Bill Sysak, or as he’s more often referred to, “Dr. Bill,” is the Craft Beer Ambassador for Stone Brewing Co. Dr. Bill is a Certified Cicerone® and has proven expertise in selecting, acquiring, and serving craft beers. He received his nickname through his work as a combat medic in the military Army National Guard, and the moniker has stuck with him throughout his career in the craft beer industry. At Stone, he’s responsible for setting the beverage standard and ensuring the beverage philosophy is followed at all Stone Brewing Co. venues. Dr. Bill suggests the beer, wine, and food pairings for the restaurants’ menus, and also coordinates and hosts many Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens events including: Beer & Cigar Dinners, Master Pairing events, Sour Fest, Oakquinox, Stone Pour it Black, and Rare Beer Breakfast. Sysak has been featured in such publications as New York Times, Draft magazine, Imbibe, Los Angeles Times, and Food & Wine. He can also be found on the popular Internet podcasts, “New Brew Thursday” where he does a “Master Pairings” segment each week and “Expert Drinking,” where he educates his fans on the best of craft beers, fine wines, and spirits.
Who do you see taking these classes?
I see anybody who has a passion for craft beer or wants to know more about the industry taking these classes. I also see anyone who wants to be a part of the craft beer industry, whether it’s through hospitality, working in a brewery, or the education process.
Why do you think this program is needed in San Diego?
The craft beer scene is in a constant state of growth and there are no signs that it will slow down – at the time of this interview there are 71 breweries in San Diego County alone. Craft beer production is growing by double digits every year where macro-beer numbers have been flat during the last five. There is definitely a growing trend among consumers to appreciate the better things in life. When I was growing up, we had Wonder® bread, Kraft® Singles, and Oscar Mayer® bologna, and now we have the farm-to-table and the Slow Food movements. There are small boutique distilleries springing up around the country making high-end spirits. Likewise, there are around 2,400 craft breweries in the U.S. People want flavorful beer.
What will students learn in your class?
They will learn the history of beer – prehistoric times to modern day – encompassing the renaissance of craft beer. They will learn how complex craft beer is. Topics we’ll go over include the process of making craft beer, taste, versatility when pairing with foods, and an overall appreciation of what craft beer is.
Will there be classroom activities and/or homework?
There will definitely be homework. I’ll also ask students to become more involved in the budding craft beer community in San Diego by visiting different pubs and breweries – whether it’s as a class field trip or on their own. Of course, we will taste a variety of craft beers in the class as well.
What do you hope students will take away from the program or your class?
First, I hope they gain a new appreciation of craft beer. The craft beer community can always use more people who are proponents of and profess their passion for craft beer. Secondly, I want students to be excited. If they’ve been passionate about craft beer in the past, I want them to be reinvigorated, to find a newfound love in craft beer. I want them to make it a part of their professional and recreational life.