Craft beers are a brew to success for Manzanita

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Rustic Horizon, Gillespie Brown, Chaotic and Where There’s Smoke are just a few of the unique fine craft beers manufactured by Manzanita Brewing Co. that fermented a pair of entrepreneurial home brewers to success. With an early start home brewing in the mid 90s, Jeff Trevaskis, president/CEO and cofounder Garry Pittman did what many people only dream of. Turned a bad situation into a great opportunity.

Rustic Horizon, Gillespie Brown, Chaotic and Where There’s Smoke are just a few of the unique fine craft beers manufactured by Manzanita Brewing Co. that fermented a pair of entrepreneurial home brewers to success. With an early start home brewing in the mid 90s, Jeff Trevaskis, president/CEO and cofounder Garry Pittman did what many people only dream of. Turned a bad situation into a great opportunity.

Both laid off in December 2009, they both risked all of their severance benefits and opened the doors of Manzanita Brewing in January 2010. Recently, celebrating its third year, Manzanita started with 10 gallons of home brewing to a 100 gallon initial system to its new brew house and tasting room with a 1,000-gallon system in place and consistently brewing upon high demand for its craft beers.

With Pittman deciding to pursue other ventures, Manzanita has a new head brewer in Matt Patterson, hired in 2011. He came with a similar background of humble beginnings.

“I had a friend and you can always tell a brewer in the making when the realization hits, “I can do that? I can make beer in my closet at home?’” he said. “So I did a couple of batches with my friend, then got my own equipment and started brewing myself.”

Patterson said moving around to Hawaii, California, Connecticut and Massachusetts was a sign that he loved what he was doing and was going to continue. “It was the hook,” he said.

He came to Manzanita working at the first brewery turning out batches while Trevaskis and Co. built out the current facility. Patterson said Manzanita serves six core beers year-round, most based off of home brews time tested for years now, releases 12 specialty beers a year, plus casks that are one day only, experimenting all the time.

“Only if a recipe is an absolute home run is it certain to come back,” he said.

Trevaskis said Manzanita grew quickly, and it has been difficult, but it is easier now since they set limitations.

“Now we are limiting ourselves to 100 percent growth a year,” he said. “In our second year we did nearly a 450 percent increase at that was insane. Too much of everything needed and it just went out of control.”

He said keeping in balance with that limitation is the key and the Tasting Room is a perfect example of what their goals are.

Manzanita’s Tasting Room is cozy, comfortable and has an inside view of the state of the art brewing equipment and employees, working at crafting beer. Trevaskis said the purpose of the Tasting Room is to introduce people to their beers. He said they never intended it to be a beer bar, but that is not out of the possibilities at a new location in the future.

“Here they can get five four-ounce tasters, or any of our beers, but most are here to test the main five that are available everywhere,” he said. “We have too many good places everywhere that serve our beer.”

He said tasting was 90 percent of income the first year, but is now around 10 percent, right where he wants it. The goal is for 60 percent in bottled products, 30 percent in kegs and 10 percent in tasting, he said.

Trevaskis said right out of the gate they provided kegs to restaurants and in a year began bottling. For 15 months the bottled 109,000 beers by hand. “Writing on the wall was that bottling was the way to go,” he said.

Manzanita has come a long way in a very short time since those first days, he said. It now distributes throughout San Diego and just signed with Wine Warehouse for distribution throughout the state. It launched its Southern California campaign two weeks ago and is scheduled to launch in Northern California September 1. Manzanita is looking to expand to three or four more states and just sent out its first foreign export of its product to an American craft beer store in Italy.

“This was given to us on a silver platter, handled without us virtually having to do anything,” he said. “It took us for surprise when they asked for 20 pallets in April, so it took some planning.”

Trevaskis said is took some doing and for a short time he thought he might have to build another fridge, but now the shelves are empty and it is a relief, he said.

“It has been great to get out some decent quantities of beer,” he said. “In the next three months we have quadrupled our monthly gross, hired three brewers, a salesman and looking for another.”

Manzanita is up to 15 employees currently, and Trevaskis said even with everything going on, the shift from Pittman to Patterson as head brewer, there has been plenty of lead-time and it has been a smooth and friendly transition.

There is still more to come from Manzanita Brewing Co. that received nine medals in the last two months, adding to its collection. Patterson said there is a hop harvest beer coming that can only be made at hop harvest time and a re-release of its very popular Danger Ranger. Trevaskis said hopefully, there will be a grand opening for its distillery in September or October. “Another side project,” he said.

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