Photo by Andrew Dyer
Jill Davidson, San Diego Brewers Guild interim president.
When the San Diego Brewers Guild was founded in 1997 there were fewer than 10 breweries in San Diego County. When San Diego Beer Week begins on Nov. 4, the brew house tally will stand at 129.
Jill Davidson, the western regional sales manager at Pizza Port, was named interim president of the SDBG in July when former president Mike Sardina took a job at Vermont's Hill Farmstead Brewery. Davidson is serving out the rest of Sardina's term and will then helm the guild throughout 2017.
This continuity is important for the SDBG. As the industry has grown so has the guild's potential for influence. At the San Diego Beer Week Summit on Oct. 11, moderator Chris Cochran implored the guild to raise its voice on local issues such as Measure C (Chargers Stadium) and Measure D (Citizen's Initiative). Both initiatives involve hotel occupancy tax increases and could re-direct and cut funds from the Tourism Marketing District.
San Diego Beer Week is supported in part by the Tourism Marketing District. That support could be affected if Measure C or D passes. Davidson said the guild has not taken a stance on either measure.
"Historically, we've relied on the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA)," Davidson said. "They are in Sacramento, and Executive Director Tom McCormick is in very close contact with the capitol. [But] we've become such an important factor in the San Diego economy that might require a little more focus on the regional level."
Davidson said that although there are internal discussions on potentially weighing in on these and other political issues, the guild has not yet come to a decision.
With layoffs of dozens of long-time Stone Brewing employees, many may have wondered if the craft bubble had burst. Stone pinned the layoffs on, among other things, competition from smaller neighborhood breweries. Davidson said this competition was the nature of business and should not be perceived as a sign of decline.
"Now the little guys are challenging the bigger guys," she said. "That's driving some of the pioneers in the industry to reevaluate their recipes to accommodate what's happening out there. Look at Karl Strauss, it's amazing. It started with Mosaic IPA and then they win the sour beer category (this year) at GABF."
Industry consolidation continues to be an issue in San Diego and across the country. One potential move the SDBG could make would be to begin conjunctive labeling of guild-member breweries. The former SDBG president was fairly sour on the idea, but Davidson said it was still part of the conversation.
"It's increasingly challenging for the consumer to vote with their dollars," she said. "As an educational tool, a stamp that says 'The SDBG approves this beer' could aid the process. Is that where we want to position ourselves? It's still a conversation. It hasn't gained much momentum."
For the eighth annual Beer Week, Davidson recommends the VIP Brewer's Takeover at Guildfest as well as Battle of the Guilds at Toronado, a friendly competition between brewers guilds from Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
"I want us to be the best 'Beer Week' in the nation," she said. "There are a lot of places vying for the title 'Capital of Craft.' We are the capital of craft."
San Diego Beer week is Nov. 4- 13 at venues throughout the county. A full schedule can be found at SDBW.org.