For more than two years, Christopher Jackson and his team at Seismic Brewing Co. have preached to consumers about how their beer is made in a sustainable manner. In short, that means using practices that support ecological, human and economic health and vitality now and for years to come.
They have touted, for example, how they have reduced the gallons of water needed to brew a single gallon of beer down to a ratio of below 3 to 1. They have talked about how they partner with local businesses — from malt provider to distributor — and cover the full cost of employees’ health care.
Yet that message was hard to get through because the Santa Rosa-based craft beer purveyor didn’t have a taproom where customers could visit, drink and learn more about Seismic — which is an anomaly in an industry increasingly relying on direct-to-consumer sales. That’s about to change with the opening next weekend of Seismic’s taproom in The Barlow in Sebastopol.
“We’ve got an opportunity to talk about our beer with as much passion and enthusiasm as we can in this space,” said Jackson, the 29-year-old son of Barbara Banke and the late Jess Jackson, who founded Jackson Family Wines, one of the nation’s most recognized wine companies.
In an interview, Jackson said that if he had to do it all over again, he would have opened a taproom sooner, when he started in 2016 building his brewery in southwest Santa Rosa. “We would have been in a better position,” he said of the multimillion-dollar taproom project separate from his family’s wine empire, but “frankly I think we are in a great position.”
Indeed, Seismic was an outlier. The only comparable craft brewery in California that didn’t have a taproom for years after producing its first barrel of beer was Anchor Brewing Co. of San Francisco, which opened its Protero Hill brewpub in 2017, said Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association.
“It’s just something the customer seems to appreciate,” McCormick said.
The advantages go beyond cultivating more customers. For small breweries, they can sell their beers on-site and to-go because it’s difficult for them to get widespread retail distribution in the crowded craft brew marketplace. Larger breweries can more efficiently test new beer recipes to determine if they will catch on with beer drinkers before ramping up costly production.
“It allows core consumers to see who you are and experience the brewery and get a sense and feel for the story of the brewery,” McCormick said of the taproom.
Birth of a brewery
The early focus for Seismic was launching the brewery, which started shipping its beers to area bars and restaurants across Sonoma County in the spring of 2017. Later, the brewery started canning beer in six- packs and selling it to supermarkets and specialty stores.
Jackson’s initial plan was to grow within Northern California and not try to flood the national beer market. Seismic now makes about 10,000 barrels of beer a year. It’s also expanding distribution, selling beer in Reno and planning a push into Southern California.
“We will be knocking down the door of 30,000 barrels before we blink,” he said, noting his company is on track to turn a profit next year.