Interview: Ironfire Brewing co-founder Greg Webb

Craft Beer Temecula

Greg Webb worked for Miami Grille and Ballast Point Brewing before co-founding Ironfire Brewing with John Maino in 2011, producing “Ales For Outlaws” in Temecula. Webb shared several craft beer insights on September 26 at 38 Degrees Ultimate Flight Night.

At what point did you know that you would work with craft beer for a living?

It happened when I was bartending at a restaurant/brewpub that no longer exists in San Diego. The place used to be called Miami Grille, and they had a little brewpub in back that was leased out by Mission Brewery. That was the first place Mission Brewery ever brewed. I was bartending at the restaurant Miami Grille, and Ray [Astamendi], the brewer, and I frequently started chatting about beer. I started tasting beers he sold at the restaurant, since they had a little contract deal going on at the time, and working and homebrewing with him. Actually learning a little bit about production in my free time from bartending is when I got into craft beer. I sort of fell into it. It wasn’t something I had been dreaming about. I literally just started to get to know people in the craft beer scene in San Diego and one thing led to another. Before I knew it, I was a keg washer at Ballast Point.

So that’s where you met your business partner?

Yes. His name’s John Maino. I started out at Ballast Point as a keg washer, along with John, pretty much at the bottom of the barrel. The two of us worked our way up from keg washers to brewers. From there, it’s kept going.

How did you know that the two of you would be a good fit?

John had always planned on opening his own brewpub. He’d talked about it the whole time, since I met him. About three years into working at Ballast Point, John was actually the guy who trained me to brew. Then we ended up working the same schedule. We’d work the same days during the week, then we’d work Saturdays. He did an early brew, I’d do a late brew. Over time, we talked more and more about what he was planning to do in the future, and about brewing in general. He was kind of my mentor within the brewery. About six months before we actually branched off from Ballast Point to open Ironfire, his plans with his cousin to open a brewery had fallen through. He had written a business plan, done the work, and his cousin backed out of it. At that point, we wanted to do something more than be production brewers. That’s when he approached me about opening a brewery, and showed me the business plan. That’s when we actually started getting the ball rolling.

How did you end up locating Temecula?

Temecula’s good. The majority of our distribution is done in San Diego. That works well for us. That’s where our first distributor was. I was living in San Diego for about a decade. John was born and raised in North County San Diego, so we just know a lot of people there, especially coming from Ballast Point. San Diego’s really been our bread and butter from the get-go. Temecula’s been good, and it’s really an emerging beer scene. Our tasting room does really well on the weekends. We have a lot of regulars that come in during the week, but all in all, the City of Temecula is up and coming. We have some beers really on-board with the craft beer, others not so much, but even the bigger chains in Temecula right now want to pick up the local breweries, such as Red Robin, BJ’s, Yard House. We definitely have big things on the horizon, even in the city.

What does a beer have to be for you to brew it at Ironfire?

It has to be something the two of us want to drink, something we both agree on about wanting to drink. We’re definitely all about the beers we like to drink. People often ask us when we don’t brew hefeweizen. It’s honestly because we don’t like to drink it. The beers we like to drink, we’re going to know more about, we’re going to be able to understand better and be able to have a better understanding of the flavors we’re looking for to come out.

What’s the most recent beer you created, and what was that approach?

The most recent beer, a brand new beer we created that we both love, has been our New Hell India Pale Lager. It’s made with all New Zealand hops, dry hopped with Nelson. It’s a lager, fermented at lager temperatures, brewed with lager yeast. However, it is as hoppy as an IPA. It’s very deceiving. You pick up the beer, it’s light, clear, see-through, doesn’t look like it will have a whole lot of flavor, and pretty much just wows your palate.

How do you go about naming your beers at Ironfire?



Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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