For a lot of folks, there is “no love like beer,” especially for San Diegans! In recent years, San Diego has made quite the name for itself with respect to craft beer, with Men’s Journal calling it “The New Beer Capital of the U.S.” Meanwhile, the local dining scene has been gaining momentum, with a number of restaurants shifting their focus to fresh, local & sustainable food, & adding more vegan/vegetarian dishes to their menus.
In the middle of these two worlds were vegan food & craft beer enthusiasts Kory Stetina & Derek Humbard. They found themselves at beer pairing dinners where they were delighted by the beer, but disappointed by the lack of vegan food options.
Kory & Derek of LOVELIKEBEER
Over a few home brewing & brainstorming sessions, they were ultimately inspired to create events that tied in their two greatest passions - vegan food & craft beer. The result was LOVELIKEBEER, an organization “dedicated to creating inspiring Vegan Food & Craft Beer events in San Diego with a charitable purpose.”
After attending their first event at Sea Rocket Bistro (read my review here), I was super excited about what these two were doing for the community & wanted to learn more about their vision. Last week, we met over a few craft beers to talk about the mission & future of LOVELIKEBEER.
Vegenista: What inspired you to start LOVELIKEBEER?
LOVELIKEBEER: We’re both vegan & big craft beer fans, & San Diego is an exciting city to be in right now for craft beer. We found ourselves at beer events & dinners really enjoying the beer, but wanting to have an inspiring food option, especially at pairing events. We realized we’ve got two great worlds out there - vegan food & craft beer - & we both live passionately within these worlds. We thought it would be cool to bring them together, make new friends that are already enthusiastic about both, & share with people that are maybe more aware of one & not the other. We also got inspired by LA’s Vegan Beer Festival & Stone Brewing Co. doing Mealtess Monday’s at their bistro. We wanted to see more of this in San Diego, so we kicked around a couple of ideas & “LoveLikeBeer” (paying homage to the Killing Joke song “Love Like Blood”) became a fun, flirtatious & romantic way to celebrate vegan food, & all the exciting stuff that is happening with craft beer in this town. Another important part of it all was to have a charitable component so we could benefit local organizations that are doing equally inspiring things in the community, as these brewers & chefs are doing with food & beer.
V: What was your mission when creating LOVELIKEBEER?
LLB: It’s not a mission to convert people in any way. Rather, it’s more like exposure vs. judgement. We want to share this food & this way of eating that we really love with people, & also make sure that we can carve out a little piece of the craft beer movement so that the veg-community or veg-curious can experience these pairings & understand how they fit into this exciting revolution that is occurring in beer.
V: I attended “Vegan Beer Night I” at Sea Rocket Bistro & the turn out & support from the community was incredible. Were you surprised at the success of your inaugural event?
LLB: Definitely. We operated on an “if you build it they will come” concept, but really had no idea what to expect. We went into it hoping that 50-75 people would show up, & as the event came up it seemed like that 75 might be 100, & then that 100 might be 150. When all was said & done, we think there were between 250-300 people there - at a restaurant that can hold 80! What was so inspiring about it was that by pooling the community for this vegan food & beer event, what resulted was an already very successful seafood restaurant having one of the highest grossing nights in their history, not to mention the amount of money we were able to raise for the charity we selected (The International Rescue Committee). It definitely seemed like the city was ready for it.
V: Both your first event & your upcoming event are at non-vegan restaurants. What has been the typical response from the chefs when you’ve approached them about doing an all vegan menu?
LLB: The chefs are looking at it as an inspiring & challenging project & couldn’t be more excited about cooking a completely vegan menu. They take their typical vision for the restaurant & then turn it vegan, which is really cool & interesting. Most of the restaurants we work with, while still serving non-vegan food, already had very good vegan options though, so it wasn’t like starting from scratch.
V: How do the menus come together - is it a collaboration, or do you give the chef full creative autonomy?
LLB: This process is different for each event dependent upon who we are working with. It can range from giving the chef free reign & us a final approval, or something more integrated where we all get together with the beers and share our tasting experience & ideas for food.
V: What do you think makes for a good food & beer pairing?
LLB: We think a good pairing is about creating a balance or something equally interesting in the palate that you can’t have without both things at once. It’s kind of like having a dance of all the flavors teach you things that you might not have thought about had the food not brought it out of the beer, or vice versa. In many great pairings, we’ve learned that chefs will purposefully let the flavors of the beer fill in holes in the food to complete the dish & this is really fun to experience.
V: The concept of “vegan” beer & wine was something that was a big surprise to me when I began my transition to a vegan diet. Will all the beers you choose for your pairings be 100% vegan?
LLB: Absolutely. We do our best to learn & educate ourselves. Everybody has to find their own comfort zone, but when we’re out we have a pretty hard time ordering beers that we’ve learned use animal products, even if it’s not “in the beer” per se & instead used in the fining process. It’s a challenge because it doesn’t say “VEGAN” on any beer label we’ve ever seen and sometimes the vegan-ness of a beer can change from batch to batch if the brewery needs to make a change for some reason & is not necessarily making a vegan brewing process a priority. Barnivore.com is a good resource & so we use that, but it doesn’t have all the answers. For our events, we make sure to call the brewery so we can confirm that that the particular keg we are using is 100% vegan. Part of the bigger picture for LOVELIKEBEER is also to raise awareness, for consumers & also for brewers in terms of highlighting their customers’ preferences. The good news is that most of the beers brewed in San Diego are vegan-friendly & use alternative methods for clarifying their beer. This is common in other cities as well, but if you have to do some fact gathering to find out first.
***Click here to read an article about the fining process & difference between vegan/non-vegan beer.
V: How do you envision the future of the “San Diego’s Vegan Dining Scene?” What do you hope to have happen as a result of your events?
LLB: We certainly want to see a lot more LOVELIKEBEER events! After our events, we’d also love to see remnants of that event continue on without us. If each event can leave a restaurant inspired to reach out to this community, or those interested in vegan food, a little bit more than before, we think that would be really exciting & great for the city.
V: “Vegan Beer Night II” is coming up on July 26th at Blind Lady Ale House (BLAH). Why did you decide to partner with them for your second event?
LLB: BLAH is one of our favorite spots in town, & they always have an amazing selection of beer & some really good vegan food options. Lee Chase, one of the owners & the brewer behind Automatic Brewing Co., is himself vegan, so we knew after creating LOVELIKEBEER that we would have to approach the BLAH team about hosting us. The BLAH team was happy to have us, & their chef, Aaron La Monica, was really excited to do a vegan menu. BLAH is consistently mentioned as one of the “Top Craft Beers Bars in America,” so for them to open up the doors to us to do a vegan takeover is awesome & very humbling.
V: Which charity will benefit from this event?
K: The BLAH event will benefit the San Diego Animal Rescue. It is an organization that they actually introduced us to when we approached them about doing an event, which is another benefit about doing all of this. SDAR finds foster homes for all animals, but mostly cats & dogs. It’s completely volunteer run, & they operate on a very small budget, using temporary foster homes & donated space at a local Petsmart until permanent homes are found. They find homes for 50 animals a month with a pretty small team of people which is pretty remarkable.
V: Any ideas what the menu & pairings will look like?
LLB: As of today, we don’t know the final menu, but we do have the beers selected. We know Aaron will be taking notes while tasting the beers throughout the week & will assuredly put some magic together. Lee Chase is also doing a special beer for us with Automatic Brewing Company. It’s going to be a “Coconut Wheat Beer,” so it will be a lighter bodied beer with a coffee-coconut flavor that you’d typically see in darker beers like Porters or Stouts. It’s a really unique beer, so we can’t wait to see what Aaron is going to pair with it.
V: Any hints about future events?
LLB: Our next event will be at Hamilton’s Tavern in South Park, probably in early September. We’re working with their “Firkin Friday” concept with a humorous remix called “To-Firkin Friday.” Draft Magazine has also named them as one of their “Top 100 Craft Beer Bars” in the country, so craft beer & veg food fans alike should get into it. We also have a few new event concepts we’re working on, including some beer tourism ideas & perhaps a retail presence at a local bottleshop, which will still fulfill our mission of craft beer & vegan food events with a charitable purpose. We’re planning an event for San Diego Beer Week too. We’ll have the details for some of these worked out shortly & will keep folks updated through LOVELIKEBEER.com & social media.
***Click here for more information on LOVELIKEBEER’s upcoming event! Please help spread the word! Hope to see you there!