Pushing the Boundaries of Music and Craft Beer
Heather Morra and Damian Fagan in the new Almanac Beer Brewery in Alameda.
Photographs by Joseph Fanvu.
Damian Fagan and Heather Morra
Entrepreneur, Financial Consultant
Members since 2013
“We met online back when only nerds met online,” laughs Heather Morra. “I think we started the movement.” Heather and her husband Damian Fagan arrived in San Francisco from North Carolina and Michigan, respectively. Heather is a senior underwriter and says that she is the “control freak” of the two. Damian is the co-founder of Almanac Beer Company, the award-winning local craft brewery he started in 2010 after closing his marketing and advertising firm, Fagan Welles.
Damian had discovered jazz in San Francisco when he came upon KCSM radio out of San Mateo and heard saxophonist Paul Desmond for the first time. He was hooked and started listening to jazz nonstop. “I went from jazz of the ‘50s and ‘60s to Brad Mehldau and then to fusion and Christian Scott,” says Damian “It’s a massive universe. I never stopped being intrigued.”
As a huge jazz fan, Damian had been anticipating the opening of SFJAZZ Center in 2013, and became a member along with Heather soon after.
It’s a quest, whether I’m searching in the record store or creating ideas for a new beer.
“I’ve always gone to hear live music, but it’s not just about jazz for me,” Heather says. “I’m not an enthusiast like Damian. But there is always something that resonates with me at SFJAZZ. I love watching the musicians vibe with each other – the expressions on their faces. The diversity and the talent are so inspiring.”
Heather Morra and Damian Fagan in the new Almanac Beer Brewery in Alameda
Much like SFJAZZ’s major milestone when the Center opened, Damian’s Almanac Beer Company made one of its own this February by opening its new 30,000-square-foot Barrelhouse, Brewery and Taproom on the former Naval base on Alameda. Producing over 70 different kinds of beers every year, the brewery is a very creative enterprise. “It’s very jazz-like, in that no two beers are the same,” says Damian. “Similarly, we want to push boundaries. It’s a quest, whether I’m searching in the record store or creating ideas for a new beer. Like jazz, we’ve embraced the newness and we pay attention to quality. Our customers always know that there is a lot of care put into our beer, and that’s also how we feel about SFJAZZ.”
Damian and Heather’s most memorable SFJAZZ events include skateboarding with jazz pianist Jason Moran and the performance by comedian Dave Chappelle. “I know that some wanted to hear Chappelle do only his standard comic performance, but to me it felt special to see him doing something that incorporated the music,” says Heather. “It was watching the artist in their creative moment.”
The couple frequently selects concerts with artists that they are unfamiliar with. Says Damian, “We go to other concert venues around the area, but we don’t go to any venue with regularity like we go to SFJAZZ. It feels like a club – it’s a unified body that is going through space and you can jump on it. You’re part of a community and joining up for a journey. I always know that I’m coming back to SFJAZZ.”
This article is part the SFJAZZ Leaders Circle stories. The Leaders Circle is SFJAZZ’s premier philanthropic group of individuals who believe in the transformative power of the arts.