Each story Jessica and I do, we look for a unique aspect of the brewing world. This story shares a little insight into Brandon Fender’s transition from homebrewer to owner of The Good Beer Company in Santa Ana, Calif.
This story began with a visit to Brandon’s home to tour his homebrew setup. I have seen some incredible home-brew setups, but what I have not seen before is the insane collection of yeast strains Brandon has. His garage wall is lined with shelving, which holds nearly thirty different isolated wild yeast strains and ten mixed cultures on wild yeast and bacteria.
“Wild yeast and bacteria are a challenge because the flavors and aromas that can be imparted on the beer are not well understood,” said Brandon. “I am driven by experimenting with the unknown.”
After touring his home-brew set up and tasting one of my favorite IPA’s to date, we moved over to The Good Beer Company’s location. To say I am excited about this brewery is an incredible understatement. This will be one of the raddest breweries/tasting rooms around. The building history goes back to the 1880s when it was a livery. It eventually became a general store, and in the late 1900s it was boarded up and remained vacant until 2004 when the building was rehabilitated. At the time of my visit the equipment was in the building, but construction had not yet begun. We had a beer and walked through his plans for laying out the brewery.
Since then, Jessica and I went to dinner with Brandon and his wife Robyn to talk about the progress over some good food and beer. Jessica will take it from here with the story…
With much to do with the historical Santa Ana building, Brandon has been extremely busy getting ready to open The Good Beer Company doors. He couldn’t be happier with the location.
“Santa Ana is unlike most places in Orange County,” Brandon said – which is exactly what he likes about it.
A common theme during our conversation was Brandon’s passion for community. He truly believes in social responsibility and being connected to one’s neighborhood not only as an individual, but as a business as well.
“It’s up to the business community… I believe in the need for small community investment,” Brandon said.
Though it has not yet been decided what the money will be used to support, The Good Beer Company will be allocating a percentage of the profits in dedication to the community. Downtown Santa Ana seems a great place to support as it is considered by many an up-and-coming location for food and craft beer alike. With The Good Beer Company opening this summer, the vibrant and cool Santa Ana will be an even more intriguing, culture-rich destination.
The Good Beer Company hopes to attract “people that like good beer,” said Brandon – plain and simple. “[In addition], our brewery is within blocks of some of Orange County’s best eateries.”
Between Brandon and Brewmaster Dave Larson (formerly of Haven Gastropub, and currently at Cismontane), they have been working hard to develop a cool place to go and enjoy good craft beer. The tasting room will host mostly what Brandon described as West Coast and Belgian style beers. It will compliment the neighboring restaurants and businesses that make Santa Ana what it is today. Not only is The Good Beer Company team coming up with some great beers, but they will also be teaming up with local home brewers as well.
“We have four conical fermenters to fill up and a beautiful building that I think will be one of the most unique tasting rooms around,” said Brandon.
Brandon’s journey to The Good Beer Company started many years ago in his parents’ kitchen when he first started brewing. It first began in college with his younger brother, Bryce, who now brews for Julian Brewing Company in Julian, Calif.
“It’s funny how we both ended up in the beer business,” said Brandon.
Blending the art and science of brewing really captured Brandon, allowing him to take it from a hobby that nearly took over his home garage to an opportunity to do what he loves for a living.
“Much of the work a brewer does in the brewhouse involves very specific measurements and timed sequences,” Brandon said. “But when you taste a beer, rack beer to a barrel or add wild yeast or bacteria, you don’t know what’s going to happen, and you have to let your senses and intuition take over.”
His intuition for beer seems to have been right so far. Typically Brandon enjoys brewing beers that go well with the warm, California climate and delectable food. His extensive repertoire of brewing includes hoppy west coast style beers like IPA, pale ales, and hoppy wheat beers, and Belgian-Farmhouse-Wild beers like saisons, Belgian blond and 100% Brettanomyces ale.
Before he became consumed with the up-and-coming brewery, Brandon was home brewing often and submitting his beers to competitions where he has won several awards. In 2012, he took home two third place ribbons for his smoked stout and rye IPA at the Orange County Fair, second place for his pale ale in the first round of the National Homebrew Competition in San Diego, and a first place ribbon for his double IPA in the Mayfaire Competition in Los Angeles.
Since then, his focus has been set on The Good Beer Company. It promises to be a great addition to Santa Ana and the southern California craft beer community. We are looking forward to opening day of the tasting room. Check in at wwww.thegoodbeerco.com for information on the grand opening, and we will see you there! Enjoy.