Interview with a brewmaster: Paul Sangster
With a nod to the famous Roosevelt quote, you might say Paul Sangster speaks softly and carries a big stick.
In other words, this humble and unassuming master brewer holds the weight and power of a craft beer rock star. From his homebrewing genesis in 1992 to his stunning Great American Beer Festival wins in 2015, Sangster is a brewer to know.
Who else sets out to master every Beer Judge Certification Program category (the essential word in judging homebrews) and win medals in each? Answer: this guy. Incidentally, he accomplished his goal. Currently a BJCP master judge, Sangster won the Ninkasi Award as the Top Homebrewer in the World and the Sierra Nevada California Homebrewer of the Year in 2011.
“After winning Ninkasi, I ran out of goals for homebrewing!” Sangster said.
Fellow homebrewer Guy Shobe, a fellow QUAFF member, approached Sangster, and they agreed to open Rip Current brewery. After only one week of fundraising, the partners opened in December 2012 in San Marcos. The North Park location was added in January 2015.
2015 was indeed a magic year for Sangster: Like every brewery, Rip Current was allowed to enter five beers for GABF judging. They were thrilled winning first place with their Breakline Bock and second place with their Black Lagoon Scottish Strong.
“We get to the stage, and we get our medal,” Sangster said. “It seemed to take 20 minutes to high five our way back to our seats (laughing). And then as soon as we got there, they announced that we won Very Small Brewing Company of the Year.”
Sangster also won Very Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year.
“Every California brewer sought us out and congratulated us. I had more bro hugs than I think I’ve ever had in my life,” Sangster said.
Paul now is active in the San Diego Brewers Guild alongside President Jill Davidson to help other small brewers reach their goals.
So what’s next for Paul and Rip Current? Look for the brewery to start canning at the end of the year. On the more immediate front, they will be releasing a 2-year Heaven Hill Bourbon barrel-aged version of their imperial porter with coffee and vanilla beans.
Q: How old were you when you took your first drink?
A: (laughs) Oh boy ...12.
Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
A: I’d probably still be a software engineer.
Q: If you could have one superpower?
A: To heal people. Including myself.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
A: Enjoying every moment of what you do with the people that you are closest to.
Q: What makes you laugh?
A: When ridiculous things happen at an unexpected time.
Q: Greatest honor in life?
A: Being a dad.
Q: One wish?
A: Success for all of the people around me.
Q: Favorite vacation spot?
A: Belgium, I’ve been there 30 times. (if you are wondering why, Sangster said many of them were business trips as an engineer).
Q: Desert island music?
A: U2, my first concert was during the War album in 1983.
Q: What is your personal mantra?
A: Work hard and play hard.
Q: If you could invite three people living or dead to dinner, who would they be?
A: Bono, Vinnie Cilurzo, Alan Turing.
Q: Your last meal on earth?
A: Pepperoni pizza and Rip Current In the Curl IIPA.
North Park tasting room and restaurant is open seven days a week. Hours vary, but generally open until 10 p.m. during weekdays and until midnight Friday and Saturday. San Marcos location is open Wednesday-Sunday. Hours vary daily. Tuesdays are taco and trivia night, and find discounts on growler fills at North Park from Monday-Thursday, and in San Marcos on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
With 18 years in the restaurant and beverage industry and more than 850 reviews under her belt, Laurie Delk is a one-stop guide to all things craft beer, wine and spirits. You can follow Delk on Twitter @100beers30days or Instagram @sandiegobeer. Send ideas for featured drinks to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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