Love of Craft Brew Courses through Career Trajectory of SDSU Business of Craft Beer Program Instructor

Justin Evelyn

Justin Evelyn Teaches Front of the House Management in the Business of Craft Beer Certificate Program

Justin Evelyn’s love of great beer began on a trip to London with friends when he was 18 years old. On a hunt for rare records in Camden Town, the group took refuge in a pub to escape the rain.

“I remember that there were heater vents on top of the booth seats and I was drinking my first ever pint of cask ale,” said Evelyn. “This beer perfectly framed the experience of settling into an English pub on a rainy day. It had subtle complexity, delicate carbonation and it pulled me into a deeper understanding of English culture in general. This trip propelled my continued admiration for travel and great beer.”

Evelyn’s career trajectory has been craft beer-driven ever since. This San Diego native started his career in beverages at Holiday Wine Cellar, then became the original beverage director at Stone World Bistro & Gardens, procuring beer and wine, maintaining a beer cellar and draft system, organizing events, and teaching beer education courses.

Next he was the opening general manager of the award-winning Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, and currently is the executive hospitality manager at Bagby Beer Company. Evelyn is also a Certified Cicerone® (and Certified Sommelier) and proctors exams for the Cicerone® Certification Program.

As an instructor for SDSU’s Business of Craft Beer program, he shares his decades of expertise in his six-week course, Front of the House Management. Evelyn answered some questions about his course and SDSU’s program.

How did you come to be an instructor with SDSU’s Business of Craft Beer program?
Dave Adams has been a longtime friend and is also member of the SDSU Business of Craft Beer Advisory Board. He approached me in 2014 about co-instructing a class about FOH management for craft beer establishments. We were both excited about the opportunity to create a class that provides students with an honest and applicable view of what it takes to honor craft beer through service. The ultimate goal for us is to create a culture within craft beer establishments that respects and maintains the integrity of the products they serve, while opening up the world of craft beer to their guest and providing a great experience.

What do you think is a key strength of SDSU’s program?
The SDSU Business of Craft Beer program offers something unique in the sense that it’s not a technical brewing certificate. It’s a comprehensive view of the industry as a whole. The program seeks to develop our industry by educating all sides of the industry with the fundamentals and core values specific to craft beer. This inclusive approach promotes a deeper understanding of further growth and refinement of craft beer, while maintaining our unique culture.

Tell us about your course, Front of the House Management, which appears to encompass nearly 10 different careers.
This class focuses on FOH design, service model, staffing, training, management, beer program management, brewery tour programs, and ensuring that the integrity of each beer served is maintained and presented to our guests in a way that promotes a great experience.

Do you have a favorite anecdote to illustrate Front of the House life – either a success or fail?
There’s a laundry list from slightly amusing to tragic. It’s very much situational, and plenty come up in class.

What kind of homework can students expect?
The majority of the work involves engagement in class. There is some reading.

Does the course involve group activities?
Yes. The class involves group discussion, tastings and an offsite class. Student involvement in each class is very much encouraged.

Run us through the off-site visit.
Our offsite visit is focused on tour programs and is usually held at Green Flash Brewing Company. The emphasis of this class is on connecting guests to the particular culture and craftsmanship of the business through hospitality. The class goes on a guided tour of the brewery from the perspective of the tour guide, in order to get insight into what’s involved in creating a memorable experience for the guest.

What do you enjoy most about your career?
The people, the beer, and the endless pursuit of new knowledge. The order of these three things can vary.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Creating an environment where collective knowledge and experience can be shared and built upon. It’s important to me that each student gets as much from the class as possible. I think this is the case when the class is engaged in exchanging their own unique experiences and perspectives.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to enter this field or take your course?
Drinking beer and serving beer are different disciplines. If you don’t have a passion for both of these things, leave the service part to someone who does.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
In chronological order: a zoologist, an artist, a poet, a photographer, a person who is grateful for what he has.