Phil Cutti, new head brewer at Speakeasy

Speakeasy’s new head brewer, Phil Cutti

Speakeasy’s new head brewer, Phil Cutti

San Francisco-based Speakeasy Ales and Lagers recently announced they were bringing on Phil Cutti as their new head brewer. Cutti is the current president of the San Francisco Brewers Guild and Founder of Headlands Brewing Company. He is replacing Clay Jordan, who is leaving for family reasons. We had a virtual sit down with Cutti to get his take on what lays ahead at Speakeasy.

Speakeasy has a journeyed past — where do you see the brewery headed?

A life mantra of mine is “Acknowledge and move on.” That does not mean dismiss the past, but recognize it, respect it and learn from it. There is plenty to learn from in every company’s history and Hunters Point is a new launching point for the Speakeasy Ales and Lagers brand. We will move forward with a concerted effort to retain our identity through our core beers and with an eye towards building the Hunters Point name through new additions to our portfolio. We have a great platform to grow from.

Are you looking to change existing styles, add on, or both?

The game has changed a bit. Legacy brands are known for their core beers and the new wave of breweries are small, nimble and can roll out various styles and/or beers on a monthly if not weekly basis through their taprooms. If we’re not adapting to the ever-evolving landscape, then we will have a hard time retaining customers, let alone bringing new ones on. I plan on keeping a few of the core beers and blending in a number of new offerings through our taproom and hyper-local distribution.

What is on your immediate to-do list?

Our team needs to expand. To execute our growth plans we need people to help us on the packaging side, in the cellar, and on the brew deck. I’ll be looking for a few people to round out our team. Our brew team has taken a look at bringing back some old favorite recipes and developing some new beers. We hope to have released tenw new beers by the end of the year. On the technical side, water is an obvious but often overlooked ingredient of beer. I’ll be re-tooling our water profiles per beer to hopefully give them a simple makeover that will make them more of what they are intended to be.

Does this impact your position with the San Francisco Brewers Guild?

I’m the current president and chairman of the San Francisco Brewers Guild. Over the past two years we have been working to evolve our guild into the Bay Area Brewers Guild (BABG). I have one year left on my term and that will be ten years of service. It is a challenging job and I am undecided if I will continue on the board after my term is up. I’d like to see the BABG really take off, but not sure if that will be fully realized in one year.

What does this mean for Headlands Brewing Company?

HBC has been brewing beers at Hunters Point since August 2017 and brought all of their production here in early 2018. As head brewer at HPB, I’ll continue to brew Headlands’ beers to the quality they have always been produced. It’s fun to actually be brewing the beers I developed and ensure the brand stays relevant.

How do you see the craft brewery landscape in the Bay Area as we head into 2019?

Times are definitely changing. Competition is fierce for shelf space and that puts the onus on breweries to connect with their customer base through an authentic taproom experience. Gone are the days where independent breweries are seeing growth by leaps and bounds every year. The taproom is where breweries build and connect with their community. The Bay Area is expansive and the region offers so many different experiences to the consumer. The independent brewery landscape is as strong as ever, just more spread out. As we transition towards the new year, it’s my hope that we will be able to celebrate and elevate the diversity that our region encompasses and translate that into an experience that bring more people to the taprooms to connect with their brewers and makes everyone proud of their local brewery.