Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.'s Kirk Hillyard


Half Moon Bay Brewing Company ― about a half-hour down the coast, just off Highway 1 ― just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Sipping pints by the fire pit at the family- and dog-friendly brewpub has come to exemplify California chill. While brewmaster Kirk Hillyard has worked at HMBBC since 2005, he has been brewing in Half Moon Bay since before the place even opened, having started homebrewing as a student at the local high school.

SFoodie: What is the primary difference between being a homebrewer and a brewmaster?

Hillyard: Volume. A homebrewer can be experimental and if it doesn't work out, you only have a few gallons to convince your friends to drink. If you brew a batch professionally that doesn't come out right you have hundreds of gallons you have to figure out what to do with. Also, when I was homebrewing I took for granted how much time I could give a beer to finish fermenting, conditioning, or clarifying. Sometimes as a brewmaster you don't have that luxury and have to keep the beers moving.

For such a sociable place like Half Moon Bay Brewing, is it the beer or the setting that is the bigger draw, and should one necessarily take precedence?

Honestly, I think the setting is the biggest draw. There aren't too many places where you can enjoy a drink and a bite to eat a stone's throw from the ocean. There are definitely people, though, that come for the beer. The easiest way to try the only brews being created on the San Mateo coast is to come by the pub and enjoy the view and a brew.

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