Interview: Black Market brewmaster Andrew Marshall

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Brewmaster California

Black Market Brewing Co. founder Andrew Marshall isn’t the first man to get Temecula’s wine drinkers thinking about beer. That would be Vinnie Cilurzo, who founded Blind Pig Brewing Co. in 1994 and spent two years in town before heading north to establish the now-famed Russian River Brewing Company. Still, Marshall is keeping with that type of crafty legacy, brewing beers like the Bavarian style hefeweizen, rye IPA and Dunkelweizen. We met at the L.A. Beer Week fest on October 23, and Marshall better explained his connection to craft beer and the vision for the brewery.

What is the criteria for a beer that you brew?

It’s got to be something we’re inspired by. It’s got to be something we’re passionate about. It’s got to be something that stands shoulder to shoulder with all the amazing breweries that brew here in Southern California.

What was the first beer that you ever brewed, and how did it turn out?

It was our Bavarian style hefeweizen, which is our flagship beer.

What about before you started the brewery?

Before I started the brewery, I was a homebrewer for eight years. For me, just like with anything you’re trying to learn and understand, it was a learning curve. I started off brewing other people’s recipes, other people’s kits. I had this crazy inspiration moment where I was up in this ski resort in Colorado. There was a forest fire, and I was in the middle of smoky swill of the air, and the red color of the fire, and the smell from the pine trees all around me. My first creative moment, that I’ve ever had, was thinking this beer would be awesome, with a red color to it, and the smoked malt, and the piney hops. I tried to be creative with everything, with art and music, and failed miserably because something was wrong, but in this weird moment, I had this crazy inspirational moment, my first creative thought. That’s kind of the moment when I figured out beer is the canvas on which I can express my art.

What was that beer?

It was just a homebrew that I made, and I loved it. We have yet to do it commercially, but more importantly than how good or bad the beer was, because it was okay, was that it basically set the standard for me that this is my creative inspiration.

How did Black Market come about, and why Temecula?

Temecula, I’ll address that first. I’m a Temecula guy. I’m a graduate of Temecula Valley High. I moved to Orange County for a couple years, as much as I love Orange County, when I had a couple kids, I wanted to have the community that matched my personality. It was going to be raising my kids in Temecula. I’m a Temecula guy. I just had my 20 year high school reunion at the brewery in Temecula, and it was a beautiful thing to show that I really am a grassroots hometown guy.

As far as the name Black Market, it’s twofold. First is that during Prohibition, Temecula was a wet town. So you could actually go into downtown – Old Town now – but formerly downtown Temecula, and during Prohibition, there was a speakeasy there, there was a boxing ring, where they held unlicensed fights, as well as the brothel upstairs. They were pretty much a black market town during that time. Secondly, it’s an homage to Blind Pig, now Russian River, owned by the rock star, one of the gods of the brewing world, Vinnie Cilurzo, who now owns Russian River. His first brewery was there from about 1994 to 1996, 1997, and we wanted to make sure we were acknowledging the path that was cut for us, acknowledging the path that made our path easier, with our name.

Do you have a first beer memory, good or bad?

I have several first beer memories. The one that is most prevalent is the one that inspired me to first brew in the first place. This is probably in the late ’90s – I wish I could remember the date but I can’t. When I started drinking beer, I started drinking American industrial lagers, and while they were good socially, they weren’t interesting or inspiring, so I started experimenting with other beers. First and foremost, was probably Black Dog honey raspberry ale, that you could get at Claim Jumper. It was like – oh – there’s something other than Coors or Bud Light that actually has some flavor to it and is interesting. So following on that stepping stone, the real a-ha, Eureka moment was at a friend’s wedding up in Tahoe when there was this green tap handle – I was like, okay, there are alternatives to industrial American lagers – and this guy poured me a pint of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I remember putting it to my nose and putting it to my mouth and almost falling out of my chair. It was like, “I cannot believe that beer can taste like this. This is unbelievable, this is amazing, this is the bud of my brewing experience.” I was sitting there and just being floored by how good beer could possibly be. Since then, my palate has developed and changed, and in addition to that amazing Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, now you see the artisanal beers that so many breweries are putting out, and this is just heaven for beer geeks. Today’s culture, especially Southern California culture, is just heaven for a beer geek like me.

Would you say that you have any beer mentors?

Yeah, oh, of course. I have beer inspiration, people that inspired me through the beer that they made. We’ve been very fortunate, with great success. We’re just over two years old, and there’s no way we’d be here without the crazy humbleness and the crazy generosity of information from Mitch [Steele] at Stone, from Peter [Zien] at Alesmith, from Jim [Crute] at Lightning, on and on and on…Mike at Green Flash as well is a direct mentor…A lot of the guys in San Diego. Because I’m this guy that knows nothing starting up, and I’ve got no experience or talent, but passion. These guys are patting me on the head, it’s like, “If you have any questions, we’ll gladly answer it for you.” They’ve been phenomenal. I would have to say the entirety of the amazing San Diego craft beer community has been my mentor, and I’m very proud to say, since we’ve had our little bit of success, as new brewers, there’s 800 breweries in planning, as we speak, in this moment, in the U.S. They’re not shy, thankfully, about coming to other established breweries. They’re not shy about competition. They know, they understand that this is going to be a complement to what we’re doing, but it’s great now that I can share my limited knowledge and experience with the up and coming breweries and just kind of pay it forward. It’s an amazing community. I wouldn’t be in this business if there wasn’t the camaraderie and brotherhood. If it was cutthroat like every other business is – I challenge you to find another business that is not cutthroat. I challenge you to find another industry that is so embracing as the craft beer community.



Joshua Lurie

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

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