Christopher Jackson, of Jackson Family Wines, steps out with Seismic Brewing Co.

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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.

The tinkering ultimately resulted in the first vintage of Vintners Reserve in 1982, which in turn helped popularize chardonnay as America’s favorite varietal of wine.

And like his father, Jackson is attending UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, where he just wrapped up his second year. He also shares his father’s Republican bent, having interned in 2011 for then-House Speaker John Boehner.

“That’s my family culture. My dad always intended ­— through his work and his effort and how he raised us — that if we are passionate about something, we have the opportunity to pursue it,” Jackson said.

Jackson and his sisters are co-proprietors at Jackson Family Wines. Christopher has worked on the sales team; Julia has had roles in sales and marketing (Christopher dubs her “my family’s marketing guru”); while Katie serves as vice president of sustainability and external affairs.

His experiences in wine, along with the insights he learned from his father, have helped shape the beer venture, Jackson said.

“I do think me trying to open a business in craft beer is really a distillation of that culture and vision that he taught me,” he added.

But there are some differences between Jackson and his father, beyond the type of beverage. Jess Jackson took up winemaking as a midcareer hobby that later turned into passion, while Christopher is just starting his professional life.

Most notably, it’s timing. Jess Jackson helped launched a period of growth in the premium wine market, introducing vivid varietals to most Americans who were only accustomed to lackluster jug wine.

Christopher Jackson is now entering a crowded beer marketplace that has been rapidly transformed over the last 20 years by craft brewers, who now represent about 12 percent of the American beer market. Behemoths like Anheuser-Bush, Miller and Coors are losing sales to the upstarts and are scrambling to hold on, including by buying up smaller breweries. Meanwhile, longtime craft veterans like Lagunitas and rivals Stone Brewing Co. and Ballast Point Brewing Co. have taken steps to expand nationally and internationally.

Locally, Sonoma County has become a craft beer mecca and is now home to nearly 30 such breweries.

But Jackson sees much more potential, contending craft beer could ultimately grow to as much as 40 percent of the American beer market. He can quickly expound about new genetics and breeding efforts for hops that will transform hoppy India pale ales, which are now a dominant force within the industry.

“In terms of untapped potential as an industry, I believe the best days of the craft beer industry are ahead. We believe at Seismic that the best beer is about to be brewed. We’re excited to chase the dream,” he said.

As he looks around his currently barren 13,000-square-foot facility, Jackson said he has no need to rush expansion. Seismic will start with an annual production of between 8,000 and 10,000 barrels and keep distribution within the confines of the Golden State.

If all goes according to plan, production could start in September. He also intends to open a taproom soon.

“We’re looking at California distribution. We don’t want to go much beyond that. We want all our beer as fresh as it can be,” he said.

An early emphasis will be on selling the beer through draft in bars and taprooms.

“If I could sell the entirety of the first couple years of production in draft, I would be very happy,” Jackson said.

His crew also has been looking at canning lines given cans are more sustainable than glass in recycling and distribution costs.

Jackson said he gained an appreciation for beer while traveling with his father in Germany and learning about the tradition and the history of the craft there.

“That was a powerful lesson,” he said.

He graduated from Santa Clara University, where he roomed with Patrick Delves, who is now general manager at Seismic. Delves also influenced him and got him interested in home brewing.

“He (Delves) is passionate about making beers. He strove to educate me a little more. I would be drinking a glass of wine and he would be drinking a beer and say, ‘Try this, it’s from Sierra Nevada.’ That accelerated my education of the craft,” Jackson said.

His team was put together in a somewhat serendipitous manner, along the lines of his friendship with Delves. Jackson met his brewmaster Hooper through a connection with his wife, Ariel, who was a good friend of Hooper’s wife, Danica.

Danica is now handling accounting and logistics for Seismic. When staff gathers during off-work hours, Ariel noted the talk can easily turn to beer.

Two years ago, Jackson said he knew he wanted to open a craft brewery. While having no ties within the industry, Jackson said he has been impressed by the collegiality of the local companies and their willingness to open their doors to him. He specifically cited Russian River Brewing Co. brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo and Lagunitas’ Eppa Rixey, a strategic planning manager, who showed him their respective facilities. That type of culture is natural among craft brewers and used to be more common in the wine industry, but is alien to many other industries.

“I’ve learned from the individuals who came before us, if somebody is passionate about their craft, you welcome them into the industry,” Jackson said. “That is very much the same lesson that I’m going to teach other people.”

While Seismic’s future will ultimately hinge on how consumers respond to its taste, Jackson said a focus on sustainability can help give it an edge when someone is staring at an array of keg tap handles, wondering which one to choose.

“We think that should be a criteria on how people make a choice on what they consume. With my generation, it’s becoming more and more of a factor,” he said. “Is every single consumer there yet? No. But the conversation is being had.”

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 521-5223 or On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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