Unlike many young breweries, Societe Brewing came out of the gate four years ago with laser focus. There were many ideals that were shared with the public that were very uncommon, especially in the highly competitive San Diego craft beer space.
Societe has stated publicly, and while we got our private tour with former Communications Director Mike Sardina, that Societe is very stringent as to who they sell their beer to, based on their forged relationship with the account, how they treat the beer and how they present the beer. They have made a loose pact that they will not be canning or bottling their clean ales, and that they were never in a rush to expand just for the sake of expanding, noting that their quality would never be compromised for the sake of selling more beer. They self distribute, so they in fact have their eyes, ears and hands on almost every drop of beer they make from grain to tap.
I thought eventually Societe would have to budge on some of these ideals, as San Diego has claimed 120 breweries earlier this year and with the landscape being more competitive than it was 4 years ago. There are some signs that made me think they might be bending at the moment, so we reached out to Co-Founder/Brewer Doug Constantiner with some questions regarding the current state of Societe Brewing and the near future.
TFP: Within the last 60 days, Societe Brewing has lost one of their main players in Mike Sardina (Vice President, General Counsel and more) to Hill Farmstead Brewing as well as one of your first brewers in Tyler Tucker. Is there something going on at Societe that has made two of your longest running employees leave this summer?
Doug: We definitely didn’t want either Mike or Tyler to leave us this summer, but by no means did they leave on anything but great terms with us. To speak on Mike, Mike was not only an employee here at Societe, but also a close friend of mine. When he joined us four years ago and he proposed his job description, we a little shy as we were still feeling things out. Within a very short time, Mike filled his role we hired him for and then some. As you may know, he has a legal background, which was very attractive to us, but he began working on the communications end of things, which as you know, is very helpful for us as well. When Mike came to talk to us about his departure, we know this was a very difficult decision to make.
TFP: Did you do anything to change his mind so he would stay with Societe.
Doug: We did not. We know that we can’t hinder Mike’s growth in this industry and that his new role in Vermont’s Hill Farmstead is an excellent opportunity. If anything, we now have an “in” with Hill Farmstead, which adds to our list of great industry relationships.
TFP: So was Mike’s departure related to brewer Tyler Tucker leaving?
Doug: Not at all, it was completely coincidental. Again, there were no hard feelings with Tyler’s departure. He has moved onto Coronado Brewing, which is an opportunity for him to gain new skills working at a larger more mature brewery.
TFP: We’ve been told from the beginning that Societe has no plans to bottle their clean ales, with the thought that there is zero chance of a Societe product dieing on the shelf if there is no Societe product on the shelf. In addition to a few small sour ale releases we’ve seen, pictures have made their rounds that The Butcher (an Imperial Stout) has made its way to bottles. Is this the beginning of Societe finally packaging their clean ales in bottles?
Doug: It’s still very much the case, we do not intend to package our clean ales. The situation with The Butcher was a very special one. This was batch 666, and we had all talked privately about bottling this. While there might be other situations where we might do a very small run of something, our model very much remains the same.
TFP: Diehard Societe fans have been clamoring for some of your clean ales to be canned. I know Heiress and Pupil cans would rock my world. Might that be in the works?
Doug: As of now, no. Beside our main reasons for not wanting to package, the amount of space, cost and equipment needed to can beer to our quality standards is not in the cards right now. If you think about how we approached our bottling initiative, we bought an amazing, and quite expensive bottling line, more appropriate for a larger more mature brewery, and we didn’t even use it until recently.
TFP: That leads me to my next question, what is your take on the current East Coast/Hazy/Juicy IPA craze? Will you be dipping your toes into this trend in a similar fashion to Modern Times and Monkish Brewing?
Doug: So far, the beers I’ve had from the East Coast have been great, I know Henry at Monkish has been killing it, and I know there is a demand for this style of beer, but it’s something we all have to be careful of. Having a hazy beer is one thing, but having yeast suspended in beer for a prolonged duration can’t be good for the beer. If you are doing it like Monkish, where you are canning it and selling it out of your back door immediately, that works perfectly, I just have my concerns out quality and shelf life on these beers. What we don’t want as an industry, is someone with less skills jumping on the bandwagon, cutting corners, and making a foul beer that turn a new fan away. If you notice, our IPA The Pupil is hazy. We tried our darndest to clear that beer up.