Life After UC Davis: Weeks 27-32
Upon arriving back to San Diego from my trip to Dogfish Head, the waiting game had begun. My head was racing with all sorts of scenarios that included what life on the east coast would be like, how I’d fit in as the token So Cal guy in a small Delaware town, and wondering if being a brewer at DFH was the ideal working situation for me at this point in my life. As the first week passed by, I followed up with the head brewer at the Mission Brewery here in town, to see if their new facility was operational yet and if they needed to add to their brewing crew. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t leaving any local opportunities on the table before making any decisions on relocation. I was told that they couldn’t hire anybody just yet, but that maybe down the road in a month or two they’d have the money to hire someone full time. It’s basically the same story I had heard before, so I was beginning to accept that I might be moving soon. I’ll be the first to admit at that point in time, I was getting a bit weary of job searching.
After about 10 days of waiting, I finally received the call from DFH that they wanted to officially offer me a brewing position. The woman I was speaking to immediately went into all of the benefits they provided, pay, the stock program, bonuses, etc. After about 10 minutes of me listening to all of the great things they offer (and believe me it is the best I have ever heard from a craft brewery), she paused and asked “Well, what do you think?” I was a bit overwhelmed at that very moment, so I told her that it all sounded very good and politely asked if I could take some time to let it all soak in before giving a definitive answer. She completely understood and said I could take some time to get back to her.
The next day I called my family and a few friends to share the good news. As expected, there were mixed opinions as to whether I should make the move or not. Then something unexpected happened. That evening I received a voicemail from a gentleman representing the Firehouse Brewing Co. in San Diego. He saw my resume and wanted to speak with me regarding a potential opening. I called him back shortly after and had an interesting conversation with him about their current situation. He himself was relatively new to the company and they were in the midst of a change in management due to some missteps from the people previously running both the brewing and business side of things. Despite the growth they had achieved over most of the last 10 years, recently production had slowly fallen off and in turn sales were slumping.
What it all boils down to is that they were basically starting over again and wanted to inject some new blood into the place. There was one remaining brewer that survived the old guard and a prospective Brewmaster that would be working as a consultant to help right the ship. That was it for the production staff. They wanted to know if I was interested in rounding out this trio. I told him I was very interested, but that I needed to know how serious they were rather quickly since I had a pending job offer from you know who.
One aspect of this brewery that I really liked is that it has a non-profit side to it. Firehouse was started by two brothers that are third generation firefighters and homebrewers. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, these guys decided to start a small production brewery that donated a portion of it’s sales to a charity that supports the widows and children of fallen firefighters and also helps buy safety equipment for the local fire departments. I thought that was pretty awesome.
We got together for a face to face meeting a couple days later and discussed the details of the position and where they wanted to take the company. They were looking for someone that could start rather quickly, help get the brewhouse in order and possibly take the reigns as Brewmaster down the road a bit if all went to plan. Sounded good to me. But there was also a chance of things not going to plan. Taking a job there, at this time, would be a big risk especially when weighed against a sure thing like DFH. With that being said, the upside was equally as big. I would essentially be on the ground floor of a brewery that already has everything setup with the ability to have input on recipes, techniques, policies, etc, from the get go. That had huge appeal to me.
If you have been following this blog, you know that I want to open my own little place some day in the coming years. To do so successfully, you need to know nearly every facet of this business. From what I was told it sounded like I would get to do a bit of everything (brewing, cellaring, packaging) at Firehouse. Quite the contrast to being 1 of 10 brewers at DFH with a more limited scope of job functions and a lot more automation. Now I really had a lot to think about!
Despite the great reputation of Dogfish, the incredible array of beers they produce, the fantastic people I met there and the generosity of their offer.... I made the decision to decline it. Some may disagree with my choice, but for me it was the right thing to do. The added bonus is that I get to stay near my friends/family and even though I’m not one to take many risks, I thought it was about time that I did. Mind you, I hadn’t been officially offered the Firehouse job yet at that time. Thankfully about a week later I was, which I gladly accepted.
I haven’t a clue as to what’s going to happen in the coming months. I hope that I will love what I’m doing and that it makes me an even better brewer. A part of this crazy journey is ending and another is beginning. One thing I do know is that America loves a comeback story and I can’t wait to be a part of this one at the Firehouse Brewing Co. I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes!