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Santa Cruz Mountian Brewing

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Uploaded on May 12, 2010

On your way south from San Francisco on Highway 1, the scenery is absolutely stunning - chock full of parks and turn-outs offering travelers majestic views of the Pacific Ocean. Eventually, Highway 1 leads into the original Surf City USA of Santa Cruz, California. Santa Cruz is well known for a number of things including great surfing, an eclectic community and being a university town. Despite the obvious, many parallels are often drawn between Austin and Santa Cruz, but they have one staple to their community that Austin does not (currently) Organic Beer.

Organic Beer? I know it sounds kind of niche but the folks at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing have mastered the organic craft brew business. Founder and head brew master Chad Brill was working for the local Parks and Recreation Department when his wife taught him all about home brewing. My wife actually taught me how to brew beer Chad states with a giggle on a sunny afternoon over a pint. Once he got comfortable with brewing, their garage became increasingly small. One day they were driving around town and found a small warehouse (see the video) for rent and they decided to start brewing beer in this rented space as their home was busting at the seams.

Once they got the space, they started brewing different flavors and a few stood out to their friends. Eventually, they decided to get a bigger set-up which they found half-buried in the ground. They cleaned up the equipment, started purchasing kegs and began brewing beer for public consumption soon after. Since 2006, things have remained relatively unchanged and yet they have changed dramatically. For example, SCMB now has a tasting room with an outdoor patio in the front, has their beer distributed throughout the West Coast and is pumping out over 1,000 bbls of goodness each year.

As organically as the business started, the reasons for brewing with all organic ingredients also resonate with Chad and his wife Emily Thomas. The couple has always lived in an area where locally produced and organic goods are plentiful. They firmly believe in purveying their goods as locally as possible and with the beer, this has proven to be a bit tricky. Genetically modified grain and crops are frighteningly unchecked and who wants that in their beer? states Thomas, co-founder of the brewery. Additionally, hops are one of the most heavily sprayed (pesticides and herbicides) crop due to easy pest infestations, a fact that most consumers probably do not even consider as they drink their favorite beer.

Ironically, SCMB imports most of their organic hops (mostly) from New Zealand due to lack of availability in the US while their grains (mostly) come from Canada - and they would like to see this changed. The problem is that there are no standards with organic beer. You could use one ingredient in the beer and call your beer organic. All of the ingredients we use in our beers are certified organic, and that is important to us states Brill. Additionally, some breweries might have an organic beer as part of a larger lineup, but the lineup at SCMB is all organic.

The lack of available resources also makes brewing beer a constant challenge at SCMB. Most breweries can consistently brew the same beer every time, but when relying on seasonal products from various parts of the world, SCMB is constantly scrambling to adjust recipes to yield consistent results. But dont let this fool you; the beers at SCMB are really good. I recently visited them and spent a couple of hours with Chad and Nicole Beatie (Sales Director and all things PR) and had a flight of their brews. Their standard lineup consists of an Amber, Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Stout, Wheat and Porter. Throw in a few seasonal brews and its no wonder why this place is packed most evenings. I especially enjoyed their India Pale Ale a very classic West Coast style IPA with a whopping 78 IBUs.

I caught up with Chad and Nicole and learned more about Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing.

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