Most people don't realize that Trumer Pils has been around for more than four centuries — and that the classic pilsner also has been brewed right here in the East Bay since 2004. The Express sat down for a quick rap with Master Brewer Lars Larson in advance of this year's Beer Week:
Express: What advice do you have for this next generation of brewers and brewery owners?
Lars Larson: Paying attention to quality has always been extremely important to me. If you pay a lot of attention as a brewery owner, as a brewer/brewmaster, to making sure that the cleaning is all done properly, paying attention to getting the right raw materials, and good care of the process all along the way, so that you can hold your hand over your heart and say "Hey, I've got the very best quality product that's possible." I just found out reading today that, this year, for the third year in a row, over 1,000 new breweries were established in the U.S. Three years in a row. ... So, the competition's getting very stiff. You have to decide where you're going to live on the spectrum. But as long as you know that you're making a good quality product, at least you've got a hope of being out there. If your product, if you're cutting corners, the public is becoming more discerning, they'll know about it.
I'm sure you've seen a lot of trends of the years. What's the most encouraging trend today?
You know, we make a pilsner, a lager beer, and it's still my favorite style after doing this so long. And I'm very happy to see lagers and lighter beers, sessions beers, kind of coming into their own now, becoming more popular. I think that there's a lot that they have to offer. There isn't just an in-your-face hop requirement any more for small breweries to survive.
Did you ever think that craft beer would be what it is now?
You know, I started a long time ago, over 25, 30 years ago. I suppose I hoped it would become real big. But it's great to see it growing, for sure. But it's no longer underground, right?
Tell me a good Beer Week memory.
It's always great to go to the opening galas, those are a lot of fun. When S.F. Beer Week first started, there were 80 to 100 events. And now there's 80 to 100 per night. It's just phenomenal how it's grown. I really like working inside the industry, and while I don't end up going to a lot of events, I always like going to the events where I see a lot of people, so I like going to the openings, the opening gala-type thing, I know lot of brewers there, I like to see what they're doing, what kind of crazy thing they pulled out of their hat to show off, and that's fun.
The beer industry always seems like family. It's not toxic. Everybody likes each other. What's up with that?
There's quote out there, and I don't know who said it originally, that "The beer industry is 95 percent asshole-free." And it seems to be that way. We're very fortunate.