Regan Long and Sarah Fenson are turning a seven-year beer-making hobby into the first neighborhood brewery the Mission has seen in decades. How are they doing this? They are doing this with Kickstarter, a website that facilitates online fundraising for creative projects.
The co-founders of the startup Local Brewing Co. launched a month-long pledge drive last week to raise money to purchase a 3.5-barrel brewing setup for the nanobrewery they hope to open in 2012.
It’s an experiment in local involvement, to see not only if a local brewery is viable but also, as Long puts it, to find out if “San Franciscans care more about whether their beer comes from down the street or from Belgium.”
“Local people support local breweries,” said Long, 33, a former oceanography professor at San Francisco State University. “Usually those who start breweries have millions of dollars. We really want to have locals create the brewery in every way, from helping us fund the brewery to helping us create the beer.”
According to local historian Chris Carlsson, most of the city’s beer once came from the Mission, because that’s where the most abundant freshwater supply was. But it could once again be a place where booze is made instead of just drunk.
Local Brewing produces more than 10 beers right now, ranging from stouts to pale ales, IPAs and porters. Each one is named after a city landmark or neighborhood. Glen Park Ale is the newest concoction.
Because Local Brewing does not have a license to sell alcohol, Long and Fenson have had to get creative. Last year they gave away their product, handing out free samples in Dolores Park and at the SF Underground Market to see if people liked it. They did. “It was a very underground market research thing,” Long reflected.
Friends at ThirstyBear Brewing Co. in SOMA let the duo use their brewing facilities; previously, they had been brewing in the garage of their Mission Terrace home. It was a move that enabled them to get their product on tap at 12 different bars and restaurants, including Shotwell’s, Fly Bar and the Sycamore.
Then came Beer Week. “After, we felt this is a real community that supports grassroots, small, local businesses,” said Fenson, 41, who works in communications. “And so far we’ve been getting so many responses from folks saying, ‘We want more of your beer. We want to be behind your project.’”
The fundraiser, which started on June 16, coincided with Local Brewing’s beer release party at Kilowatt.
Local Brewing’s goal is to reach $69,000 by July 24, the bare minimum required to purchase a 3.5-barrel brewing setup. Hence the “nano.”
If the money pledged exceeds that amount, Local Brewing would be able to upgrade to a seven-barrel brewery, similar to Magnolia Pub and Brewery in the Haight.
Although the size and scope of the brewery will be determined by the amount committed, Long made it clear the brew house “would most likely be in or around the Mission.” Long and Fenson would brew on site and serve beer out of a small taproom during limited hours.
As of June 30, Local Brewing had received pledges from at least 106 investors contributing a total of $10,121. Two other fundraising celebrations are planned for July, but that’s still about $60,000 to go. One of the quirks of Kickstarter is that if a project is not fully funded, all the money is returned to the donors.
Fenson seems to view this risk as still more market research.“There are quite a number of local breweries that have come and gone,” she said. “So this is a good measuring stick to see if the business endeavor will work.”
To become a backer for Local Brewing Company, click here.