Interview: head brewer Brian Thorson (Drake’s Brewing)

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Brewers Bay Area

Brian Thorson poses with Drake’s brewer Alexandra Nowell at Blue Palms.

Brian Thorson, the head brewer from Drake’s Brewing, recently traveled from San Leandro to help promote his beers at Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood. The Bay Area native previously worked for Harpoon Brewing in Boston and logged time at Trumer in Berkeley before landing at Drake’s, which started as Lind Brewing in 1989 and switched to Drake’s after Roger Lind sold the company to the Rogers Family Company in 1997. The Rogers family renamed the brewery in honor of Lind’s marquee ale. The current owners are John Martin and Roy Kirkorian, who bought the brewery in 2008. That’s a roundabout way of getting back to Blue Palms, where Thorson discussed his background and approach in more detail.

How did the Drake’s opportunity come about for you?

I grew up in the Bay Area, did a lot of my formative years as a kid and through the whole craft beer evolution. Drake’s has always been one of those breweries that I’ve loved. Then I was a brewer, the opportunity came across. Through word of mouth, I heard Melissa [Myers] was going to move on, so I went over to Drake’s, hung out, had some beers. Melissa, Josh [Miner] and Rodger [Davis] were hanging out. It was one of those typical Fridays, just hanging out, drinking beers. By the end of that time, I decided to work at Drake’s. With Josh, it was a good start for us. It was a night of drinking beers and hanging out. Then all of a sudden I was working at Drake’s.

What was your first beer related job?

The first one after Davis was Harpoon on the East Coast. I moved out to the East Coast as soon as I finished at Davis and started brewing, getting a new brew scene, one that I’d never really experienced. I thought it was a good idea to go over and check out a different area. Might as well do it early, and go from there. I’ve always loved being in California, but I was unsure. I was just going to let it go as far as I could, but my family and most of my friends are from California and still in California, and 3000 miles is a long way to be away. It was just too much, so that’s when I decided to move back. Trumer came along, so I decided to leave and move back to the West Coast, pretty much any place on the West Coast, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, whatever. I was lucky enough to come across Lars Larson’s message, so I spoke with him for a little bit. I knew what I doing about two months before. I knew I was going back to the Bay. I was still there for a couple of months, and Trumer didn’t along until the last two weeks, before we moved back to California. Then Trumer, for a couple of years. It was awesome working in Berkeley. It was a perfect fit for when I came back to the Bay.

What’s your first beer memory?

When I was a wee kid, probably seven, and I was sitting – I lived in Seattle until I was 10 – my dad let me try it, and I didn’t really like it at first. You’re seven. That was the wrong time. I started getting the respect for the flavors, probably in the late ’80s. I’m 41. College is kind of where it started. I started tasting beers and fired up the homebrew. San Luis Obispo – I went to Cal Poly – so I started getting into beers in the early ’90s. I was in the tech field for a little bit and decided I really wanted to do beer. After eight years in the tech field, I decided I was going to brew beers, so I did that.

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

I believe it was a brown, and I thought it tasted great at the time. I don’t know if I would taste it again today, but I didn’t have too many problems with the first few batches. Nothing seemed really crazy or off or anything like that, but my palate was definitely not like it is today. I thought it tasted excellent. Then I got into this stage where I started doing stouts, a lot of stouts. It was stout, stout, stout, stout, then it turned into hops. It was all about the hops for awhile. I like hops.

What’s the most recent beer that you brewed, and what was your approach with it?



Joshua Lurie

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

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