Interview: Eagle Rock Brewery co-owner Ting Su
3056 Roswell Street
Los Angeles, CA 90065
323 257 7866
View Web SitePhoto courtesy of Andrew Bakofsky
Ting Su joined husband Jeremy Raub and his father Steve Raub in opening Eagle Rock Brewery in 2009. The Naples, Florida, native grew up in a restaurant family, but stepped away from hospitality for years, working as an L.A. County physical therapist for children with special needs. Su left her post earlier this year to help grow Eagle Rock Brewery. She manages Eagle Rock’s business affairs, front of house service and events. Her unofficial title is Director of Tyrannical Studies, and as part of her duties, she leads themed Women’s Beer Forums at the brewery on a regular basis. Her efforts drew attention from the online network WIGS, who filmed a documentary – Ting – that tracks her efforts at craft beer conversion. In the ERB tasting room, she recently shared many hop-fueled insights.
In terms of women and beer, do you think it’s that people think women don’t like beer, or that women don’t like beer?
Probably a little bit of both. People think that women don’t like beer. There are some women who don’t like beer. There are some men that don’t like beer…The biggest differentiation is that I don’t really think it’s exclusive to women so much as it is people in general aren’t aware that they like beer, simply because they haven’t tried ay beer that they have liked, so they might not end up giving it a fair shake.
When you decided to put together the forums, was the idea always to include only women, or did you think about opening it up?
Through the brewery we do quite a few things already that are open to all guests. We have a monthly education series. We do quarterly brewing demos. Those are open to anybody. I wanted it to be female specific because of the fact that as the only woman behind the bar, I would get questioned by a lot of other ladies that came in, or even guys that came in that said, “I can’t get my wife to drink to save my life. What type of beer do you drink?” So I got those types of questions a lot. Also, when I went out to events at bars and stuff like that, the way that I was generally spoken to from bar staff and other people in the industry, is kind of with the assumption that I didn’t know anything about beer.
You say in the documentary that people generally push fruity wheat beers on you.
Yeah, it’s total stereotype. Usually when I walk into a bar at an event or something like that, the automatic assumption is that because I’m female, I must primarily like fruity beers, or for whatever reason, a wheat based beer is generally not hoppy. I shouldn’t say all wheat beers are not hoppy. White Dog IPA from El Segundo is a super hoppy wheat beer, but I think generally, wheat based beer, if you think hefeweizens and witbiers, are not very hoppy, and also the flavor profiles of those particular beers tend to be more fruit side of things and are very non aggressive flavor wise. Generally, it’s a fine gateway beer, but the assumption when I walk into a bar, walk into an event, is I would need a gateway beer, rather than just serving me another style that might be a little more assertively flavored or aggressively hopped.
Was it always the plan to start the brewery with Jeremy and Steve?
What do you mean? Since we decided to start the brewery?
Steve and Jer had started homebrewing together so long ago. It’s something they rekindled when his parents moved out to the West Coast. They were living in Upstate New York and Jer had moved out here after school, so they had not homebrewed together for a number of years. When his parents moved back out to the West Coast and bought a house and finally had a place to brew again, they were really excited about homebrewing together, and they were doing really well on the homebrew competition circuit. At that point, when we used to joke, “One day, we’ll just open a brewery.” It was always that Jer and Steve would be involved in the brewhouse side of things. From the beginning, it was fun to keep it like a family.
Was it a tough decision to leave L.A. County?
Yeah. I tormented about it, actually. I had been practicing for 10 years, and I loved what I did. It was something that meant a lot to me. I loved working with kids with long-term disabilities. It’s something that I excelled at. There’s the emotional attachment to your career and your identity based upon that career. There’s also the notion that I went through a doctorate degree I haven’t even paid off. There was a part of it I had a really hard time letting go of, and even after a month of being here full time, I was just out walking the dog one day, came back from the walk and had to sit Jer down and explain, “Jer, I’m torn up about this and don’t feel like I’m doing anything good for people anymore.” Growing up, I always volunteered, coached kids in playing soccer and stuff like that. I’ve always done volunteer work. To this day, I’m still certified as a snowboard instructor for the disabled and I do that on a volunteer basis as well, at Mammoth. So I’ve always done so much volunteer work and always felt like there was some connection that just kept me going with regards to being able to help others. When I transitioned here full-time, it was a little bit of an emotional moment for me, in the sense that I didn’t know how much good I was actually doing for the world.
So you’ve come to terms with the career change?
I have. I don’t know that it’s so much come to terms, because I’ve just been so busy that I don’t think about it as much. Certainly, I’m not as emotional about the transition now. And I still see the benefits to it. We participate in a lot of events where it’s for charitable organizations. Whenever there is anything catastrophic, we always try to do events to raise funds to donate. We’ll do a food drive and things like that. In our own ways, we still try to help out as much as we can in the community. I still try to make it up to Mammoth to teach whenever I can. In that sense, maybe that’s still feeding the need a bit.
How did you figure out what you would be best served doing with Eagle Rock Brewery? And has it totally shaken out at this point?