Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named is San Diego.
We're going to spare you the rest of the Ron Burgundy quote, but this should help set the scene for you. We're in San Diego baby. These people seem to think they know something about craft brewing.
And who are we kidding. San Diego's craft brewing scene has been putting out some of the best beer in the world long before it was even cool to talk about it. We love this place, and we were really excited to spend some time talking to Mike Sardina from Societe Brewing Company. Mike didn't start this brewery, but he's more than willing to share his love for Societe with us.
This is Mike.
Hi Mike. Tell us about yourself.
My story is pretty simple. I started my beer education during law school in Santa Clara, CA a while back. I was in a Whole Foods one night and there was ONE bottle of Pliny (the Elder) left. Having heard about the beer through Zymurgy and Beer Advocate, I had to see what it was all about. I brought it home, sat down in my room by myself, 1 on 1 with that beer, and I was hooked. I needed to know more. It was that moment when you’re drinking a beer, and it’s just you and the beer and you get to enjoy every aspect of it. Being a voracious student, I wanted to learn everything I could about it. I started homebrewing and discovering the greater San Francisco beer community. I finally made the pilgrimage up to northern California to Russian River, Bear Republic, and Lagunitas, home to all those delicious hoppy beers we've all heard about. I was studying for the bar exam at the time, and I would study for it on the train on my way to San Francisco to visit places like the Monk’s Kettle, City Beer Store, and Speakeasy Ales & Lagers. I sat for the bar exam, passed the CA bar, and started working as a patent litigator in Menlo Park, in the heart of Silicon Valley. I lived right down the hill from Anchor brewing. I discovered such an amazing beer community in San Francisco.
And you were hooked. How did you end up in San Diego?
This is the time when I really started traveling to other beer cities to try as much beer as I could. And after a while, I kept coming back to San Diego. There are great beer cities all over the country, but it was always the hoppy beers from San Diego that pulled me in.
I read up about a guy from Russian River and a guy from The Bruery who were starting a new brewery specifically to brew the kind of IPA they wanted. Societe Brewing opened in May of 2012 and I visited in June 2012. I took my very first sip of The Apprentice and looked over at my girlfriend and said “if I could just drink this beer for the rest of my life I would be the happiest man in the world”. I kept coming back to Societe.
That same year I was in D.C for work. I was talking to a friend who went to Savor (the food and drink event in D.C that The Brew Enthusiast attended here), and I decided that I was done with the legal profession in the classic sense. I pitched myself to Doug and Travis from Societe on my professional credentials and my outright love for beer, over and over again, until they finally gave me a job. Now I do a little bit of everything for the brewery. Chief legal council and trash taker-outer. Whatever needs to be done. It’s all about making great beer.
That…is an awesome story. So you left your job as a lawyer to work at a brewery?
I did. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Sounds like Doug and Travis have some pretty serious beer credentials.
Travis Smith, our current Head of Fermentation and Execution at Societe, was a brewer at Russian River and then at The Bruery. He cut his teeth brewing beers like Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder. Doug Constantiner, our Brewery Curator and Brewer , worked at Green Flash on the bottling line at one point in his career, and then became a brewer at The Bruery. He learned a lot about production brewing from Travis as during his time at The Bruery.
You’re an IPA man. There are a lot of great IPAs being made in this country, and you claim that the best IPA is coming from San Diego?
I’ve had Heady Topper, and Pliny, and a lot of amazing IPAs out there. But the beers coming out of this city are just so fresh and so amazing. I’m partial to these beers because I live here, and I think that’s why I can make that claim. San Diego has been and always will be a pioneer in this style. The IPAs we make here at Societe are amazing, and very special to us. We might eventually bottle or can some of our beers, but I think I can say pretty affirmatively that we’ll never do our IPAs in anything but draft. It needs to be consumed fresh from a keg to really enjoy it. I mean, the guys who started this brewery choose San Diego for a reason. You have to make great beer. You have to make awesome IPA.
We certainly fell in love with The Apprentice. Not to make this an East Cost/West Coast IPA thing…but what are your thoughts?
You know…I’m seeing it as more of a localized thing. Here’s where our community is, and here’s where they like to drink. Sort of a like a “Here’s my brewery” attitude if that makes sense. Our IPA is certainly different than what you will see out East though. Ithaca Brewing Co’s Flower Power is a great IPA with a remarkably unique profile and taste. DogFish Head’s beer, same thing there too – a very different sort of IPA than what we brew in San Diego.
How are people embracing Societe in San Diego? It’s a hugely competitive beer town after all.
Our community has been just amazing and they’ve been supporting us since day one. Credit goes to the way that Doug and Travis went about opening the brewery. They chatted with all the people they know in the industry to get a feel for the city and how they’ve been successful here. The beer community has welcomed us.
Based on your background in craft beer, how would you suggest people “get into” craft beer?
If you like beer, any craft brewery is going to make a beer that you’re going to like. Tell them to go try one. Tell them to visit their local craft brewery and give it a chance. It’s all really good. I promise they’ll like it.
Short and sweet. Where are you currently distributed?
Draft only in San Diego, about 65 accounts right now, and a few accounts in San Francisco.
What’s are you drinking right now that isn’t a Societe brew?
I’m drinking a “life-changing” Oatmeal Stout from Benchmark Brewing Company, from here in San Diego. So fresh. So flavorful. So delicious. Amazing beer.
Article published May, 2014.