Do you remember the exact moment you found your calling? Some spend their lives searching, others aren’t so lucky. For those who do, it’s a blessing and a duty to share that love with the world. In our latest interview, we spoke with one such person. A person who not only loves his job, he’s self admittedly, certifiably obsessed.
Meet Daniel Kause of Dueling Ducks Brewing Company. Daniel is the owner, founder, head brewer, and one of the most passionate individuals of craft beer we’ve ever met. Daniel takes us on a journey starting with the exact moment he discovered what he wanted to do with the rest of his life (hint: brewing beer). By asking many questions, drinking lots of beer, and being present, Daniel made his dream of opening a brewery a reality.
Check out our latest interview with Daniel Kause from Dueling Ducks Brewing Company.
Nancy: Tell me who you are, your role, the name of your establishment, and then I want to know your background. What led you into craft?
Daniel: I’ll start here, I’m an incredibly passionate individual who is certifiably obsessed with beer.
My name is Daniel Kause, I’m the co-founder, owner, and head brewer of Dueling Ducks Brewing Company. We’re a small, 7k barrel, 3k square foot tasting room in Anaheim, CA. We’re actually right in the mix of the Anaheim beer scene which is incredibly robust and growing. We’re brewery number 12 in a mile and a half radius. Most of our breweries here are Arryved customers, which is funny. One of the biggest, Brewery X, is literally across the street from us. We could not be more in the mix with what we want to do and where we wanted to be.
We have an absolutely bitchin’ staff on the tasting room side. I don’t quite have help on the brewery front, yet. The aces on the team help when they can—my staff drops hops in on brew days. They have fun calling themselves the owners and brewers of Dueling Ducks.
Daniel Kause, co-founder, owner, and head brewer at Dueling Ducks Brewing Co.
Me. How did I get into all of this? It’s a relatively simple but not short approach. I was born and raised in Southern California. San Diego wasn’t really known for anything other than beaches and great Mexican food. I went to college at the University of Oregon; ended up playing my football days up there—obligatory Go Ducks!—that’s when I first got my education, and I would say exposure to beer.
My father would come up and join me in Oregon, he’d sit and watch college football games all day. Whenever he was in town we’d go out to dinner after the games and he’d always ask what fresh beer was on tap. At the time, I didn’t realize he was getting fresh Dechutes Black Butte Porter, or Mirror Pond Pale Ale, or any Rogue flagship beer, fresh. I thought, “that’s genius, Dennis!” My father’s name is Dennis. He’s a genius! That’s when I started to gain an appreciation for beer.
I went home to Orange County around 2009/2010, when Southern California started to establish themselves in the beer scene. When a big entity makes its name in one location, all the little guys start following. So I did what I consider any self admitted obsessed person does, I had to find the answer to whatever question I had in my head. That answer led to a 100 more questions and, as you can see how the trend is going, I had to find the answer to all those questions. I would visit every place I hadn’t yet been, with beer in hand, gazing at the people behind the bar, or the brewing equipment, and I ask, “Hey, whenever you get a chance, can I ask you one question about beer?”
With pride, I can say I’ve been to almost 2,000 breweries in America.
In my previous life, around 2010/2011, I was a teacher and I coached at the high school level. It was a fun, phenomenal, and awesome experience. It didn’t pay much though, so that was an equation we had to solve. I ended up teaching AP level Computer Science. I had to become certified to teach these courses so my employer sent me to a conference at the University of San Diego. During my first session, while I should have been Googling what my professor was saying, I was making a plan of attack for my brewery tour of San Diego.
My first stop was the original Ballast Point location, their Homebrew Mart. I burst through the door like a Tasmanian devil, a man on a mission, and headed straight to the bar to drink literally everything cool they had on tap. It was just me and this one gentleman behind the bar; I didn’t know at the time but he was one of the 5 original brewers at Ballast Point. I say to him, “I gotta ask the million dollar question: How does one even get started in this?” He said, “We all started making beer at home and it kept evolving.” I was like, “Timeout, you can make this stuff at home?” And he gestures to me around the space we were in. He said, “We have everything you need here. Everything you need to make beer at home.”
Image courtesy of Dueling Ducks Brewing Co.
The minute I found out you can make this stuff at home, I did zero work on actual school. I think the statute of limitations has passed so you can tell my former employer about this but I spent zero time on computer programming. I went back to Ballast Point the first moment I could. I wouldn’t even eat lunch, I’d just go down there and have a beer and talk to whoever would listen. By the time I was back home 4 days later, I had already ordered all the equipment necessary to make my first batch. I was introduced to a whole new series of opportunities—a whole new galaxy.
A month later, I brewed something. I wanted to make a beer for my 30th birthday. I asked my dad to come by to help. I put together a Youtube playlist with 12 videos of the Brewing process—most of the stuff that comes from the homebrewer association—and I said, “we’re doing it and we’re doing it right.”
This next part is effectively my Alice in Wonderland moment down the rabbit hole.
I’ve always loved hops; I love IPAs! At the time I was new to the presence of hops and their smell. We got our wort to a boil—I’m standing over the stove, my dad is off to the left—we’re smelling this really delicious amber beer. I had about an ounce of hops in my hand—now an ounce of hops is what we spill when we’re doing a brew—and dumped them in. I’ll never ever ever forget this next part, it was a two-part effect:
(1) I saw the hops go in then come back up to the surface and the little extraction of the oil moved itself off of the hop;
(2) All that oil, that separation, just punched me right in the nose for an incredible sensory experience.
I knew from that moment forward, doing this, brewing beer, was going to make me the best version of myself.
Image courtesy of Dueling Ducks Brewing Co.
Nancy: I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who I’m more excited to be a brewer than you.
Daniel: I feel very fortunate and blessed. Warren Buffet has a quote I often use: “Don’t sleepwalk through life.” My wife and I evolved it into, “Create a life you don’t need to take a vacation from.”
I found what I wanted to do at 30 years old. That’s a blessing and I consider it my duty to pay it forward because the one thing I can’t do is leave this place worse than how I found it. I would be doing a disservice.
Yes, brewing and me will be forever tied to each other. Nancy, you’ve picked up pretty accurately the beat with which I march. Once I drank that first batch, and it tasted like beer, I had to keep going. I did what you heard me do: I had to go find out what I did not know and keep asking questions about beer. That’s how I built my network.
In 2017 my father and I started putting the business plan together and that year we officially formed the company that is our parent company for Dueling Ducks. We did the long, grueling, and not for the faint-of-heart process of trying to find enough capital to fund a brewery. We broke ground on construction at the end of 2019 and then 2020 happened and that took our 4 months construction project out to about an 11-month construction project, as I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of horror stories.
February 13th, 2021 we were officially open and sold our first pint to the public. When I said obsessed, I wasn’t using that term lightly. I was obsessed and determined. I pride myself in this, if I declare I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it.
Nancy: I want you to take us on a different journey now: tell us about your taproom. What will we experience when we walk in?
Daniel: The things we wanted with Dueling Ducks: clean, classy, and timeless.
A look inside the Dueling Ducks clean, classy, and timeless taproom. Image courtesy of Dueling Ducks Brewing Co.
Nothing is unintentional. It’s there to provide the main things that we want to provide: a clean, safe, comfortable environment with good beers. Because then we’ve done our job, the next part is your job: gather with whomever. Friends, family, strangers, we don’t care. Build something great around what we’ve done. Now we’re an extension of your life, your journey, your experience, and hopefully we’re there as a support along the way.
The ethos of our brewery as far as the concept and the brand: craft beer education through competition. It’s not trademarked yet so don’t take that from underneath me. What I mean by that is, we at Dueling Ducks are the experts, it’s our job to pass our knowledge on to you. Our job is to be the support and give you insights where you need them. There’s a lot of stuff people don’t know about craft beer; part of our mission is trying to demystify it. And when I say education through competition, what we’re doing is—I’m glad you’re sitting down for this—duel some beers. We have a chance to do that while broadening the palates and horizons of our patrons.
One of the first duels we’re going to do is the west coast versus the east coast style IPA. We’re probably going to do them with the same hops so you get similarities and noticeable differences.
If you came in not knowing anything about us or anything about beer, you’ll walk away thinking: that place is comfortable, it’s clean, classy, the staff was amazing, did you know there’s a difference between east coast and west coast IPAs? That has been very well appreciated and well received by a lot of our patrons.
Dueling flight board. Image courtesy of Dueling Ducks Brewing Co.
Nancy: Tell me about the name, Dueling Ducks Brewing Company, is that the original version of the name?
Daniel: No! I’m glad we came to where we are because the first four iterations of our name were not good. As you can imagine, trying to pick a good URL or a good 1-800 number, all the good ones are taken. Same with company names.
I just loved my time at the University of Oregon, I love being a duck. When we first started brewing we were the Drunken Duck. That would have been abysmal. Thankfully that never lived commercially. That evolved into, well there’s two of us, my dad and I, so we tried Double Duck. Disney was going to have an issue with that name. Then it was like, what about Dirty Duck. It’s kind of edgy but not. We filed a trademark for that name and met some resistance, so we ultimately decided to abandon that name as well.
We went back to the drawing board and were kicking around ideas and I went to this craft brewery workshop put on by the Craft Beer and Brewing publication which really helped open my eyes. I was sitting in their marketing presentation, angrily typing on my laptop when they said: good brands are polarizing and go with what you know. That’s when I came up with the concepts of Dueling Ducks—go with what you know. Duel, that’s polarizing by nature. And I’m an athlete, my dad’s an athlete, so competition is what we know.
Nancy: From where you sit, as an obsessive beer guy, where do you see the craft industry evolving over the next couple of years?
Daniel: That’s a good question. There are a lot of ways you can answer that question. On a consumable side of it, I believe we’re going to swing back towards the traditional styles. Life is cyclical that way, there are ebbs and flows.
Second part, I don’t think mobility in packaging is going anywhere. During the pandemic everyone would grab a 6-pack to go and drink it at home. I did, and I don’t necessarily prefer drinking beer from cans. We never had any idea of beers going into cans until at least year two. Now, we’re planning on putting in a small tabletop canning so we can get into more markets.
Third part, our market is seeing people dying to get together, wanting to be social together. They’re going to have a demand for events. I welcome the idea of a cool music festival or create a fun and engaging craft beer festival.
At Dueling Ducks, we’re creating brand loyalty via internal and external events. Internal, rent our spot out, we’ll give you the whole experience and you get to live in the brewery for a day. We also just hosted our first beer dinner at the brewery. External, you want to have a sweet beer dinner for an anniversary, great! You have a chance to engage in craft beer, the right way, in a manner that makes most sense for you. Most importantly, you’re doing it with people.
Nancy: So you understand why we conduct these interviews: without our customers, we know nothing. We understand technology, we understand how to solve problems, but those ideas and that journey is driven by our customers. The more we know you, and learn from you, the more we can share that information with everyone else who is trying to grow their business.
Daniel: High tide raises all ships.
Nancy: Yeah. It keeps us real.
Daniel: I really appreciate that approach. There’s no way you can simulate an actual tasting room experience so go directly to the people who are there. It’s great that companies still operate like that.
You guys at Arryved, I love the heck out of you guys.
It’s been an honor to partner with Dueling Ducks Brewing Company. Learn more about how we can partner with your team to create a guest-centric experience.