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Growing Craft Beer Industry Creates Demand for Lawyers, Business Consultants

By Jack Leer

The craft beer business in San Diego is booming. Existing breweries are selling more beer than ever, and new breweries are opening on a monthly basis. Stalwarts of the San Diego beer scene like Stone Brewing, Karl Strauss, Coronado Brewing and Green Flash, are opening new breweries and restaurants, and new breweries like Societe Brewing and Hess Brewing are becoming overnight successes. Earlier this year, San Diego hosted the World Beer Cup, and Mayor Jerry Sanders declared June “Craft Beer Month.” It seems there is no end in sight to the demand for the high-quality craft beers San Diego’s brewers are producing.

Among those benefiting from this rise in popularity of craft beer is a new breed of young professionals who have combined their love of craft beer with their particular specialties to address the business challenges faced by the growing craft beer industry. As the demand for good craft beer expands, what started with a few small breweries and brew pubs funded largely with investments from friends and family has grown into a full-fledged industry. Established breweries expanding their operations and new breweries facing a more crowded marketplace are faced with an increasingly complex array of business challenges. Accordingly, more breweries are looking to a range of professionals to assist them as they grow and promote their businesses.

One such adviser is Ryan McCrary. McCrary leads a team of professionals focused on working with craft brewers for the real estate brokerage firm Hughes Marino. As both a fan of craft beers and general counsel for his firm, McCrary saw an emerging need among brewers for more sophisticated advice in everything from choosing the location of new brewing facilities to taking advantage of tax breaks and other incentives. Having recently negotiated a lease for one of San Diego’s newest breweries, Rough Draft, McCrary enjoys combining his work with his interest in good beer.

“It’s an incredibly dynamic industry, and it is great to be able to advise brewers and be part of the great craft beer scene in San Diego,” he said.

Similarly, Jerry Varga heads up the San Diego craft beer practice group for the accounting firm McGladrey LLP. His firm recently began working with one of San Diego’s most successful breweries, Ballast Point. He sees a connection between professionals servicing the industry and their brewery clients.

“A lot of us have come up in our professions at the same time these breweries were building up their business — we can relate to them,” he said.

And the perks of representing brewers are not lost on Varga: “It does present a lot of opportunities to drink great beer.”

McCrary and Varga are not alone. Bankers, construction managers, lawyers (including the author of this article), and other professionals across San Diego are meeting the increased need for professional services in the fast-growing world of craft beer. They can only hope that the demand for their services will track the ever-expanding demand for San Diego’s great craft beers.

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