Liz Bauer didn’t just fall into the craft beer industry – she was kicked into it. I mean that literally; while working as a horse trainer in southeastern San Diego, a client’s horse kicked her squarely in the chest. After that, “time for industry change became urgent,” she quips.
Bauer didn’t need a physical excuse to make the transition from beer hobbyist to professional. She describes it as her destiny. “How’s this for a beer background: I have mostly German heritage, I was born in Wisconsin, lived in beer meccas Portland and [the] San Francisco Bay Area as a kid, and then high school in San Diego.” After college, she discovered her love of craft beer via her parents’ fridge, which was stocked with O.G. local brews from Stone Brewing and Karl Strauss. From there, her self-described “consistent hobby” evolved from weekly trips to Alpine Beer Company until November 2017, when Hopsbauer was born.
Today, Bauer is the head of Hopsbauer, San Diego’s only female-owned hops broker. They provide hops to breweries all over San Diego, across the U.S., and even Mexico. She’s also one of the organizers of the San Diego Hop Growers Association, employee at Carlsbad’s Rouleur Brewing Company, and single mom of three. Basically, she’s a badass. Here’s her story.
First off! What exactly is a hops broker?
“A middleman (or in my case, woman) who brings hops from growers and big suppliers to the brewery customer. With so many breweries in San Diego, and most of them small and/or new, there is a need for a local, small hops supplier to support craft brewers. I have access to over 150 hop varieties and I’m able to offer these even to the smallest brewery or big home brewer.”
What does a day in the life of a hops broker look like?
“My work day changes day to day, which makes it such a fun and interesting job. I attend seminars, workshops, meetings, and conferences on beer and hops. I take purchase orders and coordinate shipping. I make deliveries. I visit breweries — that’s actually my favorite part of my job, just talking with brewers about their needs and helping wherever I can. Once people meet me in person and see how much I’m in love with this industry, they know I’m on their side and want the best for them with or without a sale.”
Where do you source your hops from?
“Hopsbauer has just a few main sources for pelleted hops year round. One of them, Northwest Hop Farms, helped me get my start as a hops broker, and they continue to be a huge support (and are great friends too). Hopsbauer is their sole distributor for California and Mexico. For fresh hops once a year, I’m helping to connect brewers to local San Diego hop yards, or if the brewer needs more than 200 pounds and/or wants fresh El Dorado, Mosaic, Citra, or Idaho Gem, Hopsbauer will have it shipped in overnight.”
What are some popular hop varietals you see trending right now, and what do you foresee for the future?
“Galaxy in particular has surprised everyone with its popularity. That Australian variety, along with other Southern Hemisphere hops, will continue to be used heavily. Brewers and consumers in San Diego are always looking at what’s new, what’s the next big thing in hops. I am proud to announce that Hopsbauer is currently working with ZA Hops’ Greg Crum to bring aroma hops from Slovenia to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico craft beer markets. Greg Crum was the main guy importing South African hops for American craft breweries before he got over run by AB-InBev. Greg and I are most interested in four new aroma hops from Slovenia. They have rad names too which should help us, and breweries, with marketing them. Styrian Cardinal, Fox, Wolf, and our favorite: Dragon!”
Can you tell us about the San Diego Hop Growers Association?
“SDHGA was formed in 2015, headed up by Eric March of Star B Buffalo Ranch and Hop Farm. Eric was growing hops for many years before that, back when no one believed hops could grow here. Compared to the large hop growing regions of the world, San Diego is growing hops on a very small scale. With so many breweries here, the niche that we fill is with fresh hops used for wet hop beer just one time a year. It’s very special that we are able to provide a local beer ingredient to a county that loves hops and craft beer. There are twelve SDHGA grower members today. I know there are a lot more people growing hops, and if they want to be listed on our website they should contact me at HopsBauer.com.
“The original goals of the organization were to connect growers for sharing information on all things pertaining to a small scale hop operation, and to help each other market their fresh hops to local brewers for wet hop beers. Now we are doing all that and we are focusing much more on connecting San Diego brewers with local hops. I’m creating a new, brewer-friendly website that will make it easy for a brewer to look up all the information they need for getting their fresh hops. It’s only one time a year we get to showcase local hops and San Diego has tons of room for wet hop beer to grow.
“Tom Nickel [of O’Brien’s Pub and Nickel Beer Company] has been doing an incredible job with promoting wet hop beer in San Diego. Tom runs a wet hop beer festival every year featuring his and other breweries’ wet hop beers and the San Diego hop yards they got fresh hops from. Tom has offered sharing his expertise to any brewer needing guidance on their first wet hop beer. We all encourage more breweries to do wet hop beers this summer and when they’re ready starting in August, we as loyal craft beer drinkers need to go out and drink them. When they’re gone, they’re gone! [But] wouldn’t it be rad to have San Diego breweries enter our best wet hop beers for GABF?”
Are there any women in beer who inspire you?
“Locally we are lucky to have so many incredible women in this industry! Jill Davidson is my hero for connecting the San Diego Brewers Guild and San Diego hop growers. More events featuring local hops are in the works because of her determination to help everyone here and she happens to have a special fondness for local hops.
“Silvia Sanchez is a Hopsbauer sales representative in Mexico. She is energized by the rapidly growing craft beer scene where she lives in Baja and is thrilled to be supporting talented Mexican brewers. I really enjoy her spirit and determination to succeed in this male dominated industry.
“Jackie Beard is a humble genius who works in the lab for Bale Breaker Brewing Company in Yakima. Actually, there are a ton of women working at Bale Breaker. I encourage everyone to support them when in Yakima. Damn good beer too! Jackie is in the Pink Boots Society and won the full scholarship to attend the Barth Haas Hops School we met at in August.”
What are some of your future plans?
“One of my plans for Hopsbauer is to create a women in craft beer festival. I’m looking at modeling it after the Siris Cask Festival in British Columbia, Canada (which features beer made exclusively by women). [Personally], I am not a brewer, and while I am eager to learn all that I can about brewing, I have no desire to be a professional brewer. I could see myself getting into home brewing later. I have the hop hook ups for it already!”
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