Photo by Beth Demmon
Coinciding with the arrival of the world’s most famous roaming brewer (Mikkeller’s Mikkel Borg Bjergsø), San Diego has lost one of its native sons to the call of gypsy brewing in Australia. Wade Hurley, former brewer at Coronado Brewing Company, has headed to Sydney to brew for a number of months before settling down at the yet-to-be-established Capital Brewing Company in Canberra, the up-and-coming craft beer capital of Australia.
“The best part [of going to Australia] is it’s exactly what I want to do,” said Hurley. “One day I want to start my own 20-barrel brewery, so now I get to do it with someone else’s money. There are only two other breweries in Canberra: Wig & Pen and BentSpoke, and they’re both tiny, so Capital is going to come in and be the biggest in the area.”
The opportunity came about when Australian investors contacted Beau Schmitt (owner of Hillcrest’s The Brew Project) to find local brewing talent that could help establish a craft brewery on a continent that hosts a fraction of the breweries compared to San Diego alone, and is known almost exclusively for its macro beers. Cue a phone call to Shawn DeWitt (director of brewing operations at Coronado Brewing Company) and the next thing you know, Hurley was on his way across the globe, bringing his brewing chops and a San Diego reputation with him.
When asked why they wanted someone from San Diego specifically, Hurley reflected, “They wanted someone who’s brewed in the San Diego brewing scene—someone who knows how to brew an IPA and who’s already established. They researched and found that San Diego is the best place for beer, and when I flew out there to meet them and brought some Coronado beers, they were really impressed.”
Besides the beer itself, it’s the talent and reputation that’s attracting global attention to San Diego. And Hurley isn’t the first export. In 2014, Stone Brewing Company announced its new facility in Berlin—the first U.S.-owned brewery in Europe—and recently opened a new East Coast venture in Richmond, Virginia.
“It just goes to show how great the San Diego beer scene is,” said Hurley. “The beer coming out of here is awesome. There are over 100 breweries in the city itself, and there’s a bar with craft beer on every corner. It’s like a revolution. People come here, see what’s happening, and they want to do it, too.”
Having San Diego on your brewing resume continues to increase in value, and while Hurley is one of the first to be poached for his credentials, he’s likely not going to be the last. Breweries in development looking to emulate San Diego’s success will continue to pull from one of the greatest pool of talent in the world. Alternatively, established brew outfits looking to expand will likely be tempted to add their products to the local lineup.
The only thing that’s for sure? Hurley will be back again.
“I’d come back to Coronado for sure,” he said. “It’s the best place I’ve ever worked in my life.”