Barley + Rye: Into IPAs? An Atlantan looks to the West Coast

Green Flash rep Tyler Nelson talks selling California brews in Georgia
Tyler Nelson of Green Flash Brewing Co

Photograph courtesy of Tyler Nelson

Tyler Nelson remembers the moment he decided to work in the craft beer industry. The son of a beer distributor, Nelson had sat down solo at Brick Store Pub’s Belgian bar upstairs.

“This Belgian exchange student and I were drinking a draft version and a bottled version of the same beer,” he remembers. “The differences between them were noticeable, yet so subtle, and the whole thing encouraged this remarkable conversation. I said, this is what I want to do, I want to work in craft beer.”

His first craft beer gig was pouring at LEON’s Full Service when they opened back in February 2009. He’s come a long way since, and now instead of pouring beer, he’s supplying it. Three months ago Nelson became the Southeast district manager for Green Flash Brewing Company, and he sells throughout Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. The brewery may be based in San Diego, but they are well-respected throughout the country and even abroad for their commitment to making big, flavorful beers.

Their portfolio is flush with IPAs, and any hop devotee should treat themselves to a vertical tasting. Favorites like the West Coast IPA and double IPA Hop Head Red can be found all over Atlanta, and the delicious seasonal Road Warrior imperial rye IPA is making the rounds on draft. Amber brown with big rye notes it has a citrusy pop and dry finish (9 percent ABV) that’s winning a lot of hearts.

I talked with Nelson about his new job and what it’s like selling California beer to a bunch of local brew enthusiasts down south.

What attracted you to Green Flash?

It’s a remarkable company. It’s one of the fastest growing craft beer companies. We’re owned by Mike and Lisa Hinkley. They’re present, they’re hands-on, and they’re great to work for. Of course, the product is fantastic—the brewing team is lead by Chuck Silva.

What does your day-to-day look like?

Building relationships and making sure people know what our beer is about. I only want to sell to someone if I think Green Flash will make their business better. I work with ten distributors to sell beer throughout my territory, so on any given day I’m driving around to meet with accounts. It’s everything from tasting the beer with bartenders and restaurant staff to making sure our people have tap handles.

A new location is coming to the East Coast soon.

Yes, we’re forecasting that we’ll reach our San Diego location’s 100,000 barrel capacity in 2015. That’s on track for when the Virginia Beach location will open up, which will also have a 100,000 barrel capacity.

So more Green Flash, faster delivery, fresher beer.

And it turns out Virginia Beach’s water source is very much like San Diego’s. Water is sometimes an under-appreciated element of the way beer ends up tasting.

Repping a West Coast brewery, what have you noticed about how Atlantans or people in the Southeast consume or talk about beer?

The challenge I face selling a California brewery is the local consumer that says, “Why does a San Diego beer make sense to me?”

That kind of makes me happy, but it’s surprising too. I’d think regardless of proximity allegiances, a fan of beer just wants to drink good beer.

As local breweries grow and cease to become just local, I think we’ll be seeing more people going through that. There are a number of Atlanta breweries that will hopefully be selling in California. They’ll face the same thing—how does a Georgia brewery makes sense to someone in California? For me, you don’t sell against the locals, it’s building a relationship so the locals drink you as well.

Any Green Flash news can we look forward to?

Within the next year we’ll have some draft and bottle releases, cork and cage 750 ml bottles of rare releases, which is something we’ve never done before. One of our more cult-favorites, Rayon Vert (a Belgian style Pale Ale), will be making a return. We’ll also have some sours and other unique brews. That’ll probably start in December and continue into 2015.