Topa Topa Brewing Company celebrated three years on June 9th. I spoke with owner and co-founder, Jack Dyer about their rapid growth and success.
EP: So tell me about celebrating three years. What have you done to make it such a success?
JD: It's been a very humbling and fun three years. That’s for sure. I think for us, just turning three and being able to grow with the community and really try and focus on that, supporting the community both with the craft beer community and our local nonprofits. It's just a really fun experience for us. It’s had some ups and downs. But we came to market really knowing who we are and what we, what we'd like to brew, what we like to make at the company, who we want to be. I think that's the difference. It's made us successful to just really, really, focus on making the highest quality product we can, doing things ourselves and at the end, supporting the community.
So we have three core values that we follow, to make every decision and they’re quality, craftsmanship and community spirit. So we try and instill that in everything that we do from the tap room to making beer to the projects and nonprofits that we support. I think that that's what's helped us be successful and grow to the point where now we've outgrown our facility and we're making, we're building a new, larger facility to be able to make some more beer. We have grown our company from three employees to, now we have 35. So it's a blessing. It's super fun.
EP: Go into more of who you are, you are the other founders. As far as beer trends, do you follow those?
JD: There’s three founders. It’s myself and Kyle Thompson and Casey Harris, who's our head brewer, but he also an owner in the company which, which, Kyle and I really think is important. And you know, we want him – Casey - invested financially in the success of the company. The key for us in really the three of us. I can't speak highly enough of my business partners. They truly are like two of the smartest guys I know. And you know, we've built a nice kind of family culture and that’s been really important and really key for us, having the three of them to be able to focus on. Casey handles pretty much the entirety of the beer program.
Kyle handles a lot of the finances and special projects and I'm able to do more sales and marketing. So having the three of us I think has also played into our our ability to grow somewhat quickly because we kind of all take our pieces of puzzle and just do ‘em, do what we do. So as far as beer trends and things, we almost pride ourselves on not being trendy. We make beers that we like to drink and that we think our customers will enjoy and that's always been a focus for us since we started. So it seemed to work so far. So yeah, we really focused on keeping all our beer super, super fresh, as well, which is a very important piece of the puzzle. And I think within the market, the craft market's growing so crazy.
That's probably the most fun aspect of it - is that there's so much great local fresh beer available now. So we just try to capitalize on that. In particular, our Chief Peek IPA, that’s our flagship. Just keep it as fresh as possible. So you pull up to a bar in Santa Barbara County or Ventura County, it’s probably less than three weeks old. That didn’t used to happen in the beer game. So, now that’s the reality.
EP: So what, what do you think your hardcore Topa Topa fans who've been there since the beginning would say about you guys?
JD: Well, I hope that they love us. We really appreciate our customers and we try and take the time and effort to really give them a great experience every time they have one of our beers, whether having one at an account and a retail partner or at one of our tap rooms – we really want them to feel welcomed and at home and give them a space where they can come and converse and talk about beer and really engage with their community.
I like to think that, you know, our hardcore customers, and partners don’t just like us, they love us. We love them right back. I think a lot of our customers that have heard of over the years, they value our consistency that we're consistently putting out a high quality product. We don't run out of our flagship beers, you know. So I think that's a big thing that they really enjoy. We have great customers, regulars, that that's been a fun thing that - quite frankly I didn't really expect to have as many regulars. We know them by name. They’re part of the Topa family as well. So that’s been a fun thing as well, something that I didn't really anticipate when we undertook this starting a brewery thing.
EP: Right. Awesome. What’s been the most surprising thing in the past three years?
JD: Just been the pace at which we've been able to grow. We wrote the business plan based on kind of a set pace that we thought we'd be able to sell beer and grow our tasting room model. But the fact that we're working on our third location and that we're close to 5,000 barrels of production is, is pretty wild. But that was like year seven, eight, nine of our business plan and here we are in year three and we’re already there. So that's the most surprising thing and just the general support that we got from the community and to see the overall growth of Ventura County and Santa Barbara County and craft beer in general. That's the most surprising thing for me for sure. It's wonderful to see.
EP: And when do you guys have going on in July?
JD: Community spirit is always the forefront. We just dropped a collaboration beer with our friends at El Segundo Brewing Company. A group that, always, we just love those guys. We love their beer. They came to us. They really wanted to do something to benefit the Thomas fire. They are down in L.A. and they wanted to do something to help. So, we did a beer, it’s called Hat’s Off. We’ll probably have a few fun events. We already launched the beer down in L.A., but it's now hitting stores in the area, in Ventura and Santa Barbara County. But we're planning some fun event at Fluid State. That’s going to be one of them for sure. We don't have the date locked down yet, but we're working on that right now.
We brewed in down in El Segundo. El Segundo’s committed to a dollar of every beer going to two different nonprofits that help Thomas fire recovery efforts. Jen and Aaron have already committed that they’ll be donating some proceeds from that night…It will be in the next few weeks. Otherwise, we’re working hard, keeping our tasting rooms busy. I'm keeping up with our production. We're currently, we have two construction projects going on at Topa Topa right now. We have a third one and we're building a larger production facility so we're a little busy with that.
EP: Which leads me to my next related question, goals for the next three years?
JD: So we've always loved the taproom model, so are adding a couple more taprooms. That Ojai one should be open by late summer and that'll be a really fun project. We're partnering with a really great food provider in the region as well. So we'll have some fun food to pair with the beer there, we think it will be a nice enhancement. And the production facility is going to enable us to make beer to satisfy our network of draft accounts and also we're finally going to be able to get into the traditional packaging, cans. So that's going to be really exciting to see our beer getting into that format so that people can enjoy it, because currently right now, if you want a Chief Peak, find a draft account in Ventura or Santa Barbara County. So we're excited to do that. That'll be kind of what we focus on here for the next little bit.
We hope to have packaging by sometime before the end of the year. A lot of it has to do with timelines and permits, all the fun stuff that goes with building a new brewery. But yeah, we've already bought a canning line, so it's going to happen. We’re really excited to do it and provide some more beers out in the market as well.
Apparently we really only distribute Chief Peak, so we're excited to get a few more options out there for people. We make a lot of great beers, but a lot of people just know us for Chief Peak.
EP: Speaking of Chief Peak, congratulations on the Casa Pacifica win.
JD: Yeah, that was a fun win. We don't really measure ourselves by medals. But it’s always fun to be voted in by your peers. People tasting our beer. People get consistently surprised that Chief Peak is such a flagship beer, people are actually surprised when they're doing a blind tasting. It’s a really great beer. Casey and our team did a great job with that recipe. It's always so, so freaking fresh. It’s difference maker when you drink it, when you drink a week old IPA, that's pretty nice.
EP: What are your thoughts on the county now and how it's grown and versus three or five years ago.
JD: It's pretty amazing. I was just talking about this last night with Jason, the head brewer here at Allagash, where we're at. Just, the landscape and the diversity and the styles of beer is - in our region - is really fun and to see every business model working, I think that's the most compelling part is that whether you're a nano brewer, big production, distribution from day one. All these models are working.
That's a really fun thing to see. I find myself talking about the guys at Enegren a lot because I love that ]they're focusing on these German, real clean beer styles. You know, [you have] the guys at Casa Agria and their sour program. It's just really cool to see people succeeding and focusing on quality.
So that's the number one thing. I think that no longer is Ventura County a skip over spot when people pass through. You gotta’ stop and try the beers. There’s incredible diversity right here. And all those guys are friends of ours. They're good guys and they make good beer and they’re really committed to making the best product they can. We love it and when we decided to open in Ventura County, it was something we really focused on and really wanted to build a greater sense of community amongst the brewers and even like with our friends, with our retail accounts. Just really focusing on getting things going.