In 2012, Scot Blair went from publican to brewery owner when he opened the Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery in East Village. Part of his mission with that operation was to provide young brewers a chance to make a name for themselves. That ethos is alive after the hiring of Monkey Paw's third and newest head brewer, Nick Norton, a former behind-the-scenes fermentationist from Stone Brewing's Liberty Station brewpub. Norton's predecessor oversaw ale-making at Monkey Paw and sister-operation South Park Brewing. Blair is now in charge of brewing at the latter and, although busier than ever, he took some time to tell us all about it.
PACIFIC: What made Norton a standout candidate and how's he putting his stamp on Monkey Paw?
Scot Blair: It had less to do with brewing skills and more to do with his ethos. Nick carries himself with a humble confidence, and I respect that. It's far easier to teach a smart person to brew good beer than it is to teach a code of ethics to anyone that doesn't desire to make people around them better. Success comes from a team-first mentality. All our beers are becoming Nick's beers. He is making measured adjustments to stay consistent with and develop beer profiles as we see fit. He is going to be great!
How's it been taking control over South Park's brewing program?
It's not a complete face-lift, but it's definitely a different gear. I'm a completely different person (from the previous brewer), so obviously things lean toward my specific tastes, with the beers leaning towards "balance first" flavor. It's all about working hard, building a stronger team and making it all about the story of what is in the glass. South Park's portfolio includes a classic 80 schilling Scottish-style ale, a Kolsch, a few single, double and triple IPAs as well as some fun one-offs. I'm just looking to learn, refine and improve with each brew.
What's on the horizon for your businesses?
I have some plans for Monkey Paw, namely getting some core beers produced and packaged on a larger scale with some sensible distribution. This began a year and a half ago, and it's close to coming to fruition.
What are your views on the state of San Diego's brewing industry?
Our region's reputation has been hurt by the infiltration of Big Beer with their fake craft brands, as well as crafty businesspeople who care more about silly trends and Instagram likes than this city's history and legacy. That said, we are the strongest beer city in the world, and there are still altruistic entrepreneurs with brilliant old-school ideologies doing exciting, new-school things. I just hope more brewers and brewery owners take that approach, because I feel it's time for us to circle the wagons to protect the integrity and quality reputation of San Diego beer.