Brewery Spotlight: Saint Archer Brewery

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Not all of us can be professional athletes. While 1/10 of 1% of us combine natural talent with plenty of hard work to live that lifestyle, the rest of us schlubs are stuck living life vicariously through the exploits of our favorite athletes while we brush the potato chip crumbs off of our shirts. Our collective desire to “be like Mike” further fuels the lifestyles of our favorite sports figures, as they ink lucrative endorsement deals for sandwiches, razors and everything else under the sun. Consumers eagerly fall in step, as these products tacitly promise a slice of our favorite celebrity’s lifestyle. What else can you expect from the official hair dye of Keith Hernandez?

Unfortunately, the barrage of ridiculous celebrity endorsements conditions everyone to turn a cynical eye to every retired coach who smiles at the camera while holding a package of erectile dysfunction pills. The jaded among us realize that most of these endorsements are just the result of athletes looking for an extra payday to further cushion their bank accounts in the twilight of their careers. It’s a safe bet that most celebrities don’t interact with the products they endorse beyond the freebies they get as an endorser. For an antidote to that cynicism, look no further than San Diego’s Saint Archer Brewery.

When Saint Archer opened for business in mid-2013, they offered a slice of the action athlete’s lifestyle with every glass of their Pale Ale, Blonde Ale and IPA. Unlike companies that pay athletes to promote their brands, Saint Archer is actually owned by a group of pro surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders. With talented brewers like Kim Lutz (formerly of Maui Brewing) and Yiga Miyashiro (formerly of Pizza Port), they set out to brew the kind of beer that they all actually liked to drink after a long day on the slopes, waves and half-pipes.

Saint Archer is a case study in the power of social media. The team of celebrity owners brought with them an army of followers on Twitter and Instagram. Social media has been so successful for Saint Archer that they’re currently in middle of a massive round of expansions that will raise their production capacity from 16,800 barrels to 30,000 barrels per year, and there’s more expansion on the horizon. They’ve also expanded their portfolio of offerings beyond their initial three beers to include a Double IPA, Scottish Export, Coffee Brown and eventually what Miyashiro calls “a very small” barrel-aging program.

Just what does the expansion mean for Saint Archer Brewery? Josh Landan, president of the brewery, joins us to answer a few questions.

Paste: Saint Archer has an eclectic cast of pro athletes. How did this whole thing come together?

Josh Landan: I was a filmmaker before all of this. I started making films when I was 18 for a guy named Taylor Steele, who is one of the more influential surf filmmakers of the last 50 years. I started filming for him, and from there I made about eight movies and a few more surf and snowboard documentaries. I met a lot of my friends through those films, and they just happened to be some of the best surfers, skaters and snowboarders in the world.

My manager was a guy named Pat Magnarella, who also manages Green Day and the Goo Goo Dolls. I was always interested in the business end, and I got to talking to my friends about their endorsement contracts and things like that. That led to me managing athletes, really just my friends, and helping them with their contracts and things like that.

I was in Puerto Rico with my friend [pro surfer] Taylor Knox, and there are always alcohol companies that are trying to get into action sports. Whether it’s Bud, Miller-Coors, Corona or Pacifico, they’re always trying to capture our culture. There were a couple of opportunities for Taylor Knox, which weren’t really a fit. I said to Taylor, “if you’re not going to be a part of energy drinks, which you don’t drink, why not be part of a beer?”

For me, that’s when the light bulb went off. I thought “why hasn’t there ever been a craft beer -or any beer at all— that came from us as in the action sports world?” Everyone drinks beer, whether it’s one every six months or one every day. It was the one thing that we all enjoyed doing together. There’s nothing better than hanging out with your friends, having a barbecue and drinking some beers.

The next weekend I was with Mikey Taylor, who’s a pro skater and my best friend, and I said we should do a beer company together. I didn’t know what it would take, and I didn’t really care. I said let’s give [pro skater] Paul Rodriguez a call, and that was four years ago. So four years ago Saint Archer was born, and it’s been a long but super-fun road ever since.

Paste: So you had no experience in the brewing industry?

JL: I was never a brewer. I was just like everybody else, and enjoyed drinking beers with my friends. We’d always wanted to do a company together, so what better idea than to do a company with a product that we all enjoy together? We could have done anything else, but beer is something that we’re all passionate about. We associate beer with having a good time, so why not do that? I don’t associate buying shoes with having a good time.

Paste: What is Saint Archer’s philosophy when it comes to beer?

JL: We want to make the best beer that we can of the styles that we like to drink. That’s not just speaking for me, that’s speaking for Yiga and Kim who are responsible for brewing the award-winning beer that we have coming out of here. We launched the brand with three of the most generic beer styles out there: a blonde, an IPA and a Pale Ale, but that’s what the majority of beer drinkers drink. A majority of beer drinkers don’t drink coffee browns and 9% Double IPAs. The day-to-day drinkers are drinking sessionable beers, so that’s what we really focused on.

Paste: Which of your beers are you most proud of?

JL: It was fun for us to finally win some awards, even though we’ve only been in business for about a year. We won gold medals at the San Diego International Beer Festival for our White Ale and Pale Ale. Those categories aren’t easy, so it’s a huge accomplishment for us. Along with that, our Double IPA won silver, and our Blonde won bronze. For all of the work we’ve done, that’s my proudest accomplishment.

Paste: How does Saint Archer fit in with the busy San Diego craft beer scene?

JL: The nicest place going is still up at Stone, and their places just make all of the rest of us look bad since they’re so gorgeous. Stone has really been an ideal partner. Steve Wagner has been a mentor to me. They agreed to distribute Saint Archer before we even had beer in the market. Stone kind of went against the grain in the late 90’s with Arrogant Bastard, and Steve kind of saw that in me, since I wanted to go beyond building a brewery by building a brand.

Paste: You’re undergoing some major expansions, what can we expect in the future?

JL: We’re in the middle of a big expansion, but my focus isn’t other states. We’re all born and raised in California, and California is near and dear to our hearts. Fortunately for us, we’re able to sell all of our beer in Southern California, and we launch San Francisco on October 1. We’re not planning on getting out of California anytime soon, we want to sell it all right here, and that would be ideal.

We just took over an additional 6,000 feet, and that’s almost all taken up. Our next expansion is going to get us up to 55,000 barrels, so we’re going to need the 10,000 feet of space next to us. Getting us to that level in the course of two years is pretty nuts. I never thought we’d sell this much beer. I’m always looking at the spreadsheets, and I’m constantly asking, “is this right?”

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