Kevin McGee of Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley Brewing wins Wine, Beer & Spirits Industry Awards brewery CEO category
The winner of the brewery president and CEO category in North Bay Business Journal’s beverage alcohol industry awards says the pandemic has been a time to strengthen the company’s staff.
How did you get into the industry? And what has been your career track since?
I suppose the point-of-no-return was in 2007 when I turned my garage into a bonded commercial brewery (the Healdsburg Beer Company) and started turning out 30-gallon batches of beer.
My family bought Anderson Valley Brewing Company in December of 2019 and while I’ve only been at AVBC for a year I’ve spent the past 13 years single-handedly operating the one-barrel brew house I designed and built and selling small batch cask ales out of my car to local bars and restaurants.
The super small production meant that every pint was extremely important and forced me to focus on attention to detail and the quality of the beer and was an effective crucible in developing my brewing skills.
My career has taken a winding path but in retrospect it feels like I had been spending the last few decades preparing for my family to acquire AVBC. I’ve been working in alcoholic beverages for just about 20 years now and when I founded Healdsburg Beer Co.
I was spending my days working at Jackson Family Wines as Jess Jackson’s consiglieri and spending my nights and weekends brewing.
I’m an attorney and initially worked as a prosecutor in San Francisco and San Mateo counties where I specialized in and taught gang violence prosecution trial tactics and law.
When I left to enter civil practice, I developed a number of wineries as clients and started learning the business aspects of alcohol production and marketing.
Jess Jackson hired me to join Jackson Family Wines as his personal legal counsel and business strategist, which was an intense and irreplaceable education, and Jess also sponsored me through the Executive Program at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
Following Jess’ passing I developed a dynamic consulting and operating partner business, during which time I served as CEO of a wine and hospitality focused private equity firm with businesses and employees spanning three continents. My consulting work focused on generally fixing business problems and crisis management, mergers & acquisitions, corporate development and strategizing and executing growth strategies so they don’t become problems that then need to be fixed.
My family’s acquisition of AVBC was the product of a long search and an even longer effort to find something that the family could hold as a long term, multi-generational business.
Over the years I was fortunate to have a few opportunities to work with my father on some projects of his and conversations would often evolve into the kinds of business that we’d like to be involved in and why and in 2018 we began a more formal process.
Craft beer was really attractive to us and after looking at a number of breweries we closed the purchase of AVBC in December of 2019. AVBC was precisely what we were looking for – a pioneering craft brewery with deep authenticity and a long history of producing top quality beer.
And now I’m happy to say that my winding career path ends here - this is my last job and I plan on doing this for the next 25 to 30 years and then passing the business along to another family member.
How have you or your company influenced the industry in the last five years? What are key accomplishments?
AVBC is a true pioneer and its influence goes back well more than the past five years.
Founded in 1987, Anderson Valley Brewing Company has a long history of being really good at making beer, which was the most important factor we considered in purchasing the brewery and I’ve long admired this strong history of quality, innovation and authenticity.
It’s not often you find a pioneer of an industry continuing to be innovative and AVBC has helped define craft brewing and doing things like introducing goses and kettle sours to the U.S. The brewery’s strong history of commitment to community, philanthropy and environmental stewardship continue to influence the values of a generation of brewers.
One of our big accomplishments this year is in further developing what we think of as “Leave No Trace Brewing.”
All the water we use for production and the property is sourced from 10 on-site wells and we treat and discharge all our waste water, meaning we have zero-impact water usage.
For power, we’ve been a partially solar-powered brewery for just about 20 years and we’re going to be expanding our solar array to increase our power generations to cover 100% of our power needs.