While the panels and speakers at the Beer Bloggers Conference in San Diego were very informative, it was really nice to get out and speak to some people from local breweries.
On Friday evening, we headed to Karl Strauss Brewery for some beer, tacos, and good conversation.
Beers on draft included the tower 10 IPA, Big Barrel IPA, Wreck Alley Imperial Stout, and my favorite, the Red Trolley Ale. The outdoor beer garden was nicely set up with strings of lightbulbs illuminating the sandy ground. I also thought it was great that there were games and things to play with scattered around. A box of dominoes and cards held court on one table, ladder golf was set up in a corner, and inside the brewery next to shelves of barrel-aged beers was the Karl Strauss cornhole set. The presence of the games as well as the communal picnic tables outside gave a friendly, party atmosphere.
After we filled up on tacos and beer, Chris Cramer, the CEO of Karl Strauss, came up to the front to speak. His talk was incredibly entertaining and also insightful. Contrasting solid facts with witty anecdotes really worked for the crowd. Although it did start to get loud towards the end of the speech, Chris did hold the crowd’s attention well.
What I thought was most interesting was the legacy of the man who was Karl Strauss, Chris’s relative that he lovingly referred to as “Uncle Karl”. Strauss was born and raised in Germany and studied brewing at the technical university of Munich-Weihenstephan, where he earned a degree in malting and brewing science and a Master Brewer certification. He moved to the US in the 1930s, where he settled in Wisconsin and got a job at Pabst and steadily moved up the ranks. He actually was a part of the team that reformulated the recipe for Pabst Blue Ribbon. Karl worked as Vice President of Production until his retirement after 44 years with the company.
Chris Cramer was inspired to bring good beer to San Diego through his travels. He tried Real Ale while in Europe, and at a brewpub in Australia, he saw the small production and how good the beer was and thought it could be feasible to take back to America. At a family event, he told ‘Uncle Karl’ about his idea, and Karl was delighted to pass on the brewing knowledge he has gained over his lifetime.
The story of Karl Strauss was a feel-good one, since it stemmed from family and hard work. Karl taught Chris and his partner, Matt Rattner, the quality control he had learned from his days at Pabst. The beer was held to a higher standard, with the independence and unique brewing recipes of a small batch, with the diligent quality control of a commercial brewery.
Karl Strauss Brewery opened in 1989, and celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.