Interview with Tomme Arthur

 Lorenzo Dabove, aka Kuaska,
chats up the big names in beer
A few words with Tomme Arthur
of the brewpub Pizza Port Solana Beach,

logoFirst of all, a few words about you for our readers: your age, family, where were you born, where do you live etc. My full name is Tomme Edward Arthur – I am 33 years old. I was born and raised in San Diego where I continue to reside. I have a daughter named Sydney Keegan Arthur who is 13 months old.

As many of your colleagues, did you start out as a homebrewer?
Indeed, when I was studying English at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff I was given a homebrew kit as a present. I first tried it that January of 1995.

As a professional brewer, how, when and where did you get your start?
I was hired by Troy Hojel at Cervecerias La Cruda (the hangover brewery) in San Diego in March of 1996. The brewery closed in March of 1997. I then went to work for White Labs for three months and was hired by Pizza Port in May of 1997 to work in Solana Beach as the Head Brewer.

When in the US, I sense great friendship and solidarity between younger and experienced craft brewers. Am I right?
Indeed. There are so many genuine friendships and relationships between American brewers. We are experiencing such a growth of craft brewed beers, and I think that we all want to be a part of this. Currently, our beers are growing at 15+% each year and that reflects that Americans want an evolving beer.

What’s good and what’s bad in the American craft beer scene nowadays?
Well, there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for our beers to be in the market place. This is a great thing.  We are poised to see many brewers develop relationships with exporters as well enabling our beers to travel further.  On the down side, there are tons of brewers trying there hand at making unique and experimental beers that aren’t very good and seemingly have the opportunity to put a bad taste in the consumers mouths.

How important was Belgium for your development?
Belgium was very important to me as a brewer. It showed me a world of flavors that were available to find their way into my beers. Their processes and flavors allow me to envision beer in ways that others cannot.  For that, I am thankful to remember that first glass of Rodenbach Grand Cru which opened my eyes so

I had the great honor to lead you and four skillful American brewers (Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Rob Tod of Allagash, Adam Avery of Avery Brewing and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River) in an exciting pilgrimage-tour in Belgium in March, 2006.  What are your favorite memories?
Our trip to Cantillon still ranks as one of the best memories.  It is such a rich cultural place steeped in the history of a beer we all love so much. I also loved the time that we spent on the buses traveling between the breweries. There was so much energy on our trip. Do you remember Adam and the big bottle of Drie Fonteinin that he came running off the bus with? That was great!

You are well known for your fantastic sour beers, such as Cuvée de Tomme and Mo Bretta Bretta. Can you tell us something more about them for the ever-increasing crowd of Italian sour beer lovers?
Originally, I wanted to make the Cuvee in wine barrels but they were harder to get.  So we used Bourbon barrels which make for a stronger flavored beer.  The Cuvee is also made from four sugar sources including malt, raisins, dextrose and sour cherries The Mo Betta Bretta is believed to be the first commercially available 100% brettanomyces beer. It was made with the help of Peter Brouckaert from New Belgium Brewing Co and is something we will be making at the new brewery soon.

I was lucky to visit your brewpub in 2004 during the WBC. Among many great beers, I sampled an extraordinary Season with a strong camomile character. Can I call it an American interpretation of the original style?
Indeed. I have been inspired by Saison Dupont and Fantome.  Our SPF 45 is something that we feel very much honored the Farmhouse Style of Brewing though allowing some American twists.

You will come to Italy around mid-July to judge in our homebrewing competition. Did you already know our craft beers and our magic moment?
I am starting to see numerous bottles of beer from Baladin and Troll on our shelves.  They are fantastic beers. Yes, I have seen them and know there is much going on in Italy, which is why I am excited to be coming.

As knowledgeable as you are, you are always eager to share new experiences, as with our brewers at Baladin and Troll brewpubs. Could humbleness be one of the secrets of your success?
I think that being humble keeps the positive energy flowing. There are so many great brewers in the world – to be counted amongst them is something I am honored by. But I also want to share and learn from as many brewers as I can.

Last question: which are your favorite beers from all around the world?
I am a big fan of beers made with passion whether they are American, Italian, Belgian or Dutch. What matters is that they are skillfully made and imbued with a passion and a zest for pursuing the best things life has to offer.  It’s a great time to be a brewer no matter where the beer is being made