“It looks like demon, sounds like lemon,” she said, explaining how to pronounce her name during the first interview I performed for the soon-to-be-dropping Cheers! North County Podcast, where I have a drink with an interesting member of our community. Featured guests may be politician, entrepreneur, brewer — or in this case, food and beverage industry writer Beth Demmon.
Beth has local columns in the West Coaster and San Diego CityBeat while contributing to national publications like Good Beer Hunting, VinePair, Vice and more. “I would say that covering beer is kind of my specialty, specifically, covering the culture of craft beer,” she said.
When asked what she was drinking on this day, she replied, “I waited to crack it open. I have a fresh can of Burning Beard’s Circle of Hops, their San Diego Pale Ale. I just picked it up day before yesterday so it should be nice and fresh.” I popped the top on my own can of Fort Point Beer Co. Westfalia Red Ale to share in the tradition of happy hour.
Beth has a background in painting and printmaking, and after college worked in content marketing while food blogging on the side. A colleague told her about an opportunity to take over a beer column, and “on a lark” she applied for the position with CityBeat in 2015.
Since then she’s become a fixture in the local craft beer community.
While food, coffee or beer is at the core of her written work, she doesn’t shy away from difficult topics like diversity, sexuality and community experience, including the loss of the social interactions we took for granted before the COVID-19 pandemic restricted those opportunities.
Her recent piece for the Good Beer Hunting online magazine, titled “Where Everyone Knows Your Name,” delved into the value of those interactions we as a community have built at our local brewery, pub or restaurant.
“I think that the craft beer community, specifically, relies so heavily on that concept of community,” she said. “There is really no substitute for walking into a place and [having] that tangible interaction of people, whether you know them, or whether they are friends or strangers. Pubs have historically been egalitarian meeting spaces, and now they are serving a very different purpose if they are even open at all. …”
Over the course of a beer, our conversation veered into the post-COVID-19 future for San Diego’s beer scene. “I think it’s going to be difficult for San Diego,” she said. “Just because we’re so heavily based in tourism as a culture, and just for economic growth. … We’re going to see a little bit of the struggles that were already reflected in the competitive landscape.
“… I think the really big guys who have the capital to ride out this pandemic are gonna be able to do a little bit better, and I think the really, really small guys, the hyper-local guys who were already working on a shoestring budget and skeleton crew, they’re going to be doing fairly well, and have the best shot at success. … It will be the mid-sized ones [breweries] who will have difficulty.”
She pointed to Tribute Pizza as a great example of a business that has leaned into the pandemic, and quickly adapted their business to serve customers, while also commending Bagby Brewing for choosing to close entirely, for a variety of reasons, being a model for businesses making the best choices for their business model during this difficult time.
“I don’t think there is any right or wrong way with how everyone has been handling this pandemic,” she said. “I’ve been impressed with how everyone has coalesced together, and it seems like people are able to hang on. The community has rallied.”
Beth hosts a weekly Instagram Live happy hour for the SD Brewer’s Guild, Wednesdays from 3 to 4 p.m., checking in with local brewers, as well as brewery industry leaders. Watch at @sdbrewers, and her recent interview with Sandy Cockerham, the nation’s highest-ranking female beer judge, was just published on CraftBeer.com.
I closed our interview by asking about that Burning Beard Pale Ale she opened earlier. “It’s so good,” she said. “It’s 5.3% [ABV]. It’s perfect for mid-afternoon.” We said our goodbyes, and she left our conversation to “take this beer party outside” with her family.
Ryan Woldt is a Food & Beverage management consultant, writer and entrepreneur based in Southern California. His first craft beer was a New Glarus Spotted Cow at John’s Bar in Columbus, WI, given to him by his future father-in-law. It changed the trajectory of his life and career. If you see him there is a 100% chance he has a notebook and pen on him somewhere.