San Diego, California
Constantiner and Travis Smith, Societe's co-founders, chose the location for their Southern California craft brewery strategically when they selected a 16,000-square-foot warehouse in San Diego as home.
"Neither of us are actually from San Diego," Constantiner explains. "But we wanted to play on the biggest and best playing field, and San Diego had the highest concentration of world-class breweries. We felt that having people around us making really good beer would keep us on our game. Plus, with breweries like Stone, Ballast Point, Pizza Port, and AleSmith already around for so long, we wouldn't have to do any work to convert the masses."
They're probably best known for their IPAs, which make up about 66 percent of total sales. The Pupil, a 7.5 percent three-hop IPA, accounts for nearly 50 percent. "We didn't set out to design a flagship beer," Constantiner says of the fan favorite of Societe Brewing Company's Out West series. "We just made a bunch of beers to see what would sell. We got really lucky because the public loves it."
Constantiner notes that hops inspire much of the brewery's current creative exploration. "We're excited that there are so many new hops out there," he says. "We're creating different types of IPAs from a flavor standpoint and also seeing what we can do with lagers. Hoppy beer is what got us into craft beer, and it seems to be what originally sank its hooks into most craft beer drinkers."
On that note, Societe Brewing Company is bringing back some one-off brews from earlier years that should please their hop-loving fans. Constantiner says these include an IPA known as The Dandy, which has been on a two-year hiatus due to the brewery's "crazy production schedule," The Publican, and The Jackeroo.
"I'm most excited about The Jackeroo," Constantiner says. "It's a 6.5 percent IPA that uses exclusively Southern Hemisphere hops. It will be out fourth quarter of this year."
But the Societe Brewing Company team is not solely focused on Humulus lupulus. They also brew an Old World series, made up of Belgians and European lagers, a Stygian series, featuring dark ales, and a selection of Ferals.
"The Ferals are our barrel-aged beers," Constantiner explains. "We don't classify them as sour, because that's too one-dimensional. There's so much more than sourness going on in these beers. What we really strive for is funkiness. We want our Feral series to be the stinky cheese of the beer world, the kind that smells like gym socks, wet dog, and leather but you still want to put it in your mouth."
Favorite beers: Constantiner says Societe's Belgian blonde, The Harlot, has been his favorite work beer from day one. He always has Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker, and Russian River beer in his refrigerator. And when he goes out in San Diego County, he frequents Pizza Port, Modern Times, Pure Project Brewing, and Bagby Beer Company. "Bagby is a brewpub up in Oceanside," he adds. "If I need to study styles for any reason, that's where I go. I think Jeff Bagby is one of the best brewers of all time."
Challenges: The sheer number of breweries in the San Diego area. "When we opened, there were 50 breweries in San Diego," Constantiner says. "It seemed like a lot. But now there are 160 breweries and all their sales reps. It makes it difficult to get in front of beer buyers. But as draft only, 85 percent of our business is wholesale, selling to restaurants and bars."
Opportunities: Constantiner says growth within San Diego County is the brewery's biggest opportunity. They produced 4,000 barrels on their 20-barrel system in 2018 and plan to increase output to 5,000 this year. He foresees potential expansion to 25,000 or 30,000 barrels -- all sold within the county -- in the next 10 years.
"Our best market is San Diego," Constantiner explains. "It has our most loyal fans and offers our greatest competitive advantage. From a strategic standpoint, the best thing to do is keep our beer in San Diego." He adds that it's also the best thing do from an emotional standpoint. "I hate the idea of selling our beer in new territories just to make more money."
Needs: "Our biggest need is the same as any brewery, and that's capital for growth," Constantiner says. "When you're growing, cash is always a problem because you keep reinvesting it to buy new things as opposed to just maintaining. But we're in a pretty good position, and I feel really lucky that consumers have been so good to us and we've built such a great team here."