Surrounded by a large amount of dogs, an inviting atmosphere, and a smooth IPA in hand we had the pleasure of speaking with Bay City Brewing Co.’s General Manager Scott Friedli. Scott was able to dispel some Bay City misconceptions regarding their name, location and whether or not they’re connected to pop icon, Madonna.
Tell us a bit about the boys behind the bay? How did Bay City Brewing Co. come to be?
Well it started with our owners Ben Dubois and Greg Anderson. Ben had dabbled in home brewing for a while, but as an orthopedic shoulder surgeon he knew he didn’t necessarily have the time to do it all on his own. Ben had found this spot with a brewery in mind before meeting anybody. A lot of people talk about opening up a brewery some day and this is the guy that actually did. He met up with Greg who is a restaurant and bar owner of McGregor’s Grill and Ale House in Mission Valley. Greg grew up in Yakima Washington, which is where they grow 77% of the hops produced in the U.S., essentially he’s been around beer all his life. He has been in San Diego for 35 years so he was around for the big craft beer boom and decided he needed to be a part of it.
Before becoming the head brewer at Bay City, Chris West was a bartender at Sessions Public and an assistant brewer under Cosimo Sorrentino at Monkey Paw. He was at Monkey Paw when it really started taking off. The San Diego Pale Ale which at Monkey Paw was called “Bonobos” won a gold medal at the great American Beer Fest, it’s Chris’ recipe. He has had multiple awards and won a couple different competitions up north for SF beer week. Greg and Ben came across Chris at Sessions Public. Everything just kind of aligned. They asked Chris if he wanted to be the brewer and gave him total creative freedom. He designed the whole brewery. They took a leap of faith with each other.
I personally got involved because Greg went to the same gym as my sister in law. He mentioned that he was going to start a brewery and she dropped my name. When I came and interviewed with him it wasn’t really an interview, he just wanted to meet. We ended up having 10 mutual friends through the bar business and hit it off well. I was only working 1 or 2 days a week here at first and eventually they offered me the job as General Manager.
Where did the name Bay City come from?
The name has multiple meanings. One of our tag lines is “Brewed Between The Bays” because we have Mission Bay and San Diego bay essentially on each side of us. But, prior to 1972 San Diego was known as Bay City. We’re trying to encapsulate San Diego and pay homage to it. When we first opened we would go to beer festivals and people would assume we were located in San Francisco or Oakland. Last year when Madonna was playing at Sport’s Arena we had a pretty good crowd prior to the concert and people were asking if Madonna was affiliated with us because apparently she is from Bay City, Michigan.
We’ve heard it’s a bit confusing to get here? Where is Bay City?
Fortunately, we do have the benefit of visibility from the freeway. If you’ve gone in and out of OB or Mission Bay in the past year, chances are you’ve seen our Bay City Brewing Co. mural. The problem is getting here. It is a bit confusing and some back tracking is involved, so that kind of sucks. We still get people telling us “I’ve driven by this place a thousand times, but this is my first time coming in.” But this really is the fantastic mile. You have the two strip clubs, Modern Times, a dispensary and then you have us. You have to pass up a lot of vices in order to get to here, but it’s definitely worth it.
What sets Bay City Brewing Co. apart from the many craft breweries in San Diego?
I’ve been a home brewer for almost 20 years, this is my first time working in a brewery, but I’ve always loved craft beer, made it, drank it and been to a 100 tasting rooms. One thing I’ve always hated is going into a tasting room and the staff and vibe are almost pretentious as if you’re putting them out by going in and spending money at their establishment. It’s not my fault you have stupid names on your beers and I have to ask you what it is. I have no idea what kind of beer that is and maybe I don’t want a stout.
We’re trying to break that mold of people being too snooty when you come into a brewery. We try to have a welcoming vibe. Our beers are fairly simply named, we will have to put actual names on them eventually, but we just want to make people welcome. Whether you’re a beer geek or it’s your first time in a brewery, we want to make it comfortable and inviting for you. It’s difficult creating a warm environment because by design a brewery is a big industrious space but we’re trying to make it as friendly and warm as possible.
Tell us a bit about your beer.
Our brewer doesn’t like to put any additives to the beer. He wants water, hops, malt, yeast. Chris likes to generally make beers that aren’t too crazy with the ABV. He likes to make beers that you can have 2 of. The beers that do have a higher ABV are very drinkable, which can be dangerous. San Diego Pale Ale has a name for itself. It’s been hard to even keep that on tap here because we go through it so fast. When we first started, it was outselling all our beers combined.
Our #2 seller is the Vienna Lager, which is surprising for San Diego being a very hoppy forward town. It’s something non-craft beer drinkers can get behind because it has the clean, crisp finish of a Lager, but if you are a craft beer drinker it still has flavor. It almost has a sweet biscuit flavor but finishes clean and goes great with sushi.
A fun and different beer we have right now is our Radler. In Germany all the beer makers were also soda makers. So essentially a Radler is a soda blended with beer. We get organic grapefruit juice and make our own house soda. We then blend it with 2 of our beers, the Vienna Larger and the Sour Wheat. If you like grapefruit, you’ll love it. I like to describe it as the perfect hangover beer. It’s low ABV, it gets the shakes off and it tastes like you’re drinking a carbonated grapefruit juice.
How does Bay City give back to the surrounding community?
One of our bartenders, Will is a photographer and he knows a lot of people in the art community. Once a month we invite local artists to showcase their pieces for free. We don’t take any profits from them, we simply want to give them a space to display their art and start a conversation. We started out last June and have done it every month since then. It’s been great, we’ve actually even tied in fundraisers with it. The last one we did was for the Mauli Ola Foundation which is a foundation that uses surfing as a healing therapy for children with cystic fibrosis. Each artist had one piece that they put up for a raffle and the money raised was donated to the Mauli Ola Foundation. We hope to do more events similar to this. It’s a great thing to be able to bring people together from different walks of life, especially for a great cause.
What are Bay City’s future plans?
We’re looking into a tasting room in East Village. We’ve already met with the architects and showed them a design.
Bay City invites all dogs, Madonna fans, beer geeks, artists and anyone simply searching for an inviting place to have great beer.
Be sure to follow us on our social media and join the conversation with great people around great beers.