Obsessive About Brews

by Elliot Wilkinson-Ray October 19, 2015

Kitsbow Henhouse Promo
 

The desire to create better products isn’t always fueled by economics — sometimes it’s led by pure obsession. This powerful connection is shared between Kitsbow and another Petaluma-based business: HenHouse Brewing Company. Sparked by the contagious enthusiasm of our own team member Adam Yeagley, we profile one of HenHouse’s co-founders, Scott Goyne, and explore our mutual drive towards perfection.

Autumn in the Bay Area is indisputably one of the best times of the year for hitting the trails. While the daylight hours tiptoe away much earlier, summer still lingers through the warm, sunshine-filled afternoons that allow folks to shred for hours on the weekends. And after a hard, off-road ride, especially during the Oktoberfest season of beer-soaked celebrations, a couple of cold brews shared with friends is a pretty common ritual.

There’s always been a deep love for beer within the mountain bike community, but some individuals have taken it to the next level. Adam Yeagley is Kitsbow’s main sales guy who joined us earlier this year in February. He’s a friendly, bearded Midwesterner who will gladly chat you up about Kitsbow’s product line.

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But get him started on the subject of beer, and he can talk for hours, since he’s been homebrewing since he was 17 when his father turned him on to the hobby. Adam’s shared the fruits of his labor with the Kitsbow team, showing us the door to a new rabbit hole, one that’s obsessively deep and hoppy. Since that first Kitsbow batch, he’s been brewing regularly every three weeks.

“My goal is never to let the office brewery go out,” he said with a grin.

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Dubbed “Kitsbreu”, Adam’s first batch was a double IPA and “a serious killer of productivity,” noted co-founder Zander. The next two were more “daytime-friendly,” to Zander, a notorious lightweight.

“I think the mark of a fine homebrewer is to be able to repeat a recipe within a small delta from the original.”

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His passion led him to track down the three-person team of HenHouse Brewing Company — Scott Goyne, Shane Goepel and Collin McDonnell — who are also located in Petaluma. Founded in 2011, they set themselves apart within the crowded craft brew scene by focusing on beer styles they thought were underrepresented in the market. HenHouse has already attracted plenty of attention within short period of time, including the praise of a sommelier at the renowned French Laundry restaurant in Yountville. The three-star Michelin establishment had featured HenHouse’s Oyster Stout as one of seven exclusive beers offered on their menu several years ago.

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Henhouse Founders: Shane Goepel, Scott Goyne, Collin McDonnell

This acclaim is the result of a lot of long hours clocked at the brewery, due to their relentless pursuit of perfection.

“I first homebrewed 21 years ago, and I’ve been making artisanal, delicious products for quite some time. And that is what the intention was …when we got together. We’re only going to do this if we’re going to make good beer.”

Sometimes that means sacrificing some of their output if it doesn’t meet their exacting standards.

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“We have dumped batches and we’ve pulled a couple batches when we felt that they weren’t aging gracefully.”

Then there’s the unglamorous aspects of the job. “Ultimately, when you’re making beer, you better be prepared to be a super anal janitor and clean everything way more than you think it needs to be, because that is the heart of brewing beer.”

 

Audio Clip Description: One story that captures Scott’s obsession for detail and quality is his adventure to collect salt for the celebrated Henhouse Oyster Stout. He was abalone diving off the rugged Mendocino Coast when he stumbled upon an island with perfectly clean crystallized sheets of ocean salts. Drawing upon his background as an experienced aromatics expert, they infused this natural, rare salt to flavor their dark and creamy beer. The results is completely unique, place-based and undeniably delicious. Is this absolutely necessary to make good beer? Definitely not — but it’s absolutely necessary to create the specific experience of the Henhouse Oyster Stout.

 

Scott admits their demanding workload poses its challenges. “And it’s going to be that way for quite some time. But we have an end in mind and we’re having fun along the way. I mean, I’ll be frank, I cut out a number of my different hobbies. And it really became real when we started spending other people’s money [from] friends and family. We sold off a part of the company, and now we’re responsible for their money. But we are all in. It is all encompassing. But again, we’re doing what we love, so it’s not bad to be us.”

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Scott and his partners are “stoked” on the next phase of HenHouse Brewing, as they’re investing $30,000 to expand their business in a new location in Santa Rosa. They’re acquiring quality control and research and development equipment to improve and increase production. And there’s a tasting room in the works for their fans, too. But despite this flurry of activity, they still see themselves as a regional brewery for now, with the Bay Area as their primary market.

“We don’t see our beer selling on the other side of the Rockies,” Scott stated firmly. “We’re being very careful about how we grow the company and steer it and expand so that we can maintain control. We’re striving to create a scenario where the business is profitable, we can pay good wages, we can employ people in Sonoma County, [and] we can continue to buy our equipment in Sonoma County.

“Our goal is to make good beer. We don’t ever want to be in the position where we have to worry about money over making good beer.”

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Source: Brewers Association

Scott’s mission to get people to become more aware of and appreciate quality craft beer — vs. the beer from the  dominant mainstream beer companies in the U.S. — is a long-term plan. “We are at 11% and we aren’t done yet.” At Kitsbow, we can say the same thing when it comes to revolutionary quality in cycling-specific and inspired outdoor wear. We aren’t done yet.

Kitsbow Henhouse Promo

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Elliot Wilkinson-Ray
Elliot Wilkinson-Ray

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