Trey Duval is a man on a mission. By day, he runs campus recreation at a local university in Los Angeles, CA. By night, he becomes the Beer Missionary, spreading the gospel of craft beer far and wide to all those who will listen with open minds and palettes. Over the past year, Trey has been hosting craft brewers on campus and doing what many may call a miracle, getting college kids to care about what beer they drink. I caught up with him at a recent “meet the brewer” night and offered him the chance to share the beer gospel with Aleheads.
Can you tell us a litte about The Beer Missionary and what it is that you do?
I started out a few years ago doing beer tastings as social events at things like birthday parties, wedding receptions, and gatherings of friends. I also taught a “Beer 101” extension class at a local University. Then the craft beer craze finally came to L.A. and that pretty much ended the tastings since people could go and taste/learn about beer at their neighborhood craft beer bar. Currently, I try and keep an eye on the L.A. Craft beer scene and send out information to anyone who is interested and occasionally do a tasting for a group if I have a connection with them. I also use my passion for craft beer to help operate a college pub.
People usually associate the college years with cheap, mass produced beer and pale lagers. Heck, my own college craft beer experience consisted of just the occasional Sierra Nevada Pale ale. What made you decide to start bringing craft beers, as well as the actual brewers of the beers to an on campus pub?
I honestly believe people will choose to drink good beer when they are exposed to it. In college there was no “good beer” out there until Samuel Adams hit the market. It was like a light went on for me. I feel like if we can do that for people the same light may go on for them as well. I also felt like L.A. would eventually come to appreciate craft beer as Northern California and San Diego already do.
I was in the Loft one night before class and Ballast Point was the guest brewer. They were pouring pints of Victory at Sea for $2. How are you able to get away with charging so little for such high quality beer? Students no longer can play the “but I’m a poor college student” card to justify buying cheap mass produced ales.
We provide a service to the University community and, unlike off campus venues, we aren’t about making money. We do try to break even for our food and beverage costs and are on track for this year. The Victory at Sea definitely costs us more than $2 per beer but we also have other beers that cost us less than a $1. I try to select a variety that will allow us to break even.
How has the reception among students been so far?
Outstanding. Students, just like the general population, are more into craft beer than ever before and our patron count reflects that. The fact the students, faculty, and staff can come in and try new beers each week, at a very reasonable price, has helped us attract a very local customer base.
When you get brewers in, is there a lot of interest among the students of the actual craft and science behind the beer?
Not much. I would say there is a very small minority that is interested in learning about the process although they are interested in talking with the brewery reps about their beer. Some reps do a really good job of talking with the customers and others not so much.
Do you find that college kids have a deeper appreciation for craft beer than they may have had 5 years ago? Do you find that they shy away from the mass produced pale lagers that you and I drank back in the day?
I think they appreciate it and when they can drink it for $2 they definitely will, but when they are at the store and have to choose a beer to buy, most will still buy the 30 pack of Natural Light. It’s sad but true. I do believe the craft beer and Wine have similar characteristics especially on the higher price points. People that have more money will spend it on better beer (and wine). It’s a basic cost v. benefit equation. Is the beer worth the $? We all do it, I did it yesterday and bought the Lagunitas Hop Stoopid for $4.49 versus the Firestone Double Jack for $8.99.
Have any students that you know gone on to pursue careers in the beer industry?
We have some former students (alumni) who own a brewery in Moorpark called Enegren brewing. They make a really nice Imperial IPA and Alt.
You are a resident of the South Bay. What do you make of the beer boom that is going on in that part of Los Angeles?
Better late than never. I think it’s an explosion and I wonder if the huge increase in craft beer bars will result in people getting burned out. One thing it has done is made people a lot more selective with their choices. I used to go into a bar and if they had 1 or 2 good craft beers I would be excited, now I’ll go to a place with 16 and be underwhelmed by the selection. People want the newest and rarest beers they can get.
What are some of your favorite releases that are out now?
Right now I am really into Double IPA’s and Imperial IPA’s. My favorites are Bootlegger’s Knuckle Sandwich, Firestone-Walker’s Double Jack, and Shipyard’s XXXX. Of course Lagunitas Maximus, Port’s Mongo, and Avery’s Maharaja are all right up there!