The Man About Town

Derek Gal­lanosa is a noted man about San Diego. Brewer and beer geek, he stands over a thriv­ing busi­ness that not only in­cludes Ab­nor­mal Beer Com­pany but also a win­ery and a restau­rant known for stel­lar beer din­ners. Give the peo­ple what they want, he say

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Breakout Brewer: Abnormal Beer Company - By John Holl

IT’S A TYP­I­CALLY BUSY

Fri­day night at The Cork and Craft, home of Ab­nor­mal Beer Com­pany, and Head Brewer Derek Gal­lanosa is mak­ing the rounds. Where some brew­ers might pre­fer hang­ing back among the stain­less and hoses, Gal­lanosa is very much a man of the peo­ple. Hop­ping from ta­ble to ta­ble, pass­ing on hel­los, or shar­ing beer rec­om­men­da­tions with reg­u­lars, he seems to be most at ease when talking about beer, es­pe­cially the­o­riz­ing on IPAS.

Ab­nor­mal lives up to its name. In a city long known for beer, es­pe­cially the dank hops-for­ward West Coast IPA, the own­ers also chose to open up a win­ery em­brac­ing the other Cal­i­for­nia bev­er­age of note. Cou­pled with what they call the “fine restau­rant” ex­pe­ri­ence, the busi­ness does in­deed stand out in a landscape dot­ted with more tra­di­tional brew­ery tast­ing rooms—all while be­ing lo­cated in an of­fice park twenty miles north of San Diego’s old town.

When he’s not at the restau­rant or his brew house, Gal­lanosa is spot­ted around town (or in the class­room where he teaches beer mar­ket­ing at San Diego State Univer­sity) palling around with fel­low brew­ers and tast­ing of­fer­ings from around the coun­try.

“I’m in­spired by other prod­ucts, not just with beer but with food as well. It’s two dif­fer­ent things,” he says. “Be­tween try­ing styles that I al­ready pro­duce, I’ll ask how I can im­prove upon it or how I can try some­thing dif­fer­ent. If it’s an un­usual style or recipe, I’ll see how [brew­ers] use or play with a base and then think about how it will pair with our menu.”

On a late-sum­mer morn­ing, Gal­lanosa is get­ting ready to de­but a ses­sion IPA

“I didn’t want to re­lease just an­other IPA in San Diego. We have a lot of IPA drinkers here, and a good chunk of them want va­ri­ety when it comes to hoppy. I wanted some­thing that I could drink, too, and what I found was that most peo­ple think a ses­sion is too thin, a lit­tle too wa­tery. So I went for the mid­dle, some­thing with body that isn’t quite a ses­sion, isn’t quite a stan­dard.”

later in the week. He is ex­cited, in part, be­cause the recipe con­tains a bit of the Old School. It’s a 5.9 per­cent ABV (be­cause that counts as a ses­sion in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia) IPA hopped with Cas­cade and Sim­coe that he calls an “IPA Light.”

“I didn’t want to re­lease just an­other IPA in San Diego. We have a lot of IPA drinkers here, and a good chunk of them want va­ri­ety when it comes to hoppy. I wanted some­thing that I could drink, too, and what I found was that most peo­ple think a ses­sion is too thin, a lit­tle too wa­tery. So I went for the mid­dle, some­thing with body that isn’t quite a ses­sion, isn’t quite a stan­dard.”

In us­ing more tra­di­tional va­ri­eties of hops, Gal­lanosa was al­ready ex­pect­ing the “oh, it’s hops” re­ac­tion to the aroma from hard­ened IPA drinkers who prize the newer va­ri­etals that give off such aro­mas and fla­vors as mango and guava as op­posed to cit­rus and pine. And while Gal­lanosa hopes that the well-versed drinkers will find plea­sure in the pint, he says he was more eye­ing an­other cat­e­gory of cus­tomers.

“For the beer geeks, maybe this won’t be as ap­peal­ing,” he says. “But, we have peo­ple coming in to the restau­rant with fel­low of­fice work­ers for happy hour, and this is built for that crowd. For those peo­ple, it’s ap­peal­ing, and, for those who don’t know hops along with those beer geeks who do, hope­fully this is a teach­able mo­ment be­cause I think peo­ple have been go­ing from IPA to Pil­sner, and hav­ing this lighter style still gives the crowd what they want.”

What They Want

Gal­lanosa fol­lowed a path well-trod­den by fel­low brew­ers. In 2007, he was at a friend’s house where his friend’s father was home-

“Mak­ing beer that you like and mak­ing beer that you like and that you can sell are two dif­fer­ent things. You need to be able to move the prod­uct. Af­ter all, it’s a busi­ness at the end of the day. It’s why feed­back and de­mand lead to the sup­ply. The hazy [IPAS] coming out now are not go­ing away. While I still pre­fer West Coast IPA, we’re mak­ing hazy now, and I have four on tap, com­pared with three West Coast.”

brew­ing. Gal­lanosa was aware of beer, but shocked to see that it could be made at home. He bought a book and some equip­ment and started brew­ing. Af­ter col­lege, he be­came an as­sis­tant brewer at Karl Strauss—the long time San Diego brew­ing pow­er­house—and joined the sales team as well. In 2014 he started at Ab­nor­mal.

Split­ting his time be­tween the brew­ery and sales calls in those early days helped forge his ex­pe­ri­ence to­day. Every time he puts a new beer on tap, he must con­sider how it will sell, and while that has very much to do with taste, it’s also the broader ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Mak­ing beer that you like and mak­ing beer that you like and that you can sell are two dif­fer­ent things. You need to be able to move the prod­uct. Af­ter all, it’s a busi­ness at the end of the day. It’s why feed­back and de­mand lead to the sup­ply,” he says. “The hazy [IPAS] coming out now are not go­ing away. While I still pre­fer West Coast IPA, we’re mak­ing hazy now, and I have four on tap, com­pared with three West Coast.”

When un­leash­ing that new style on his cus­tomers, he looked to stan­dard bear­ers of the style—in­clud­ing Tree House (Charl­ton, Mas­sachusetts) and Monk­ish (Tor­rance, Cal­i­for­nia)—for in­spi­ra­tion but didn’t ask for a recipe. Gal­lanosa says he tried the beers and then de­vel­oped them to his taste, try­ing out dif­fer­ent malt bills (when mak­ing his first, his sup­plier ran out of un­malted wheat, he says) and hops be­fore set­tling on recipes.

Ex­per­i­men­ta­tion is key, and fla­vor is per­sonal. One thing he dis­cov­ered was that lupulin pow­der, a prod­uct be­com­ing more and more pop­u­lar and preva­lent, wasn’t giv­ing him the fla­vors he wanted.

“For the price you pay, it cre­ates a lot of yield, but the aroma suf­fers,” he says. So he stays with pel­lets and has found that va­ri­eties such as Mo­saic and Idaho 7 give the cit­rusy and stone-fruit as­sertive­ness he wants along with a cer­tain pun­gency that boosts a hazy IPA. Plus, “I don’t have to use a lot to get a lot of fla­vor,” he says.

Fi­nally, rather than crawl­ing with a small pi­lot batch, Gal­lanosa jumps right in with twenty or thirty bar­rels. The de­mand is there, so it’s best to have the sup­ply.

Growth on the Hori­zon

Aside from IPAS, Gal­lanosa’s fa­vorite style is lam­bic, but he knows that it won’t sell at the restau­rant, at least not as much as the hop­pier styles. But with a new ware­house space off­site, he’ll be able to start play­ing around more with wild yeasts. He was in­hib­ited, ob­vi­ously, in the past be­cause of fears of con­tam­i­na­tion to the win­ery. The new lo­ca­tion will let him slowly start push­ing spon­ta­neously fer­mented ales on his cus­tomers and be­gin adding them to the beer din­ners that Ab­nor­mal has quickly be­come fa­mous for.

Those din­ners not only fea­ture the house beers, but Gal­lanosa also pulls from the cel­lars of other lo­cal brew­eries, fea­tur­ing rare pours from the likes of Mod­ern Times and the Lost Abbey. In fact, the din­ners—usu­ally lim­ited to fewer than fifty peo­ple—of­ten sell out even be­fore the menu is posted.

Cus­tomers will give you one chance, he says. If you de­liver that first time, they’ll trust you and come back again and again. Editor’s Note: Af­ter this is­sue went to press, we learned that Derek Gal­lanosa had re­signed from Ab­nor­mal Beer Co.

Left » Ab­nor­mal keeps a dozen or more of its own beers on tap at any one time, which keeps Gal­lanosa and team ac­tive on the brew deck.

Left » While Gal­lanosa’s per­sonal pref­er­ence is for West Coast–style IPAS, he’s happy mak­ing tasty hazy IPAS (such as the Tur­bid­ity dou­ble IPA he’s sam­pling off the tank here) to meet cus­tomer de­mand.

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