Holy SH*#, 2016 Was Insane!
2016 surpassed all expectations of what it's like to build a craft brewery in Santa Cruz. Moments of excitement, like signing a long lease to a 4,000 square foot warehouse were often interrupted by times of panic, like running dry on cash. Blooming gray hairs and stress-induced night sweats were frequent, and if curious; PG&E will not hesitate to shut off the power when bills are neglected. We dropped a few tanks, put out a few fires and sampled an insane number of beers. The learning curve was steep, and the lessons oftentimes harsh, but regardless of the sobering lows or the intoxicating highs, 2016 provided opportunities worthy of reflection. To summarize - even after two years, the brewery and taproom are non-operational, but we're closer than ever. For once, this elusive light at the end of the tunnel appears within reach. Enjoy the read as we highlight a few key moments from 2016's bumpy roller coaster ride.
First Beer Sold - Don Quixotes - The Coffis Brothers and The Mountain Men
A year ago today we sold the first ever pint of Humble Sea beer. It wasn't all high fives and hugs as the event was nearly fumbled due to a malfunctioning keg washer. Tonight, we're ready for round two, and this time with five beers on tap as The Coffis Brothers & Mountain Men perform at Don Quixotes in Felton. Interested in reliving last year's hardships? Click here for nostalgia.
Home Is Where You Make It - Swift Street
Finding a building capable of enduring a commercial brewery is a challenge within itself. Initially, we signed a lease to a warehouse in Soquel. Plenty of parking, busy street, it seemed like an excellent fit. However, due to structural uncertainties, we were forced to relocate, landing a home wherever we could. With luck on our side, we scored a quaint 4,000 square foot warehouse on Swift Street. Amongst the Westside's growing community of beer lovers, wineries, bakeshops, and eateries, we're elated to call this neighborhood our home.
Purchased 10 BBL ABE Brewhouse
Used brewing equipment is expensive and in high demand. With brewing great beer as our number one focus, we sought the best equipment for the job. Top recommendations from other American Breweries currently using the same system urged us (almost forced us) to order from ABE. When our business is riding on the equipment, why purchase anything without 100% certainty?
Construction Begins - Wish Us Well
After months of working with the city, we received all necessary permits to start construction. We ripped apart walls with sledgehammers, relocated bathrooms, essentially gutted the entire building. Even after six months of development, including free manual labor from friends and family, we're still weeks away from finishing (but, hey, things are looking great).
Funded - Raised $789k
The most significant moment from the past year was raising the $789k necessary to fund the brewery. Raising money sucks. You get turned down, heartbroken, and ignored a lot. However, with a combination of small investments and a $500k SBA from Heritage Bank of Commerce, we're financially ready to get the doors open. Big thanks to all the investors and Bob Dennis from Heritage Bank of Commerce for believing in us!
The Arrival of the 10 BBL ABE Brewhouse
Pulling a 14 foot, three thousand pound, 20 BBL fermenter out of five-foot high shipping container is no walk in the park. One slip and the tank turns to scrap metal. So when the strap broke and the tank fell, our hearts stopped, and underpants moistened. By far, the most exhaustive, nerve-racking day(s) were the arrival and unloading of three, fifty-three-foot long shipping containers worth of brewing equipment.
From beer fests to tap takeovers, to working alongside Matthew Swinnerton and Event Santa Cruz, we participated in 23 events in 2016. If there was an opportunity to pour beer, and a customer willing to drink it, we said yes to the opportunity. Some of our most memorable events from the past year include:
- Don Quioxtes & The Coffis Brothers & Mountain Men
- West End Tap & Kitchen Tap Takeover (1 & 2)
- The Event Santa Cruz Food Truck Round Up
- First Friday - The Art of Tasting
- First Friday - Cosmic + Onewheel + Humble Sea
- Event Santa Cruz - Collaboration On the Lot Party
- Hop & Barley Festival
- California Craft Beer Festival
- Ventans Surfboards Spruce Pale Ale Release
- Ventana Surfboards Cedar Saison Release
- Beer Thirty Bottle Shop & Pour House Tap Takeover
With the addition of key employees like Jacob, Ben, and Shane, seeing the company grow in staff is exciting. More staff means more opportunity and more flexibility. For example, with Shane taking the role as the barrel program director, new ideas and recipes can be put into oak without adding extra stress to Nick, Ben, and Jacob. BTW - Jacob, Ben, and Shane - we love you guys, thanks for making this dream a reality.
As the new year is quickly underway, we look forward to a grand opening in a few weeks. But regardless of the date, our goal is simple: make great beer, encourage community, and leave things a bit better than they were before. We want to thank everyone for making 2016 so special as we optimistically sprint into the new year.