By Corey Marino
He gets out of his car, walks in through the door and up to the bar, he looks up at the huge chalk board vibrant with color and flare.
So many choices and so many tastes, allowing Kevin to relax and enjoy the start of his weekend with a delicious locally-brewed craft beer.
Davis is lucky to live in California, especially Santa Clarita. As of January 2019, more than 980 craft breweries are in operation across the state, more than any other state in the nation, and the Santa Clarita Valley has six breweries within its boundaries already.
Craft beer plays an important role in supporting the economic engine in California. In 2017, craft breweries contributed $8.2 billion to the state’s economy. Santa Clarita is no different as local breweries like Wolf Creek Brewing Company, Peacock Brewing Company, and Telco Brewery are sprouting up and growing all over the Santa Clarita Valley into a beautiful brewing bouquet.
California is one of the founding fathers when it comes to the craft brewing movement and it has integrated itself into the overall economic landscape of the state. According to the California Craft Beer Association the industry creates 54,028 jobs, produces $3.1 billion in labor income and the average annual wage earned is $56,839.
As California has pushed the craft industry, Santa Clarita was making its mark when Wolf Creek Brewery, founded in April 1997, became the city’s first brewery.
Laina Mcferren, the co-founder of Wolf Creek Brewery, said that there were a couple key factors for the dramatic growth of the industry. First was the support of local businesses.
“Santa Clarita is a friendly environment to open up a small business,” Mcferren said. “The community loves to support local businesses.”
Second is the combination of taste, better ingredients, and delicious food pairings.
“Craft beer is about taking your time and making quality every time, and it’s a plus that we have great ingredients in our food as well as our beer,” the cofounder said. “ Brewing is a lot like baking, you have to be precise, mess up a little and it changes everything.”
Lastly, Mcferren added that the boom has lasting power due to the wide variety of beers that the craft industry produces combined with the love for experimenting with flavors and constant innovation for new and unique beer.
Mcferren said that Santa Clarita is thriving as craft beer hotspot due to the young demographic with disposable income.
The United States Census reported that a third of young people, or 24 million of those aged 18 to 34, lived under their parent’s roof in 2017. Now a days more and more young people are staying at home while they go to college and start the rest of their lives.
With the recent increase in young adults with money to spend, the need for more local breweries grew as well. Todd Tisdell, the cofounder of Pocock Brewing Co., has had many entrepreneurial ventures and saw an opening in the local beer market.
“I saw that we only had one local brewery that was producing craft beer for the whole city,” Tisdell said. “I just thought the city was underserved for the population.”
After taking a couple years to get everything in order, Pocock opened its doors in October 2015. They quickly became a town favorite and a local hang out.
“We came in a little towards the end of the boom, and it helped that we were second on the scene,” Tisdell said. “But what helped most was having a decent product that people really enjoyed.”
Both Pocock and Wolf Creek have won over 10 local, state, and nation beer awards each and are paving the way for new comers like Telco Brewery to make its own mark.
Just like both of its predecessors Telco started with a great love for craft beer, a love that grew into a hobby, home brewing, and blossomed into a wonderful opportunity to distribute their creations to the community.
All three of these breweries started at home, in the garage, or the shed in the backyard. The brewers refined their craft at home and experimented their beers on their family and friends.
Both of the co-founders of Pocock, who are brothers-in-law, got a home brewing kit for Christmas, one thing led to another and then they had a barrel system in the garage.
“We started making our own beer and bringing it for family at Christmas and other holidays, they loved it,” Tisdell said. “Family started to tell their friends and we were asked to brew beer for parties, then strangers asked for it and we knew we had decent stuff.”
In a similar story, Tony Santa Cruz and Jaime Hernandez, the co-founders of Telco Brewery, met due to both working at the same Telephone company, hence the name of the brewery.
Hernandez had a love for beer and wanted to home brew, a coworker pointed him in the direction of Cruz and right away a bond for beer was formed.
Jaime said they started brewing their beer for family gatherings and for friends, but just had two rules, give us feedback and give us back our bottles.
“Once our family and friends liked it, Jaime convinced me to enter our beers into some beer festivals and contests,” said Cruz. “I didn’t really think anything of it until we started winning, and then we both knew we had something special.”
Telco Brewery started pouring beers for the public in September of 2018, and thanks to the help and support of the community have continued to steadily grow.
Craft beer is so popular because it can be shared in multiple ways. Families can drink it together, friends can brew it together, and communities can enjoy it together.
The craft beer industry is very unique, unlike other businesses, breweries help each other grow and flourish. Breweries come together for experimental collaborations, where each brewery helps brew one beer in which they both had creative input.
Craft beer gives the home brewers a chance to stand out and face the Goliaths, like Budweiser, Coors, or Guinness.
“The craft industry is different, it is really cool to be not all of us against each other, but all of us against the big guy,” said Tisdell.
Another reason for the success of craft beer in Santa Clarita is the breweries use of tap rooms. These spaces are used for all kinds of events, trivia nights, holiday parties, or just a Saturday night out with a group of friends.
In these tap rooms, customers can get a round of four to five beers at four ounces a piece called flights, this allows them to try a variety of beers from indian pale ales, lagers, and stouts. These flight of beers are sold for a reasonable price and allows the customers to experiment and try new beers without breaking the bank.
Once someone has found the beer of their liking, they can grab a full pint, sit down and enjoy, or they can take it home in a variety of ways.
People can buy crowlers or growlers, 32 to 64 ounce containers, to fill up with their favorite beer at the tap rooms and take home to appreciate at a later date.
Local breweries are also bottling, canning, and kegging their most popular beers to sell in bars, restaurants, as well as in liquor and grocery stores across town.
As the customers experiment in the tap rooms and at home, the brewers are busy in the back being mad scientists of their own.
“One of the best parts of brewing is trying new recipes, striking gold, then refining it to perfection,” said Cruz.
Unlike the big corporations that rely on one or two varieties of beer with a light beer mixed in, craft breweries stay relevant by creating new beers with unique tastes and unusual stories.
All of Telco’s beers are named after concepts involving telephones such as; Rotary Red Ale, Low Voltage Wheat Ale, and Short to Ground IPA. Pocock has named its brown ale, The Old Road, after a main road in Santa Clarita. Nuptials, a mango blonde ale, was brewed for a family wedding and was named accordingly. Even Wolf Creek has its Desperado IPA, which pays homage to Newhall’s cowboy past.
Each brewery has a unique spin and philosophy that allows them to be different but successful. Each little individual detail comes from the passion and love that the brewers have for the beer and the community.
Craft beer is a family, with all the breweries trying to help each other out. That is one of the main reasons why it is having such an easy time settling in Santa Clarita, the town that was made for family building.
“We were acquaintances and beer brought us together, we made a brewery but that connection made us a family,” Cruz said.