Societe co-founder Travis Smith is leaving that influential San Diego brewery


Travis Smith is leaving Societe Brewing, the Kearny Mesa brewery he and Doug Constantiner founded in 2012. Smith’s last day is Friday.

“We had different views on the future of Societe,” said Constantiner, who will remain as the brewery’s CEO. “We were best friends and partners and he was very much my mentor. Over time, we just kind of went different ways.”

The little brewery has forged a huge reputation, winning medals at national and international beer competitions. Societe has been known for its polished beers and its tightly-focused business model. Few of its beers are bottled — 85 percent of its sales come in restaurants and bars, and the brewery operates its own distribution arm.

In 2018, Societe produced about 4,000 barrels of beer, making it one of the county’s smaller breweries.

“This is a beloved brewery that has done a great job of ingratiating itself with craft beer fans,” said Gonzalo Quintero, who teaches the business of beer at San Diego State University. “This is a brand that was built on the integrity of their beers. Quality has never been an issue.”

Constantiner declined to cite specific issues that prompted his former partner’s departure. Smith, who was unavailable for immediate comment, posted a message on Facebook, thanking family, friends, brewers, beer fans and his former partner for years of support.

“While it saddens me to leave Societe behind,” Smith wrote, “I do look to the future with hope, for moving onto whatever is next.”

Smith began his career at two of nation’s leading craft breweries: Santa Rosa’s Russian River and Orange County’s The Bruery, where he met Constantiner, a former Wall Street investment banker who abandoned high finance to pursue a career in beer.

In September 2010, Smith took charge of brewing operations at the struggling La Jolla Brew House. That was a brief, unhappy experience. By December, he had left the Brew House, citing disagreements over pay and materials.

That same month, Smith and Constantiner announced they were planning a new brewery, Societe.

In its seven-year history, Societe has won four medals at the Great American Beer Festival and two medals at the World Beer Cup. In last year’s Union-Tribune readers’ poll, Societe’s The Pupil was named the area’s top IPA.

Smith will be succeeded as head brewer by Teddy Gowan, whose four years at Societe followed a stint at Redland’s Hangar 24 Brewing.

Constantiner said Societe will soon open a laboratory as part of a “quality assurance/quality control program” and will bring to its tasting room a single barrel series, each month tapping a new beer that was aged in a single barrel.

Two new IPAs are on Societe’s spring schedule: The Brewster, brewed to support the Pink Boots Society, dedicatd to advancing women in the beer industry, and The Jackaroo, using only Southern Hemisphere hops. Also planned is the revival of The Dandy, a Citra-hopped IPA last made in 2017.

“We have some good stuff coming in the pipeline,” Constantiner said. “We always wanted to be the pride of San Diego — we want San Diegans to say, ‘Oh, Societe, that’s our local brewery.’”