We sat down with Mike Hess, of Mike Hess Brewing, to talk about his time in North Park, how he got started brewing and San Diego’s craft beer scene.
Mike Hess Brewing
Kelsey Prince: First off, thanks for taking the time to sit down with Explore North Park! Let’s start from the top. When did you decide to get into the beer industry?
Mike Hess: In 2009, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal on nano-brewing. As an entrepreneur, the idea of opening essentially a one-man band version of a brewery piqued my interest. I thought that, as a homebrewer already brewing a lot of beer which my friends all loved, that maybe it would be a good proof-of-concept business idea and a lot of fun.
Mike Hess pouring beer.
KP: We’re glad you decided to get into the industry. How did you learn how to brew?
MH: Way back in 1995, I was living and stationed in Philadelphia on a ship (the USS Kennedy) in dry-dock. I got a kit from Home Sweet Home Brew in downtown Philly, as well as Papazian’s book. This was really preinternet, so it was a lot of reading whatever I could find and working with the guys at HSHB. Later, as the internet because more of an outlet, I spent a lot of time asking questions and practicing.
KP: What a great start! So, what led you to opening in North Park? What’s your favorite part about being located here?
MH: Providence! Our friends owned the Evangelical Bible Book Store and one of our good friends worked there during his internship. When it closed, he encouraged us to consider the building for the brewery. At first, we were hesitant, but then all the right pieces came together. The best part is that we love our neighbors, and we feel that we are a cornerstone for this side of North Park as we see the whole ‘hood on the rise with great shops, restaurants and bars, and great people living in and coming to North Park to support us all. We love being on the beginning of the curve in the resurgence of North Park as the neighborhood to be in of San Diego.
KP: What is your favorite beer you’re making right now?
MH: I love our Solis series. Or Hartley. Solis because I love IPAs and we get to make a new San Diego style IPA with new hops and a new recipe every 3-4 weeks. Hartley because I love our seasonals’ ties to the NP history (the Hartleys were the family that bought the original 40 acre tract that became North Park) and it’s a super tasty rye pale ale. Very hop forward and super clean.
KP: What are some common beer misconceptions you hate?
MH: That craft beer only comes in bottles, or that canned beer is inferior or that cans are an inferior package. In almost every way, cans are better for beer, breweries, consumers and the planet. Cans are impenetrable to light which skunks beer, even beer in brown glass. Cans are impenetrable to oxygen which ruins beer, even bottle caps are susceptible to leakage. Cans are lighter weight, so shipping cans requires less fuel – both to get to us empty and to get to the stores full. Cans are 100% recyclable, containan average of 68% recycled material and are recycled at a far higher rate than bottles. And, if you drop your aluminum can, you can still pick it up, pour it into your favorite glass and drink it.
KP: What is a beer and food pairing you’d recommend?
MH: Pizza and one of my IPAs. Whatever I’m eating and one of my beers. I love great food pairings and we’ve been at many great pairings, but at the end of the day, I just like to enjoy whatever I just cooked on the grill paired with my Claritas Kolsch. Or Solis.
KP: When you have amazing beer, sometimes it just pairs with everything! At Hess, you’ve also put on a lot of great events. What’s the beer event you’ve enjoyed most?
MH: Our anniversary party last year was a big hit, and a ton of fun. The Girl Scout fundraiser, pairing cookies and beer was insane! We’ve done a few events with organizations that my wife (Lynda, Dir. of Operations) have a real heart for, too – anything to do with Veterans or Wounded Soldiers (being former Navy Officer myself) and was super proud of the money we raised for Ales for Autism.
KP: Is there anything new or upcoming we should be on the lookout for?
MH: New beers certainly, including our triple IPA. We’re also doing a cool vibe on our Solis series, as we are handing the controls over to our staff departments to work with the brewers on the recipes, so look for those in versions 41 through 46. And of course, we’ll keep doing great fundraisers, including ones for the John Brockington Foundation (organ donation), EXOS (for wounded special forces warriors) and of course our Anniversary Party on the 25th of July which will also benefit two local charities, held right here on Grim Avenue and in the brewery.