by Steve Dolan
In the summer of 2013, Michael Peacock of Clairemont was working in sales for a national beverage-gas supplier, NuCO2, and heard about the College of Extended Studies’ Business of Craft Beer Certificate Program from several of his brewery customers.
“They spoke about some new beer-related educational programs that were being developed, and the timing was perfect because I had been developing some draught beer training for my employer to support a national draught quality program that we were involved in,” said Peacock. “I was actively searching and I scored big time. I realized early on that the craft beer industry was exploding and I needed to do everything possible to be a part of it.”
One year later, Peacock and 26 fellow classmates celebrated their status as the Business of Craft Beer program’s first-ever graduating class. “I am honored and blessed to be a part of this group of craft beer lovers,” said Peacock. “We’ve all come a long way in a short time and it’s exciting to see the enthusiasm every time we’re together. I’ve worked in the foodservice industry for over 35 years and have never been more energized about the business than I am now. I look forward to teaming up with my fellow graduates and seeing what we can do to take craft beer in San Diego to the next level.”
Next year, his “fellow graduates” will include his son, daughter, and future son-in-law, who are all current students of the program. I sat down with him recently to find out more.
SD: Looks like the Business of Craft Beer program met your expectations.
MP: That answer is a huge YES! I knew going in that the craft beer community was all about the things that I love about working in the hospitality industry. I believe that we are built for fellowship. Craft beer is reviving that culture. From the very first class to every interaction I had in this program
and out in the trade, this belief has been reinforced. The program brings that into the classroom. We are clearly plowing new ground with this program and it’s only a matter of time before we see similar programs pop up.
What kind of draught beer training were you developing for your employer when you began taking Business of Craft Beer courses?
In 2009, the Center for Draught Excellence was rolled out and San Diego was one of the first markets to implement the program, whose primary goal was to improve the quality of draught systems. Many systems throughout the country were found to be having a negative impact on the quality of the beer being poured. There was clearly a lot of work to be done. At the end of 2013, I made the move from NuCO2 to Glacier Design Systems. Now 100 percent of my time is dedicated to beer! I design and sell draught systems for breweries, brew pubs, restaurants, bars, taverns and public and private houses. My job is to design a system that will get the beer out of the keg and into the glass so that the drinker can experience the beer in the way that the brewer intended. The purpose of a draught system is to have zero impact on the beer.
What pearls of wisdom did you come away with in Exploring Craft Beer, Beer Styles,
Brewery Startup, or other classes?
Exploring Craft Beer pearl – My taste buds need to be tuned up. There is a whole new world of flavors out there. That includes tree bark and rocks.
Beer Styles I pearl – When it comes to beer, try everything. Never be afraid to loudly exclaim, “This beer is bitchin’!”
Marketing Craft Beer pearl – There are many thirsty people out there that have no idea about how great craft beer really is.
Brewery Start-Up I pearl – Do not sacrifice quality. Right now, it’s safe to say, “If you build it...”
Front of the House Management pearl – There are more messed-up draught systems out there than I thought. Don’t be that place.
In the Craft Beer and Food Pairing class, did you discover any odd but effective
Every week was almost overwhelming. The beer dinner at URBN St. Brewing Co. was a truly unique dining experience. I never would have ordered any of the items served prior to this class. It all worked beautifully: chorizo and poached egg paired with Firestone Walker Jack Black Rye IPA; truffle mashed-potato pie with pork belly and aged white cheddar, paired with URBN St. Brown & Deschutes Black Butte Porter; and pan-seared scallops with buttery pancetta, roasted tomatoes and smoked mashed potatoes, paired with URBN St. Saison & Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet.
We discussed beer and donuts in the class ... and I have since discovered my new “breakfast of champions.” A chocolaty donut with almost any Robust Porter or Imperial Stout. Delicious.
How do you plan on applying the knowledge you gained?
I’m using all newly learned information every day. Ask anyone I come in contact with. They hear about the latest beer style I’ve tried, the newest brewery or pub, why their beer doesn’t taste right, why they should become Cicerone®-certified and so on. Since I work around beer people all of the time, it’s very easy to get into a conversation where we share knowledge.
What do you think is the biggest strength of the Business of Craft Beer Certificate Program?
Diversity. This program has attracted people from many different areas. There are home brewers to non-brewers. There are people inside the industry, in jobs that support the industry, people that want to start their own brewery, and people who are looking for the next big thing. What brings us all together is craft beer. The inclusive nature of the craft beer culture here in San Diego shines through brightly. We are all in this thing together. I love that.
Any thoughts on the caliber of instructors?
The instructors are all top in their specialty. There is an undeniable passion that fills every class. They have been a great representation of others that work in the industry. It has been very obvious to me that their level of commitment to the program is at the highest level. They all have expressed an obligation to every student to deliver something relevant and useful. They certainly have delivered. Without question, any student could reach out to any instructor outside of the classroom with a question and receive their support.
How do you think the networking aspect of the program will benefit you?
My network has grown exponentially. Besides everyone I have met in the classroom, there have been several outside events where my involvement in the program has allowed me to meet many others in the industry. I have embraced the role of student ambassador and that has led to many worthwhile connections. My sales continue to grow because of the people I’ve met through this program.
Your son, daughter, and future son-in-law are now taking the Business of Craft Beer program. Is there a family brewery in your future?
The Peacock family loves craft beer! My wife, Tanya, heads up all quality control and enjoys going with me to check out any location in the name of research. John Peacock, 21, is the brewer. He brews on an all-grain tiered system. He is actively developing his core recipes. We all love giving feedback on his latest creations. Some excellent beers are in his future.
Katherine Goodheart (Kadi), 26, is the baker. She’s working as the assistant baker at the commissary kitchen for Urge, Brothers Provisions, and The Barrel Room. Many students in the program have sampled her line of “Craft Baked Goods” in class. She continues to develop recipes using various spent grains. (Editor’s note: Her chocolate chip cookies are remarkable.)
Jesus de la Torre (Chef Chuy), 37, is the chef extraordinaire. Chuy is the chef/GM at Café Merlot at the Bernardo Winery. He has developed a line of beer-based condiments. All are amazing. Chuy and Kadi will be married at the Karl Strauss brewery in March 2015.
The Peacock family brewery is in development. Realistically, it will be a few years before it comes to life. John needs to finish his engineering degree before he can brew full time. In the meantime, we’re discussing rolling out some smaller beer-related ventures. No doubt we will tap into the resources of the program for assistance.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue their dream of a career in
the craft beer industry?
Dive in. Start right now. Get a book, read a beer blog, go to an event, volunteer for an event, take a brewery tour, ask your parents or crazy uncle why they drink that beer. Go to a bottle shop and stand in the craft beer aisle until someone offers to help you make a selection. Try a beer that you have never heard of. My advice is to take action on your dream and see where it goes. Find someone like me or anyone else in the program and go have a beer. Chances are you live or work close to a place that serves great beer. Go there and watch as people take that first sip. Ask them what they’re drinking. See what happens next. Here is the reality. It will be hard work wherever you decide to enter this industry, but the rewards are almost unspeakable.
Go take a selfie with the Craft Beer Capital billboard (in North Park at University Avenue and Texas Street, and in East Village at 15th and F streets). Put that picture on your phone, home and work computer, refrigerator, bathroom mirror, dashboard of your car. You can be a part of what that sign represents.
What are your three favorite beers?
Trick question. I will give my answer for this week: 1. Green Flash – Green Bullet DIPA, 2.The Bruery – Smoking Wood Imperial Smoked Porter, and 3. Anchor Steam – California Common. Ask me again next week.
Anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask?
I want to throw out a huge Thank You! to all of the behind-the-scenes supporters of this program. Every week we came into class with a set-up of clean glassware, dump buckets, crackers, etc. There is a team of volunteers and staffers that make that happen. This magic does not happen without their efforts.