The brewing scene in San Diego has something of a generation gap. It's gotten to the point that venerable elders like Stone and Ballast Point just can't keep up with all the whippersnapper brewers they have to shoo off their lawn. However, there's a sprinkling of breweries well on their way to middle-aged, like Twisted Manzanita Ales (née Manzanita Brewing) with four years of wisdom to share. President and CEO Jeff Trevaskis took a moment to discuss their journey and craft-brew futures and reassure that their new distilling operation, Twisted Manzanita Spirits, isn't a product of midlife crisis:
How has the craft-brew landscape changed since you opened Manzanita Brewing Company, both in Santee and at large?
We are seeing many states getting filled up with San Diego craft beer, but also local brands. We were one of about 50 breweries when we started in San Diego. This year we could break 100. Even in Santee, in four years there will be four breweries and two distilleries. Many people see a bubble or a plateau, but the same was said when there were over 6,000 wineries in 2010, and now there are over 8,000.
How do the challenges of opening a new brewery compare to scaling an existing operation? Which proved more difficult?
A new brewery is always a fun, exciting adventure; you start with a clean slate, new equipment, lots of room. But the other side is the preparation, installation, training and outside forces. Along with inspections, plan reviews and, of course, getting people to buy your beer.
Updating and running an existing location is much less burdensome. The hardest part is where to put everything once you expand. It is amazing as we expand to our walls and ceilings how much stuff really can fit. We keep asking ourselves: When is a good time to get shipping containers or an offsite warehouse, only to find that we can stick 10 more pallets of boxes in here.
Do you foresee the same explosion in growth in craft spirits in the next four years that craft brew enjoyed?
I think it will be more so. Everyone has seen what happened in craft brewing (and many investors want in on that still), but they will not miss the boat with craft spirits.
Was there ever a time you had to worry about Manzanita surviving?
Wow, I still do. It does not keep me up. I have total faith in God to lead us through. Times are always tough before 4,000 barrels; [however], we are expanding both within the United States and in several foreign countries. This year is truly a growing year for us.
What's the most valuable lesson you've learned in four years in the craft-brew business?
There are so many! Being a total workaholic is a good plus for the business. Pick a good city to work with. Santee has been a great home for us and has been supportive since the beginning.
What's the next big thing for Twisted Manzanita Ales and Spirits?
Expansion! We are excited to have our beer and spirits in new areas both nationally and internationally. We also have a few more exciting things happening that will come out over the new few weeks. So stay tuned!