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SAN DIEGO BEER WEEK: A Cruel Mistress

For fans of good beer, San Diego Beer Week presents so many incredible events that it can be downright exhausting charging through your breakneck 10-day beer itinerary and even tougher to remember all of those good times (heck, I can barely recall it all and I wrote it down!). But in the end, it’s worth the work and it’s all in the name of fun.

But what about the folks who spend 10 straight days running around not just a town, but one of the country’s most expansive counties, not for a good time, but to enhance your good time? For these brewers, brewery owners, beer sellers and other trade professionals, San Diego Beer Week is a big deal and a lot of hard work. Thank goodness there’s tasty beer everywhere or it could be downright unbearable.

San-Diego-Beer-Week-2010

Colby Chandler.

Courtesy photo

For Day Eight, the second Friday of Beer Week, I shadowed one of the most decorated brewers in San Diego, Ballast Point’s Colby Chandler (the guy behind Sculpin IPA…maybe you’ve heard of it), who had a typically packed schedule that included meeting and interacting with event-goers at a Lager Fest at North Park’s The Linkery followed by the Shock and Awe Ballast Point Night (a total tap takeover complete with an astounding number of exotic and award-winning beers) at The High Dive in Bay Park and a late-night trip to Eleven in Normal Heights to check out The Yeasty Boys, a band made up of members of the San Diego Brewers Guild. The latter venue was packed solid with a crowd made up almost exclusively of brewing professionals, prompting to Colby to tell me, “This is my favorite part of Beer Week; hanging out with the brewing community, seeing the people I know and talking with them. If you’re not hanging out with the brewers during Beer Week, you’re missing out.”

These events were on top of the events he helped put on at his own facility, Home Brew Mart (which is attached to Ballast Point’s Linda Vista brewery)—San Diego Beer Week Appreciation Day and a “rum and smoke” food pairing event with the Dave DeJour Gastrotruck. And then there was that pesky nine-to-five job of his where, among other things, his staff lost track of their forklift key and shuddered as their two-tank glycol system went down. Multiply that by 10 and you have an idea of the rigors of San Diego Beer Week for a brewing industry pro.

It’s anything but an easy hang, but Colby has a healthy view on this aspect of his chosen profession. “It’s a lifestyle,” he says. “It’s a lot of work, but not a lot of the time. It’s what everybody should shoot for in their career.”

Now that I’ve given you a new perspective, let me expand things a bit and dive even deeper into the looking glass at the right hands of brewers. No, not their assistant brewers or their sales guys—their wives. Referred to by trade professionals as “beer widows,” these supportive significant others keep the ship at home afloat by their lonesome when the frequent late night duties of the brewing profession call. Given that Beer Week is a prime example of this, it seemed a fitting time to catch up with a few members of this club.

When asked how many hours her husband, Jim Crute from Poway’s Lightning Brewery, puts in on top of the standard eight-hour work day, Marilyn Kehry replies, “about 30 per week, but sometimes it’s a little less.” Being the owner and head brewer at a small brewery employing only four employees, Jim wears many hats—including repairman—so it’s not just special events that keep him from getting home at a reasonable hour. “I first realized how much time the job would take when the first piece of brewing equipment came in. It had to be set up and it took all the time that there was to do that.”

Marilyn never saw widow-dom coming, but Tammi Chandler watched as her future, like a desert road, slowly unfolded before her. “Colby and I dated 11 years before we got married. I fully knew what I was getting into,” says Tammi, who adds that Colby spends 5 to 10 days a year for events out of the state. The thankfully self-sufficient and positive-minded mother of a one year-old son, Cole, she says, “There aren’t really any challenges. I just miss him taking care of me and Cole at night. He usually cooks dinner, so I have lost weight this week…not a bad thing.”

“I’m running a day care from my house so there’s certain things I count on [my husband] to do, so when he has to work it makes it twice as hard on me, but he is very good at doing things in advance if he knows that he’s not going to be there,” says Jeanette DeWitt whose spouse, Shawn DeWitt, is co-owner and head brewer at Coronado Brewing Co. “I think most of us wives are just concerned about taking care of our children, doing the daily stuff and trying to make it as normal as possible for them. Trying to explain to the kids that daddy is working the beer festival instead of just having fun is difficult at times.”

A real trooper, when asked if she could remember a time when the words “beer festival” sounded good, Jeanette replies, “It still sounds fun, but now I know all the work that goes behind the scenes that nobody ever thinks about, so the words ‘beer festival,’ to me, mean work. I still have fun at all the beer festivals I go to, though.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Marilyn, who has grown used to living “like a single head of household,” hopes the days of 70 hour work weeks will come to an end, or at least lessen to some degree, sometime down the road. “It’d be nice to know if I’ll ever have a normal life,” she quips before forecasting the prognosis for that as “pretty poor.”

Beer Week (and the craft brew industry), you can be one seriously cruel mistress!

My picks for great San Diego Beer Week events on Saturday (November 13):

Tap Hunter Beer Brunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

You trust them to guide you on your quest for good beer all year long, so why not shake off that hangover and follow the folks from Tap Hunter down to Quality Social for a four-course brunch featuring beers paired by Stone’s Dr. Bill Sysak.

789 Sixth Ave., Downtown, 619-501-7675

2nd Annual Bikes Boards & Brews, 12-4 p.m.

Take in what’s sure to be a beautiful trademark San Diego day at The Catamaran Resort which will host this beer-equipped celebration of art, biking and surfing benefitting PB-based non-profits for the second consecutive year.

3999 Mission Boulevard, Mission Bay, 858-997-9158

Green Flash 8th Anniversary Festival, 12-4 p.m.

There’s no more enjoyable way to support the fight against ALD then attending the annual Green Flash Anniversary Festival. $35 gets you 10 tasters, a lunch token and a really nice heart-warming feeling to enjoy with some primo beers.

1430 Vantage Court, #104, Vista, 760-597-9012, ext. 311

Huyghe Brewery Owner Meet & Greet, 5 p.m.

Encinitas Ale House will host Alain de Lait, owner of one of the world’s most successful breweries, the company responsible for Delirium Tremens, which will be available along with rarities like Floris, Mongozo and La Guillotine. Watch out for that last one!

1044 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, 760-943-7180

Rob Tod Allagash Night, 7 p.m.

All week, Toronado’s been bringing in big name brewers and tonight, Rob Tod (fresh off an appearance at O’Brien’s Pub earlier in the day), owner and brewer of Allagash, one of the best Belgian-style operations in the country, will be in the house.

4026 30th Street, North Park, 619-282-0456