Seismic Brewing in Santa Rosa wins Wine, Beer + Spirits Industry Awards for 2018
Andy Hooper came to Seismic Brewing Company in late 2015, as the venture was just emerging. With a biochemistry degree from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, and brewery training at University of California, Davis, he had managed the laboratory at Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Mendocino County for six years.
Seismic was started by Christopher Jackson, son of Barbara Banke and the late Jess Jackson of Jackson Family Wines, and Patrick Delves. The 13,000-square-foot brewery opened in a southwest Santa Rosa industrial area in May 2017. It produced 1,500 barrels the first year and is on track to make 3,200–3,500 this year, with more growth planned with a retail venue next year.
“We didn’t dip our toe in the water with the brewery,” Hooper said. “We can expand up to that volume. When we want to play ball with the big chains we can, and we already do.”
The brews are distributed in Northern California for the moment. The company regularly turns down retailer requests, if the chain can’t guarantee the beer is stored properly to retain freshness, Hooper said. While no additional production facilities are in the offing, Southern California distribution would be a next step, when the freshness factor is worked out.
But what is in the near-term view for expansion are taprooms, six of which are allowed under duplicate type 23 state beverage licenses, Hooper said. A taproom at The Barlow complex in Sebastopol is set to open by May. Additional taprooms are being considered.
Another realm for expansion is “going down the rabbit hole of hops and malt,” Hooper said. He’s working with a couple of California maltsters to create custom variations found nowhere else. One is Alameda’s Admiral Malt, which brings barley in from Woodland, and Seismic uses the malt for a California pilsner. Another is Rohnert Park startup Grizzly Malt.
“It gives a sense of place that consumers are geeky about,” he said. “It’s sort of like bringing terroir to beer.”
Terroir is a French term for the connection between unique characteristics of a wine growing region and the final product. That’s important as craft beer enters a consolidation phase after years of strong growth, Hooper said. Frequent flavor changes aren’t good enough to get attract consumer or distributor attention these days, he said.
“You have to have keep quality first and innovate to drive the conversation forward,” he said.