Douglas Hasker is the head brewer at Puesto. While his tenure at the family-owned, Mexican-American restaurant and brewery is relatively short, his experience at the Mission Valley brewery is extensive.
Prior to Puesto, Hasker spent more than 20 years brewing — in the same facility — for the now-shuttered Gordon Biersch brewpub. I was honored that he recently took the time to answer a few of my questions about his beer journey, where Puesto is now, and where it is going.
Cheers!: Hey Doug, you’ve been brewing for a long time (prior to Puesto with ). Do you remember a tipping point where you not only thought you wanted to make a career out of brewing but also believed you’d succeed?
Doug: I’m not sure there was ever a tipping point, but I was probably 20 years into my 30+ years of brewing when I finally felt confident in what I’ve learned over the years from Dan Gordon and many others along the way. Dan got his brewing degree from the highest accredited Lager brewing school in the world at Weihenstephan, in Freising, Bavaria, and I was essentially taught by him.
I’ve been there and taken a few classes, and I was fortunate to have interns travel with me along the journey, who were all much smarter than me. So, tipping point, no, rather a slow burn to confidence.
Cheers!: You may have noticed that we have been in a pandemic for a few moments. How did the early shutdowns impact the beer program at Puesto, and does this current moment feel different? Why or why not?
Doug: The initial shutdowns were difficult for us at the Cervecería. The beer program was just coming alive, and each month we would add another of our locations to the mix, so we really had no idea what to expect as far as growth or even potential growth. Fast forward to now, and we have our Puesto beer at all of our locations from San Diego to the Bay area, and we’re maxing out the brewing production. So yes, it’s quite different now.
Cheers!: Post your Gorden Biersch brewing career, you continued to brew in the same location with Puesto, which specializes in Mexican-American food. What made you decide to continue brewing at the time, and how have you been challenged as a brewer working with a new company, new product line, and new customer audience?
Doug: I started with Gordon Biersch in 1990 in San Jose, CA, when there were only two locations as a bartender. It wasn’t long before I realized I didn’t like serving intoxicated people and started hanging out in the brewery. It was a natural slide into being a brewer when my buddy the brewer went to open GB in Honolulu, and I got out of the bar completely. I moved to San Diego in 1998 when the GB was built here in Mission Valley, and I’ve acquired a good reputation over the years, which the Puesto family had heard.
So when Puesto took over the GB location, I’m not sure I had any choice but to stay with the building and brew Mexican Lagers. Having brewed German-style beers for so long makes one extremely qualified to brew Mexican beers as they are very similar, though with a few differences.
It was an exciting and new direction to take my career, and Puesto brought back a lot of what was missing from GB, given GB’s growth and being a corporate-owned company. Puesto brought me back to my roots and continues to be family-owned. The owners (seemingly) don’t want me to go anywhere, and I’m very happy with this new arrangement.
Cheers!: Your beer menu is very focused. Beer drinkers have been conditioned to always be searching for the next best thing, and in San Diego, the next best hoppy beer. Do you find that beer drinkers are embracing the lager again?
Doug: The San Diego beer drinker is absolutely (re)embracing the lager again. I just didn’t think it would take thirty years for the cycle to come back again. Over time, it seems the market is tiring slightly from all the hops and adjuncts and is returning to more easy-drinking quaffs.
We currently have six beers available, but only 4 are standard house beers. We would definitely have more variety if we had a larger brewery, and we will someday. We’re currently supplying all nine Puesto locations out of our little brewery in Mission Valley.
Cheers!: Do you have any new beer/products coming in the near future that you are particularly excited about?
Doug: Yes, we made a Cinco de Mayo Pilsner on tap that will be at all locations on April 15th. In the past, to me, a Cinco de Mayo beer was always a $2 Modelo (and far too many of them), and I thought it was time to change that misconception. The Pilsner-style beer is much more complex than the Modelo, though still very easy to drink. Jacob (my assistant brewer) and I are very proud of this beer.
Cheers!: If you were going to suggest ONE beer off the tap list to a visitor passing through, which beer would it be and why?
Doug: That’s a tough one because we’re excited about all the beers. One of my favorite compliments from fellow brewers that visit is that they can’t pick a favorite because they’re all good. For now, though, to answer the question, I would probably suggest our 10-Year Anniversary Celebration beer, which is an original Vienna-style Mexican lager. Yes, Puesto is ten years old! This beer is closer to something you might have gotten in Mexico in the mid-1860s when the Mexican Lager beer industry began.
Cheers!: Is there anything else we should know about you, Puesto, and/or the brewing program right now?
Doug: We’re moving along trying to find capacity for more varieties of beers, but until then, please enjoy the beers we have. It would be hard to find better Mexican lagers anywhere than what we’re doing here. We are also working on canning our beers for our sporting stadium outposts.
Cheers!: What is the best way for beer drinkers in North County to try some of your beer?
Doug: We currently have no avenues in North County to buy Puesto Cerveza. Sorry! But we are excited that our canned Cerveza is making our way to Petco Park right on time for the new Padres season. We have two food, and drink stands currently, with a third opening this month.
For North County residents, the closest restaurant heading north is in Irvine across from the Spectrum (there are four locations in OC), or head down to La Jolla, where Puesto began at its original location in the Village.
Find the nearest Puesto to you at eatpuesto.com and follow @eatpuesto on Instagram. Stream the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast on the Coast News Podcast page, and be sure to follow and share your drinking adventures with Cheers! North County on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.