What a wild ride it’s been!
Where do I even start? When you plan to open a brewery for YEARS, consult with numerous industry professionals, acquire collegiate certification for brewing, then finally dip into your family’s life savings to make the jump, only to find out there was one minor issue that you didn’t plan for: A worldwide pandemic… Ouchtown, USA.
For those who haven’t been following my journey to open a brewery, the story is simple enough. I went from a Miller Lite drinker, looking for the lowest prices on 30 packs, to one day calling all over town to find ridiculously priced bottles of Avery Brewing’s Maharaja. One fateful day in April of 2012, I took a sip of this double IPA at Churchills in San Marcos, simply because the name sounded cool. My palate forever changed and from that moment on, I dedicated myself to learning the craft of brewing beer with the goal of one day opening my own brewery and making a beer that would give someone the same feeling that I had that day. Beer became something to treasure, value, & appreciate as opposed to something to swill and forget. As I shared my dream with various friends, the same advice was repeated to me regularly: In order to stand out in San Diego’s craft beer industry, you have to make GREAT beer.
After a year of making sub-standard beer, I faced a fork in the road after realizing that brewing beer was relatively simple, but brewing GREAT beer would require a lot more knowledge, understanding, patience, & dedication than I had assumed. So the choice arose. Give up brewing beer and leave it to the pros, or sink your teeth into the art and commit to the passion. I chose to commit.
Making the decision to commit was easy, but how would I truly know if my beer was GREAT? Friends and family members would obviously be biased, so I turned to competition. I sought out local, state, & national competitions so that BJCP certified beer judges could dissect, tear apart, & breakdown each of my entries while I remained anonymous. I won my first ribbons at the Del Mar Fair in 2014. A pink 4 th place ribbon for a hefeweizen and a yellow 5 th place ribbon for a wood aged beer. This was the only beer competition that I’ve ever entered that awards 4 th & 5 th places, but it gave me just the spark that I needed. I knew I was close!
The next year in 2015, I hit the competition circuit hard, securing my first Best of Show win at the Mayfaire Competition, which is put on by the Oldest Homebrew Club in America, the Maltose Falcons. The prize for Best of Show is a highly sought after and prized trophy named “Hashiell Dammet” or more commonly, “The Bird”. The trophy is a near identical replica of the statue from the 1941 movie, “The Maltese Falcon”. It is a heavy, cast statue of a falcon perched on a rock. The trophy is all black with a gold plaque on the front. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this award has been won by some very prestigious and famous brewers: John Maier of Rogue Brewing, Jamil Zainasheff of Heretic Brewing, Mike “Tasty” McDole of The Brewing Network, Mike Mraz of Mraz Brewing to name a few. As luck would have it, the year I won this award, the National Homebrew Competition was based in San Diego, CA. When I ran into Tasty McDole, I told him that I had won The Bird, whereas, he promptly shared that he had won it twice, back to back. Being a competitor, I set out to try to match the feat. While I won it a second time in 2017, I never won it back to back. Touché Tasty…Touché. RIP Tasty.
Over the course of the next few years, I continued my competition drive by earning hundreds of medals and ribbons, while also securing the National Homebrewer of the Year title in 2016, CA State Sierra Nevada Homebrewer of the Year title in 2017, San Diego Homebrewer of the Year title in 2017, & Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing Grandmaster title in 2017. During this time, I was also extremely fortunate enough to win some Pro-AM competitions that gave me the opportunity to brew my recipes on professional systems at Lightning Brewery, Hangar 24, Green Flash, Ladyface Ale Companie, & Duckfoot Brewing. While my time spent during each brewday was relatively short each time, I paid extremely close attention to each breweries operations with the hopes of picking up tips and tricks from each one.
Fast forward to December of 2019, when I heard that a little local spot in Vista called Barrel Harbor might be available for purchase. After numerous possibilities for our launch had come and gone, would this finally be the one that we could pull off? If you’re reading this, you already know this we did, but there’s certainly more to the story. Stay tuned for more fun stories about how Five Suits opened in the midst of a Pandemic and somehow earned the title of Best New Brewery in 2020.