Speakeasy Ales & Lagers New Director Challenges Creativity

speakeasy ales & lagers

David Szamborksi has found the transition into his role as Director of Brewing (aka Brewmaster) at Speakeasy Ales & Lagers an easy one.

Staying in the San Francisco area after leaving as head brewer at 21st Amendment where he helped expand that brand over the past six years, Szamborksi (more commonly called ‘Zambo’) is now looking to broaden the veteran regional brewery’s scope of work.

“I want people to come from all over the country to come in and be able to try stuff that they can say, ‘Wow! I didn’t know they could do that,'” he said.

Szamborksi takes over at Speakeasy as the brewery, which produced about 40,000 barrels in 2015, is in the midst of adding four new 300 bbl fermentors. The brewery is slowly climbing in overall capacity as it enters its 19th year of production later in June.

Szamborksi is overseeing five cycles a day now, with the plan to add a graveyard shift for his staff of 30 on the production floor, over the next few weeks.

It’s a change for Szamborksi, who was running his own ship while at 21st Amendment as he was the only full-time employee working at the brew pub after the brewery opened a new facility 22 miles east in San Leandro, California last summer. He said it was nice to switch jobs and take over a roll at a place he was familiar with.

With 21st Amendment moving its main operation facility from San Francisco Szamborksi knew he wanted to stay close to his home near the 21st Amendment brewpub.

A conversation with Speakeasy’s former Director of Brewing, Kushal Hall, led to his move this year. Hall said that he was leaving to move to Los Angeles and he had recommended Szamborksi for the position.

A former brewer at BJ’s and Karl Strauss as well, Szamborksi said the interview process was like a first date, but he and owner Forest Gray laid out what he called their “nervous questions” and came to ease with the answers he got.

“This is the only brewery that would have had a greater opportunity for me in striking distance,” he pointed out.

Szamborksi has been active in the San Francisco Brewers Guild and knew many of the brewers and employees at Speakeasy before becoming the boss.

speakeasy ales & lagers

“It’s different, but I knew some of the people already and the employees that work here really enjoy working here and the industry in general,” he said. “If you aren’t proud of your work, then it’s a job…and who needs that? We are here to have fun and make money, that’s a career.”

Szamborksi wants to make good beer, and lots of it. He also wants to continually challenge his staff by working more in a cask program.

“Firkin’ fun never hurt anything,” he said with a laugh. He also plans to make use of the smaller 15 bbl tanks, splitting 30 bbl batches to use different yeasts or dry hopping techniques.

“We can make one-off beers just for the local market so when people come to the tasting room they don’t just get what they can find at the store,” he said.

A Great American Beer Festival judge as well, Szamborksi plans to enter Speakeasy into the state fair as well.

Szamborksi noted that there is a lot of aging equipment and his engineering background from Georgia Tech has helped.

“I try to bring in guys to work on fixing stuff so they can work on it next time,” he said. “We are all learning and growing and I am happy to be working with them.

“I’m inheriting something exciting and new and much better and trying to bring in all the creativity I have brought in from the others breweries to keep the brewers happy in creating new stuff, not always just core brands. That’s what craft brewers do, they experiment and wow people, they make mistakes, they drink their mistakes and then try again.”

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