“Us Against Them”: A Look Into San Diego’s Craft Brew Scene

Posted by Jordan Bailey

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With more than 100 craft breweries in the county, you might think that competition amongst brewers in San Diego has gotten pretty fierce in the last couple of years.

But Summer Nixon, who owns a brewery tour company called Brew Hop, said it’s actually the exact opposite.

“The industry is about abundance and supporting your colleagues, and making sure that it’s not an ‘us against us’ conversation, it’s an ‘us against them’ — small, independent breweries, versus big beer.”beerop2Summer said the recent explosion of the craft beer industry has made local breweries “a legitimate threat to the larger powers that be in beer.” So much so, that Budweiser has run Super Bowl ads insulting craft beer and craft beer drinkers for the past two years.

But the mockery has only strengthened the local industry by creating a “We’re all in this together,” mentality.

“It’s not about fighting amongst craft breweries, and that’s for a couple of reasons,” Summer said.

“For one, the craft beer drinker doesn’t just drink one brewery’s beer … They’re adventurous and they’re interested in trying new things. They have an interest in who the people are and who the brewery is … so there’s no reason for the breweries to compete against each other.”
beerop1Furthermore, a local nonprofit called the San Diego Brewer’s Guild has created a solid community space for the breweries. The founders of Stone Brewing Company — who Summer referred to as “the backbone of San Diego’s brewing scene” — started the organization to promote, support and connect local breweries.

“You’re all going to meet and see each other at these meetings once every couple of months, and you’re not going to screw over the guy down the street when you have to look him in the eye at the next meeting,” she said.

“You may have to ask your neighbor to borrow some hops because your order is late, or your mill breaks and you’ve got to get your malt and barley ground — who are you going to call but the guy right down the street who can loan you his mill?”StoneWorldcropWith the longest running brewery tour company in San Diego, Summer has been a part of the brewers’ family for almost nine years now. Her company does luxury, high end tours, focusing exclusively on private groups.

“And that’s nice because, when you have somebody who’s celebrating her husband’s 60th birthday with a few of their best friends, you’re not up against somebody else’s bachelor party.”

She and her team work with guests to customize a tour to a few different breweries in the county, where they get a tour of the facility and — wait for it — unlimited beer tasting.

“As long as everyone’s behaving and keeping their pants on, I don’t have a problem with that,” she said. “The only rule is, ‘Act like you’ve been in public before.’”
brewhop1cropThe inspiration for the company came from a dilemma she and her then-boyfriend (now husband) ran into when they were planning a craft beer excursion for his 29th birthday. There were no services in the area that would drive them around to the breweries they wanted to visit — so they created one.

They had recently gotten into drinking craft beers because of her husband’s job as a promoter for Monster Energy Drinks.

“(We) would do a lot of promotions where (we) had to go out and be in bars at 2am,” Summer said. “As you get later in your 20s, you understand that you cannot drink Monster and vodka at 2 in the morning and feel okay to go to work the next day.”
beercropSo they traded their cocktails for craft beers, and a love of beer was born. Summer said it’s the creativity and exploration of the industry that’s made her fall in love with craft brews.

The most unique beer she’s ever tried was a limited-release called Isabelle Proximus by Lost Abbey. Five of the country’s top brewers got together and collaborated on a custom brew to commemorate their friendship and the trip to Belgium they took together to learn the craft.

“They customized (the recipe) so it was this custom blend,” Summer said,  “A one-time, special release in a bottle that was gifted to me before a vacation … and it was just the most unique, wild, crazy, never going to try it again beer.

“We took it on vacation to Mexico — I had to fight Mexican customs to get it into the country — and drank it on the beach in Mexico.”

She described trying the beer as her “beer enlightenment,” a feeling they want to recreate for guests on their tours.

“We want people to have their ‘ah-ha’ moment, so that when they go back home and they’re at the grocery store heading to a party with their friends, they have an affinity for a brewery. They’ll go, ‘Ah, remember when we went there? Let’s grab that six pack and bring it’ instead of whatever their go to was before.”
Brew Hop Crop

To have your own ‘Ah-ha” moment with Brew Hop, ask your Scout to help book you a tour, or text “brew hop” to 619-356-2224

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