Citra-R-Ama, Whale’s Tails, Gingerbread Chateau, May the Port Be with You, Saisian Persuasion — all are beers birthed from the system at Pizza Port’s Solana Beach brewpub…and I’m going to miss all of them.
Devon Randall, the brewer responsible for those delicious beers, recently accepted a job offer to helm an upcoming Los Angeles interest known as Arts District Brewing Company.
Named after the section of town it will call home, it’s the latest project from 213 Nightlife, an L.A.-based hospitality group operating numerous venues, including North Park’s Seven Grand. Throughout the company’s lifespan, its founders have proven adept at identifying up-and-coming trends that are popular with consumers. For Seven Grand it was whiskey. In the case of Arts District Brewing, it will be house-brewed beer.
Randall’s beers have been some of the most consistent and flawless in San Diego over the past two years. She wasn’t actively seeking this opportunity, but when it came around she found it something she couldn’t resist.
The 213 team has faith in her abilities and will pretty much allow her to take the brewing in any direction she likes. Having spoken to many brewers, being in charge of a brewery with such a degree of liberty and autonomy represents the Holy Grail. Throw in reputable, fiscally solvent ownership, and Randall’s is an enviable position.
Having watched a number of good brewers bolt from the nation’s craft-brewing capital in search of career opportunities up Interstate 5, I find it a cause for concern.
It was only a matter of time before trendy L.A. caught on to craft beer and started making a play in that arena. Given the business climate of that more cutthroat, capitalistic, status-conscious market, it’s likely that, unlike in San Diego, where would-be competitors are mostly cooperative and at least collegial, L.A.’s scene will be one that’s competitive both within and outside its borders.
Already, larger companies such as Golden Road Brewing and Angel City Brewery are driven to control as much of the market as possible. And not just in L.A. They want as much of Southern California as they can get…and that includes San Diego. There is nothing wrong with this — it’s business as usual for most business — but this mentality could lead to a shift for doe-eyed beer locavores in America’s Finest City.
With more than 100 operating brewhouses throughout our county, there are already more brewing jobs than there are qualified professionals to fill them. Randall isn’t the first brewer to make the choice to leave San Diego in search of career advancement and creative freedom.
The waves made by these occurrences is bound to have an effect on the compatriotism and collaboration San Diego brewers so often tout. If they want to attract and retain talent, they will likely need to become more competitive than they perhaps envisioned when getting into the biz.
Randall is in the midst of playing out the stretch at Pizza Port. She starts work at Arts District Brewing later this month. Fortunately, there is no shortage of up-and-coming talent in the brewer department, so while filling Randall’s boots won’t be easy, it’s something the company — which has overcome the loss of plenty of notable brewers, including Jeff Bagby (Bagby Beer Company) and Yiga Miyashiro (Saint Archer Brewery) in recent years — should weather just fine, if not exceptionally well.