Once he agreed to meet me for drinks, Mayor Kevin Faulconer didn't take long to choose a bar. He picked Sessions Public, the craft-beer-focused Point Loma Heights eatery owned by Abel Kaase, a friend with whom Faulconer used to ride bikes. It's sunny and bright throughout the place at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday before the dinner crowd arrives. We take a seat at a table in the back, warmed by intense beams of light coming through a window.
San Diego's new mayor says he likes Sessions' always-changing tap list and the rib-eye fries, a dish he dares not order tonight because it'll wreak havoc on dinner plans later at home—he munches on a regular side of fries instead. Faulconer heads to the bar and returns with a Gunslinger Golden Ale, a low-alcohol brew from Temecula-based Ironfire Brewing, which is run by a former Ballast Point brewer.
"I said, 'Give me something that's kind of midrange, that's tasty,' and this is what he poured," Faulconer says.
No longer a beer guy, I start with a Gold Rush—bourbon, lemon juice and honey, on the rocks. I worried it would be too sweet for me, and it sweet it was, but it's refreshing on a late-spring afternoon.
In former Mayor Jerry Sanders, Faulconer has a tough act to follow, at least when it comes to beer consumption. "I've had many a craft beer with Sanders," he says. "That man could put 'em away. I say that with all enthusiasm—and all respect. Sanders is probably the guy who's responsible for my acquired taste in smoked porter. That's one of his favorites."
Faulconer claims not to be intimidated by Sanders' craft-beer gusto, but I get the feeling he's really trying to up his game. After all, Faulconer says he's traditionally been a gin-and-tonic guy.
"Obviously, in the last couple years, it's been astounding to see the growth [in San Diego's beer industry]. As mayor, I realize this is an economic driver. We have a competitive edge in the craft-brew industry here in the city. There are people coming for craft-beer tours, so there is such a thing as craft-beer tourism. It is growing, and we are on the map.
"The question that keeps coming up is: Are we saturated in San Diego? And the answer so far is no."
Faulconer finishes his beer, heads back to the bar and returns this time with something a touch more potent, a Kalamazoo Stout from Michigan-based Bell's Brewery. "Rich and colorful," he concludes, declining to discuss what flavor notes he detects. My second cocktail is what I always drink, an Old Fashioned (bourbon, sugar and bitters, on the rocks). The mayor, who paid for my first two drinks while I wasn't looking, is done after two, but not me. I end with a Sazerac, which is basically an Old Fashioned but with an absinthe rinse and no ice. Delicious.
Asked for crazy bar stories, perhaps from his time at SDSU, Faulconer's at a loss. No bar brawls. No alcohol-fueled romances (he emphatically claims). I tsk-tsk him for being boring, and he asks me for my own story. Not ready for the question, I struggle to think of something and come up only with a vague tale involving a San Francisco bar, an unknown number of sedatives, a girl and a complete inability to remember a thing that happened that night.
The mayor doesn't have much to say about all that, and things get slightly uncomfortable. So, anyway.
"We should just talk politics," I say.
"How would we not talk politics?" he replies.
So, that's what we did for the next 38 minutes, chatting amiably about homelessness and arguing about the minimum wage, the recent ballot measure concerning Barrio Logan's community plan, the affordable-housing "linkage" fee and the managed-competition program for city services.
Wouldn't you know it: I changed his mind on all of it. He now thinks the minimum wage should be $15, regrets his positions on Barrio Logan and the linkage fee and plans to end managed competition.
Yeah, and Jerry Sanders is gonna switch to appletinis.