Local brewers have typically saved their money and relied on the financial support of family and friends to get their operations up and running. At times, there may be an outside investor. Bank financing usually comes later, once the brewery is established.
No one has ever turned to a Kickstarter campaign before.
Shady Oak Barrel House of Santa Rosa has launched a drive on the online fundraising platform to collect $6,000. The money will go to construction of a koelschip, an open-top fermentation vessel used to collect wild yeasts and bacteria for spontaneously fermented beers. The device will be hitched to a trailer so wild yeast can be harvested throughout Sonoma County.
"It’s essentially a mobile hot tub with fermented beer in there,” said Steve Doty, owner of Shady Oak, which is known for its well-regarded sour and farmhouse ales, which are barrel-aged. His Sonomatastic beer — a rustic farmhouse ale fermented with different wild yeast strains and aged in French oak for six months — is a favorite with local beer fans.
The campaign continues until Monday and has garnered $5,055 in pledges as of Wednesday. Kickstarter does not allow the sale of alcoholic beverages, so Doty is offering up other inducements, from shirts and glasses for low-end contributors to the chance to help him brew and blend a batch of his beers for a $1,000 pledge.
Doty said he decided to go the Kickstarter route because it was a minor project outside his regular business operations. But it is likely to spark Doty’s creativity. He considers himself as much a blender as a brewer, inserting various yeasts and fruit such as peaches, grapes or cherries into his beers. His 750-ml beers retail for more than $10 at local shops.
“I like the idea of doing a coastal beer as opposed to one in Rockpile,” said Doty, who started his label in 2013 and still runs it by himself, though friends help him out with bottling. “I think I could show the difference in the areas.”
Doty is working on the koelschip project with Wesley Deal, co-founder of Barrel Brothers Brewing Co. in Windsor. If successful, he said he could envision loaning it out to other local brewers.
Shady Oak has moved to a bigger facility in the 400 block of First Street, where Doty will be able to ramp up production; he currently produces fewer than 1,000 barrels annually. The larger space will allow for a more streamlined bottling process through the use of storage tanks.
The new facility also will have a tasting room with a back patio. The taproom should be open to the public in a few months.
He also is in discussion with at least one local bank to help with financing as he grows, especially to add additional staff needed to operate a tasting room.
“I started out the brewery with basically nothing,” he said. “With what’s happening, I’m working with a bank.”
You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @BillSwindell.