Photo by Andrew Dyer
Rudy Pollorena Jr
Rudy Pollorena Jr. is a recognizable figure on the beer-festival circuit. The bearded, bespectacled artist and designer is the entrepreneur behind Craft Beerd (no relation to the Beerdist column), which will celebrate its third anniversary next month. Shirts, hats, prints and glassware with a San Diego focus are his signature products. Like many of the breweries from which he draws inspiration, the company is beginning to outgrow its modest beginnings.
Pollorena graduated from Hilltop High School in Chula Vista, and, after a year at San Diego State University, was back in the South Bay at Southwestern College.
“I wanted to start taking art classes,” he said. “At the same time, I was taking a computer class in graphic design. That was where I started to hone in on my art.”
Despite his interest in graphic design, Pollorena was soon designing in a different medium— video games. But, after 10 years in that industry, and far from San Diego, he became restless.
“I was living everywhere but San Diego, there weren’t any game jobs here,” he said. “I was living in Georgia. I loved it, but wanted to come home.”
Pollorena began doing freelance graphic design under the name 8-bit Chicken.
“Basically, I was making the least amount of money I’ve ever made,” he said, “but was happy because I was back home.”
Pollorena launched Craft Beerd in March 2013 after sharing a one-off print on social media, the first iteration of his “Beer Matrix.”
“I came up with the piece just for fun, to add it to my portfolio,” he said. “I started playing around with brewery names and it ended up being a crossword (design). I shared it on Facebook to every brewery that was on the matrix.”
The piece was soon shared among breweries and beer fans alike. Pollorena said the response was encouraging.
“After that I started working with different breweries and bars, leaving what was 8-bit Chicken to the beer-focused Craft Beerd,” he said.
Pollorena runs his business with his wife, Amy, from their North Park home. He said the business should outgrow its space by summer.
“Our living room is our warehouse,” he said. “I have racks and racks of stuff.”
Pollorena said San Diego’s beer community inspires him.
“Going to the bars, the breweries, and meeting all the people and making friends, it all starts with beer, and the love of beer,” he said. “Talking passionately about breweries and the culture in San Diego, you feel like everyone’s your friend. You make friends easily.”
Pollorena said Craft Beerd would continue developing unique products, but that his renowned Beer Matrix is discontinued.
“The latest matrix had 101 unique brewery names,” he said. “To keep updating that year after year, I would have to make two shirts.”
Pollorena’s story exemplifies how San Diego’s robust brewing industry creates opportunities— not just in the jobs created directly—but also those enabled by the resulting culture. It’s homegrown entrepreneurs like him who benefit when consumers value independence, and make it a priority to support local businesses.