One of the most ambitious projects in the craft beer industry is ramping up in a nondescript warehouse in southwest Santa Rosa.
There, a team of 20- and 30-somethings is attempting to build from scratch one of the most environmentally sustainable breweries in the country, one that will be able to handle a wide array of styles, from a kolsch to a blonde ale to possibly even a Mexican hot chocolate stout.
Their leader, though, is not well known in the industry, where brewers have typically climbed up the ranks. The path usually goes from home brewing to apprenticeships alongside more established brewers — and maybe formal education at UC Davis — to finally scraping enough money together from friends and family to give it a solo go.
Instead, he is much more associated with the world of wine.
Christopher Jackson, 26, is the youngest child of Barbara Banke and the late Jess Jackson, who founded Jackson Family Wines. The Santa Rosa company helped catapult American wine from jug to premium status and now ranks now as the ninth-largest wine producer in the country, according to the trade publication Wine Business Monthly.
His Seismic Brewing Co. venture is independent from the wine company. Jackson and his wife, Ariel, who married a few weeks ago, are the proprietors of the new beer company. The young couple has an infant son.
The mission is to make delicious beer with a focus on efficiency and sustainability; one of his goals is to reduce the amount of water used to produce beer. Most craft breweries currently need 3 to 7 gallons of water to brew a single gallon of beer, said Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, an industry trade group.
Jackson hopes to get it down to a 2-1 ratio of water to beer.
“We want to build a company the right way from the very start that is going to be around for 30, 50, 70 years,” said Jackson. “I’m out to prove with this team that you can do things the right way. You can mitigate your environmental impact. You can make high-quality beer. And that is a sustainable business model.”
The venture costs millions of dollars, Jackson said, declining to disclose an exact amount.
The factory will have a 60-barrel brewhouse with American-made equipment that will allow the brewers to overlap different batches.
It also includes a new state-of-the-art system that will reuse water by completely removing contaminants and solids from the brewing water. This EcoVolt water system is in use at Bear Republic Brewing Co. in Cloverdale and Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma.
As for his workforce, Jackson personally recruited a well-regarded brewing staff that includes Andy Hooper from Anderson Valley Brewing Co. in Boonville and Christian Torres from Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles.
“It’s important to me to have a high-quality canvas and then have people who can develop the recipe. The biggest factor besides the quality is the people,” Jackson said. The goal was to “get some really passionate young professionals who want to leave their mark on this industry.”
Jackson’s path into the beer industry bears some similarities to that of his father’s venture into wine. The elder Jackson, who died in 2011, first started out at his Lakeport facility among a dream team of North Coast consultants.