Yesterday, husband-and-wife team Brandon Fender and Robyn Spevacek announced they will be closing their six-year-old Santa Ana craft brewery, The Good Beer Co. It was sad news for Orange County fans, but there was a silver lining for San Diegans who appreciate their brews or simply have a taste for saisons. The email the couple sent to their newsletter subscribers disclosed the couple’s desire to return to their shared hometown of Julian to open an authentic farmhouse brewery.
“My wife and I are both from Julian and still have family that live there. It has been a dream of ours since we started producing sour beer to open a true farmhouse brewery with spontaneous fermentation and barrel-aging. We know from anecdotal information and brewing research largely developed over the last decade that spontaneous fermentation works best under 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Other than at higher elevations, you can’t find consistent low temperatures like that,” says Fender. “But we’re taking it further. Over the past five years, we’ve worked with my brother and sister-in-law, Bryce and Allison Fender, to grow and malt brewing grains in Julian. We’ve successfully harvested about seven or eight tons of grain, experimenting with different varieties of barley and wheat, planting times and harvesting.”
The quartet utilize a 50-year-old combine grain harvester shipped in from the Midwest. Using grain they’ve grown and malted on-site, hops from bines they planted in Julian a few years back, relying solely on rain water and eschewing chemicals will make for the sustainable, farm-to-glass experience they hope to achieve.
The Good Beer Co. opened in fall of 2014. Fender and Spevacek are listing their building at 309 West 4th Street in downtown Santa Ana this week. That move prompted yesterday’s announcement. They are also selling their brewing equipment, which includes a 15-barrel JV Northwest brewhouse and four jacketed conical fermenters. (Interested parties can reach them via email.) The couple hopes to keep their tasting room and wholesale business in full operation until they find a buyer. Once everything is cinched up with The Good Beer Co., they will transition their energies toward finding a property in Julian.
Fender and Spevacek aren’t the only family operation looking to bring a farm-based brewery to Julian. As reported last year, Pizza Port and Julian Beer Co. founder Vince Marsaglia and his son are transforming a Julian barn into a structure they’ll use for producing sour and barrel-aged beers. Their future neighbors are aware of that project and have a long, friendly history with the Marsaglias. The aforementioned Bryce and Allison even worked at Julian Beer Co. in its previous life as The Bailey BBQ.
“We hope to collab with them and make Julian a beer destination,” says Fender, who says the “small-scale” Julian project is years away and will hopefully include food as well as alternative beverages. At the end of the day, he says it will be worth the labor of starting over from scratch, and the reasons are twofold. “Julian is the right location and climate for a farmhouse brewery, and we will be able to grow our family in close proximity to our extended families.”