Food and beverage manufacturing is a healthy component of the local economy. Manufacturers such as Jelly Belly Candy Company, Guittard Chocolates, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Frank-Lin Distillers and Sunnyside Farms all call Fairfield home.
Fairfield’s strong food and beverage manufacturing base is the direct result of many years of proactive planning and capital expenditures to build the infrastructure necessary to support the industry. A generous and superior quality water supply helps attract food and beverage companies.
In the United States beverage marketplace, one important recent trend is the rise of specialty microbreweries. Microbreweries are thriving as new players enter the marketplace and interest in unique and local high-quality beers grows. We are even seeing the return of hops vineyards to the Sacramento Valley to supply breweries interested in local product and authenticity.
This week we spoke with Jamil Zainasheff, the owner of Fairfield’s newest brewery, Heretic Brewing Company, 1052 Horizon Drive, Suite B, to give us insight on the industry and his company.
Economic Notes: How did you get started in the brewery business?
Jamil Zainasheff: I started home brewing in 1999 after I tasted an excellent beer from one of my neighbor’s home brewery. At that point, it was the best beer I had ever consumed. Shortly thereafter, my wife gave me a Mr. Beer kit for Christmas and I happily started brewing.
E.N.: How long has your Pittsburg facility been operating and what made you choose Fairfield for your new location?
Zainasheff: Our first professional craft brewery batch was produced in May 2011. We share a facility with local brewer E. J. Phairr, who operates a brew pub in Concord. There is not enough room for two breweries, especially if we need more fermenters or cold storage. The Fairfield space, at more than 8,000 square feet, will allow expansion and will permit us to offer a tasting room. Location, the availability of space and local water supplies were certainly all factors for choosing the space on Horizon Drive.
E.N.: You produce quite a range of beers. What are your personal favorites?
Zainasheff: No one favorite, they are all different and I like them all for different reasons and different moods. We offer a variety. Our lower-alcohol rye pale ale, Gramarye, recently won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, the largest commercial beer event in North America.
E.N.: Where can the beers be purchased and how approximately many barrels (bottles) do you produce annually?
Zainasheff: Quite a few stores in the San Francisco area carry Heretic. Availability in Solano County and outlying area has been limited to date due to limited production. Bottle Shoppe in Davis is now carrying Heretic beer. We currently produce 1,600 to 1,700 barrels (31 gallons per barrel) annually and hope to eventually triple that.
E.N.: How many employees will you have in Fairfield and when do you anticipate opening?
Zainasheff: We currently have four full-time employees and hope to hire two to three more soon. Eventually, we hope to employ a dozen persons. We are in the process of obtaining our remaining permits and will open soon.
E.N.: There has been consolidation in the brewery business among the large brewers. What type of effect, if any, will the large consolidations have on microbrewers?
Zainasheff: Big breweries are also looking at craft beers. Overall beer consumption is declining by 2 to 3 percent per year, but craft beer consumption is soaring. People are moving into craft beer, especially the “millennial” generation. Large breweries have acquired craft breweries recently, including Goose Island and Red Hook. Still, there are now more than 2,800 breweries in the United States and we have actually returned to pre-prohibition numbers of breweries.
Zainasheff concluded by noting that Heretic is not just a business moving to town. They want to be part of the local community and hope to participate in community events, fundraising and social occasions.
Certainly, their tasting room will be one part of this. Zainasheff noted that the tasting room will probably be open Wednesday through Saturday afternoons, depending on demand.
Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. They can be contacted at 428-7461 or email at [email protected] or [email protected]