When firefighter Aron Levin suffered minor burns battling a blaze more than a year ago, his wife, Amy, knew immediately what they should call the new craft brewery they were in the process of planning.
"Our family is very blessed; my husband was blessed in the situation here he didn't get hurt worse," she said, "and we felt St. Florian, the patron saint of firefighters, was watching over him, and so: St. Florian's Brewery."
The couple also pledged to give at least 5 percent of their proceeds to community causes, including fire-related charities.
"My whole goal in putting together the business plan, I wanted to do something philanthropic," she said. The firefighter connection "gave us the outlet."
The couple opened their new brewery in January in Windsor. Their first brew, an India pale ale, has so far met with a warm reception, said Matt Fenn, co-owner of Beercraft in Rohnert Park.
The beer is fresh and well-balanced, he said, and customers seem to like the firefighter angle.
"People like a good story behind everything they buy, and beer is no exception," he said. "They like to support that."
St. Florian was an officer in the Roman army in the third century. He was executed for being a Christian, first by being set on fire and then by drowning, according to various Catholic sources.
Firefighters adopted him as their patron, and the St. Florian's Cross, also known as the Maltese Cross, is a commonly used symbol in fire departments worldwide. A small version of the cross is the centerpiece of the brewery's logo.
Aron Levin, 37, began brewing about 20 years ago, helping his cousins in their homebrewing hobby. He stuck with it, becoming a proficient and well-equipped amateur. The Levins' home is packed with equipment and beer left over from his experiments on the recipes.
"I didn't want to turn a hobby into a job," he admitted as he was hand-filling kegs from a towering steel tank last week. "I could decide to do this when I wanted to do it at home, but here I have a schedule to keep."
But his wife had other ideas. After about four years at home raising their two young sons, the former high-tech sales and marketing executive was eager to get back to work.
Her husband's talent as a brewer offered an enticing possibility.
Over the years, she said, friends who claimed to like wine better than beer kept coming back for a second glass of Aron's creations.
"After that happened I don't know how many times, I turned to my husband and said 'You've got something magical going on. This isn't just a fluke, it's happened too many times; let's do something with it,'" she said.
Aron Levin, who maintains his full-time job as a captain in the Windsor Fire Protection District, says he resisted for a few months but finally gave in to his wife's infectious enthusiasm.
"Now my job is her job," he said with a laugh. "She went back to work and I went to work twice as hard. But it's all good. It's family time; we get to spend more time together."
The couple won't say how much the new brewery cost, other than "a lot." It was funded by a combination of their savings and a Small Business Administration loan.
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