Alvarado Street Brewery has two locations just south of the Bay Area: the brewery and taproom in Salinas and the brewpub and beer garden in Monterey. J.C. Hill, the Director of Brewery Operations, and his team brew some of the best NE IPAs outside of the northeast, managing to blend the West Coast and East Coast styles perfectly. They’ve also nailed the design game with some funky, gorgeous can art (a recent favorite of mine is their April Fool’s prank: Milk Pils). I caught up with Hill to chat about how to not take beer too seriously, and why he decided to open Alvarado Street.

John Paradiso: How’d you get your start in the brewing industry?

J.C. Hill: My garage in 2009-ish. I made some progressive Hefeweizens and crystal heavy DIPA’s. Making those gave me the confidence to pursue brewing at the next level and I eventually opened a nanobrewery restaurant in San Diego in 2012, Amplified Ale Works. I’m really grateful that we hired a professional brewer though; the jump from homebrew to professional is mega gnar. Then, Alvarado Street came to life in 2014.

JP: Why did you want to start a brewery?

JH: Beer is fun. And we like to party.

Photography by Brock Bill

JP: What’s an absurd thing that you love?

JH: I’d have to say Dave, he’s pretty absurd. He’s our sales director and has quite a few personalities: most notably Party Wave Dave, Grass-fed Dave, Daquiri Dave (when he goes on vacation), and for formal situations, Dauv. He resides at Playa del Dauv most of the year. Don’t even get me started on Chuggems. Editor’s note: We have a lot of questions.

JP: Any horror stories from your time as a brewer?

JH: The brewery is an incredibly dangerous place. Luckily we haven’t had any situations that have resulted in a true “horror story.” There have been a bunch of close calls that I hope we’ve learned from. We’ve had some sketchy situations arise (pun intended) with some stupid dry hopping ideas. CO2 asphyxiation is no joke and I wouldn’t recommend dry hopping mid-fermentation to anyone with a brain.

Photography by Brock Bill

JP: What are your thoughts on the state of hazy IPAs in the industry?

JH: The choice for consumers and craft enthusiasts has never been better in the hoppy realm. I do think there is too much emphasis on the aesthetic of beer though. For us, if it smells and tastes good, who cares what it looks like?

JP: What is your favorite beer to drink right now?

JH: We’ve been consuming a lot of Firestone Lager lately. It’s an incredibly versatile beer; you can pour it into a wine glass and dissect it’s brilliance, but you can also shotgun it with your crew.

Catch Alvarado Street at Juicy Brews WestFest on April 22nd in Oakland, CA.