San Diego’s burgeoning beer business. First things first, what are his favorite craft beers?
"I like the Stone Smoked Porter, I like all the IPA’s that Karl Strauss does and Green Flash and Stone," he said. "Several of the new breweries have good IPA’s also."
Sanders also likes the jobs and attention the craft beer industry is bringing to the city. He said for every job created in a brewery, nearly six more are created as a result. San Diego’s economic development office estimates there are now 1,200 craft beer-related jobs in the city. And more are expected as the industry continues to grow. Sanders said this part of the economy ranks right up there with the biotech and wireless sectors. In fact, he said San Diego’s beer cluster is outpacing other business clusters.
"It’s the fastest growing we have," he said. "And it also provides tremendous job opportunities, good paying jobs. And it’s putting San Diego on the map."
The city has a staffer assigned to helping breweries open. And Sanders said San Diego has also worked with the police department to help officers understand the difference between bars and tasting rooms, which breweries depend on to bring in customers. At Societe, Constantiner said the city has helped things run more smoothly.
"We ran into a couple different obstacles and the city was right behind us every bit of the way. The mayor’s office, the Office of Economic Development," he said. "It was huge, absolutely huge to have them support us."
But breweries are just one aspect of San Diego’s craft beer industry. On the other side are the dozens of beer bars that make sure the drinks get poured. Ian Black is the owner of Toronado.
"Our goal is to provide the beer that the brewer makes to the customer exactly the way that that brewer would want the beer to taste," Black said.
Toronado has hundreds of beers to choose from and about half are locally brewed. Black said San Diego’s industry is expanding at the right time.
"Beer sales are down industry wide. But the craft beer segment has been rising," he said. "I think that’s going to go a long way toward helping out these new breweries."
And those breweries go a long way toward helping the city by providing tax revenue, attracting conventions and bringing in national attention. Sanders said that’s all good news for San Diego.
"Bars like Toronado, they’ve just become the places where people go for community. And I just think it’s a lot of fun," he said. "I don’t have any problem in wearing my Hawaiian shirt in and having a beer with everyone else here. It’s a lot of fun."
Sanders said he’s hopeful he’ll get to visit local beer bars more often once his term is up at the end of the year. And he says San Diego’s next mayor should carry on his tradition of celebrating local beer.
Video by Nicholas McVicker