AleSmith Brewing Company celebrates 24 years with three-day party

Brewmaster Peter Zien reflects on lessons and memories before the anniversary festivities.


As one of the renowned veterans of San Diego craft beer, AleSmith Brewing Company has been creating masterpieces of liquid delight for thirsty locals since 1995. Under the discerning eye, impeccable skill and unwavering dedication of brewmaster Peter Zien, AleSmith has been consistently adored and respected for its high-quality, true-to-style and delicious offerings.

Celebrating its 24th anniversary August 9-11, the brewery is hosting a three-day party for the ages with live music, art and exclusive collaborations and releases. Nine collaboration beers will be unleashed, including four with former AleSmith owner and current Gravity Heights brewmaster Skip Virgilio, called OG Barleywine, aged in bourbon, peach sherry, cognac and Islay Scotch barrels. Other collaborations include Local Perc, a coffee IPA brewed with Bird Rock Coffee Roasters; Spirited Crew, a barrel-aged Dunkles Bock with Mahalat Spirts; Crave of Wonders, a tangerine blonde team-up with The Cravory; Shan Guava, a guava IPA with Extraordinary Desserts; and Coastal Connect, a New Zealand-style pilsner brewed with Faction Brewing. And for longtime fans of the brewery, the 2019 Speedway Stout will be released.

The anniversary event begins with a ticketed CheeseSmith and AleSmith pairing on August 9th with Zien, followed by two free days of music and art, with over 40 artists exhibiting and live tunes provided by Disappointing Joseph and Sully & The Souljahs on Saturday and The Walter Brothers and Glass Radio on Sunday. Rounding out the weekend is a ticketed barrel-aged beer sensory tasting with AleSmith quality supervisor Peter Cronin, including eight selections and a tasteful education on aging.

PACIFIC spoke with Zien about the last 24 years of lessons and memories at AleSmith:

What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned over the past 24 years?

PZ: Never compromise on quality, and stay hungry when it comes to learning, improvement, innovation and striving to be the best. Always practice integrity, stay humble and treat everyone (customers, employees, vendors and other brewers) with kindness and respect. You’ll need a favor one day, and building your karma bank is good for the soul.

What’s one standout memory you can share with readers about your years with AleSmith?

PZ: One that comes to mind is the moment that I learned we had won the coveted Small Brewery of the Year Trophy at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival in Denver. At the time, we were struggling to stay afloat and I couldn’t afford to attend the festival. I was at home on a sunny Saturday morning playing Guitar Hero to take my mind off of work when my texts and emails started blowing up. We entered only four beers, all that we could afford, and each medaled, amounting to two Gold Medals and two Silver Medals. What made it even more memorable was that we did it with what would be the equivalent of a game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth: With 3 categories remaining out of 92 total categories, we went Gold, Silver, Gold and brought home the trophy. I think that I cried for three straight days out of happiness and pride for my six employees. We had climbed the mountain!

One word to describe craft beer in San Diego.

PZ: Camaraderie. It’s what sets San Diego apart from other craft-beer-centric cities.

What’s one tip you could give to young, aspiring brewers who want to get where you are someday?

PZ: If you have the passion, drive and backing to make your dream come true, then go for it! There is always room for the next great brewer, and one shouldn’t let the large number of breweries in our area scare you away. The restaurant business is similarly tough and crowded, but talented chefs will continue to open restaurants in food mecca cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago, and some will make it. Same with aspiring brewers. I gave up my degree in law to follow my passion, and I haven’t regretted it for a single moment!

Attendance to AleSmith’s 24th Anniversary weekend is free. For more information and tickets for the specialty events, visit

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