Chuck Silva, a brewer who helped turn a small Vista company into a bicoastal powerhouse, has left Green Flash Brewing Co. to open a brewery in San Luis Obispo County.
"The time was right," said Silva, 48, whose resignation was effective Monday. "I've always wanted to have my own little operation, and my wife was very encouraging. So we decided to go for it."
A San Luis Obispo native whose mother still lives there, Silva has been a key figure in San Diego beer. The soft-spoken Navy veteran was a homebrewer when he enrolled in courses at Davis' American Brewers Guild. In 1998, he joined Paul Segura at Hang Ten, a brewpub in the Gaslamp Quarter.
His tenure there was brief - Hang Ten closed in February 2000. Ditto his next two stops, the Hops! franchise in University Town Centre, which closed within two years of his arrival, and Karl Strauss, where Segura had become brewmaster. But in 2004, he took the senior brewing post at year-old Green Flash, beginning a noteworthy 11-year run.
Initially, Silva focused on creating new beers. He quickly had two hits: West Coast IPA (2005) and Le Freak (2006), a pioneering hybrid Belgian-style trippel and U.S.-style imperial IPA.
"The level of the beers went through the roof," said Mike Hinkley, Green Flash CEO and co-founder. "Chuck took us to the next level."
Sales boomed. This spring, the Brewers Association - a national trade group - listed Green Flash as the county's fourth largest craft brewery and the country's 48th largest. (The other locals were Stone, ninth largest in the nation; Ballast Point, 31st; and Karl Strauss, 45th.)
In 2011, Green Flash abandoned its original Vista offices for a 44,000-square-foot facility in Mira Mesa. In 2014, it acquired Alpine Beer. This spring, it opened a separate shop for barrel-aged and bottle-conditioned beers, Cellar 3. And by next summer, a full-scale Green Flash brewery will open in Virginia Beach.
A newlywed, Silva said he enjoyed working at Green Flash but would like to spend more time with family and friends. And he'd like to brew on a more intimate scale.
A friend and colleague sympathized.
"You get to a point where you are managing people, managing production schedules rather than brewing," said Segura, Karl Strauss' brewmaster. "Most of us who got into craft brewing got into this not to see how much beer we could make, but to make good beer."
Erik Jensen, Green Flash's former head brewer, has been promoted to brewmaster.
Silva's resignation capped a frantic month in the San Diego beer scene. On Sept. 10, MillerCoors announced that it is buying Miramar's Saint Archer, the first acquisition of a local craft brewery by a multinational brewing corporation. Hinkley received a flurry of inquiries Monday, asking if Silva's departure signaled Green Flash's sale. No, he said: "We are just not for sale."
The month also saw Greg Koch, co-founder of Stone, announce he's leaving the CEO's office to become the Escondido brewery's executive chairman.
And last Saturday, the county's breweries won 19 medals at the nation's largest competition, the Great American Beer Festival. One medal, a gold, went to Green Flash's Le Freak.