In today’s Bolinas Boot Field Report, we’re sitting down with Jack Dyer, founder of Topa Topa Brewing Co. We spoke with Jack about his experience getting into the brewing world, his passions and what it was like building Topa Topa from the ground up. Jack and his team put the Bolinas Boot to the test in and around the Topa Topa headquarters.
Jack Dyer, Founder/Owner. In and out of business meetings, taprooms, and production floor, while getting in the occasional surf.
Kendall Mabery, Retail Operations Director. Kendall is responsible for all 5 of our taprooms so she is on the move a lot. Beer tending, managing etc. She needs a durable, comfortable, water resistant boot to handle her duties.
Casey Harris, BrewMaster. Casey's role has transitioned a bit to managing all things beer, and less hands on making. His desk is literally on the brewery production floor so he is always in and out of the trenches with his team.
More about Topa Topa Brewing Co.
Nestled between the Topa Topa mountains in Ojai and the salty shores of the Pacific, Topa Topa Brewing Co. believes the people should drink great beer! As fellow 1% for the Planet members, Topa Topa loves that they get to craft great beer amongst a landscape and community that inspires them.
Can you tell us a little about your passions both personally and professionally?
I've grown up with a deep love for the ocean and any activities in or around it. I've been surfing since I was like 8 years old and more recently got into body-surfing, sailing, and paddle boarding. I love to hike with my wife and our dog Gridley as well. Really anything outside is a good day for me, and I like to earn my beers!! It's funny that in my career pre-Topa, when people asked what I did for a living I would always list my hobbies and interests, kinda as a joke to say, "my job doesn't define me". Starting Topa completely changed that for me. I'm now extremely proud to tell people what I do for a living. Topa is my life at this point, and I love what I do. Part of our manifesto at Topa reads, "we love what we do and do what we love". This couldn't be more true for me. I am excited to show up to work everyday and tackle the challenges of the day with such an inspiring team.
What does a typical day at Topa Topa for you look like?
My daily routine switches often, but an ideal day at Topa starts with me walking the production floor and checking in with each department. There are a lot of moving parts to make our product and get it out the door so I try to stay close to the day to day of each group, warehouse, packaging, cellar, and brew team to make sure they have what they need to get their jobs done. Then I typically end up in our office to clear out some emails and hold meetings with the various department heads in sales, marketing, and taproom supervisors. I love to end my day in our taproom chatting with customers and employees alike at one of our taprooms, that's the best part of my day for sure!
How did you get started in the world of brewing beer?
My initial interest in beer was born out of homebrewing. I was the founding member of a concept called a Brew-Op. A Brew-Op is where we took the Co-Op concept and applied it to beer. With about 20 initial members we all contributed and purchased a large homebrew setup, and then worked together to produce a beer a month that was distributed to our members. It was a great way for me to learn about the beer making process, but perhaps more importantly it taught me about the rad culture and community you can build around what I think is the world’s greatest beverage: beer. After a while in the Brew-Op I started to research and write a business plan that became the foundation for what Topa Topa is today.
How did you come up with the idea for Topa Topa Beer? What was the process like taking it from a wild idea to a real business?
My wife and I relocated to the Ventura region after living in the beer haven of San Diego during perhaps one of greatest booms in craft beer! I was actively homebrewing as part of the previously mentioned Brew-Op when we moved up to this region and immediately visited the few breweries that existed in the region. After that initial brewery tour, I immediately began fundraising for Topa Topa, as I thought we could bring our knowledge of the San Diego beer scene to this community that only had a few small breweries at the time. I didn't know a lot of folks up in this region so I began my fundraising efforts by volunteering at various nonprofits and talking to anybody that would listen about our idea. Shortly thereafter we were signing leases and talking to banks about finishing out the fundraising side of things. It all seems like it was forever ago and yesterday at the same time!
What is it about the Offshore Boot that serves your day to day needs?
In our line of work, you need footwear that is comfortable (I rarely sit down) and durable. The fact that the Offshore Boot is waterproof takes this footwear option to the next level. At a brewery your meetings are often not held in boardrooms or offices. More often than not a marketing discussion can happen in our cellar, or a workflow conversation can happen by our canning line. When you are on the production floor or even behind the bar having a waterproof or resistant footwear is important!
Have you faced adversity in your life or career? What have you learned from that?
Adversity comes in a variety of forms. Certainly I've had my fair share of adversity in my life, but overall I've been pretty lucky to be surrounded by a loving family, and incredible friends. The scariest thing I've ever had to face personally was a tragic climbing accident that almost took the life of my older sister. She is 100% recovered from a massive traumatic brain injury now, but the road to recovery was long, and obviously the immediate trauma of the event has it's lasting impacts on all of us. For me, that incident taught me a lot about remaining positive throughout anything that is going on. Good Vibes!! I had a little health scare shortly before I got married a while ago as well, as I was diagnosed with a very rare form of lung condition known as PAP (Pulmonary Aveolar Proteinosis). It was a scary time simply because it is so very rare. But after a few surgeries and some help from amazing doctors combined with a regular yoga practice, I've been free from the constraints of that disease for a while now! Again this challenge really made me focus on staying positive amidst really serious challenges. It taught me to put together a plan and stick to it to accomplish your goals! With Topa Topa, we have faced an insane amount of challenges since we started 6 years ago. Fact is, our adversity started before we even got open! When we were in the initial buildout of our first space on Thompson Blvd. the port workers union decided to go on strike. It was kinda a big story when it happened. The ports essentially closed and our brew system sat on a boat outside of Long Beach port for 4-5 months while we watched our minimal savings dwindle. Fact is we almost didn't even get open! Finally the union settled and they got us our equipment so we could get to work. That delay did give us some time to work out some small details about our business that we might not have otherwise.... if you had to pick a silver lining! Once opened it was largely smooth sailing, save for the obvious day to day challenges of running a startup! But then we were hit with the Thomas Fire and subsequent mudslides. This was an enormous challenge for our fledgling small business. People forget that the fire lasted for over a month, with various levels of evacuations, closures, etc.. It was a huge challenge that taught us the importance of being creative and flexible. When the 101 was closed our brewers (who both lived in Santa Barbara) were literally commuting by boat to get to work and brew beer! The entire Thomas Fire experience reinforced for me personally the importance of community. We threw a fundraiser at the brewery post Thomas Fire to help the victims who had literally lost everything. To this day that is still one of the best moments I've had professionally. I can recall folks coming out as ash was literally still falling from the sky to have a beer and help donate to the relief fund that so many of our local families needed. The most recent adversity has been the pandemic. This one I seriously thought might put us under. But just like our brew crew found a way to work via sea when the freeways were closed, our team rallied and found ways to continue to get our beer in the hands of our customers when our taprooms were shuddered due to the pandemic. It's been truly the biggest challenge I've ever faced professionally. No doubt.
One of our brand mottos is “Keep it Casual”. What does “Keep it Casual” mean to you in your own life?
This reminds me of a pinnacle moment for me in the journey to start Topa Topa. When you are starting a craft brewery, one of the critical points of the process is when you sign your initial lease. This is when the planning turns into reality, you are all in. Upon signing our lease I can remember taking all of my suits (except for one or two) that I wore in my previous career and taking them to Goodwill. I knew I wasn't going to need them anymore as I wanted a very "keep it casual" vibe at Topa. It was a seminal moment for me that signaled a direct shift in lifestyle for myself and my family. Keeping it casual means you are cruising through life's challenges and always finding the little slices of goodness in your day. It reminds me of another line from our manifesto; We enjoy life, one sip at a time. I think that's keeping it casual!
How do you stay inspired?
Our industry is flooded with creativity and (mostly) positive energy. But primarily I'm inspired everyday by our incredible team I'm fortunate enough to work with at Topa. Their creativity, hard work, and intelligence is unmatched in our industry, and our industry is filled with incredible people. I also find solace in the amazing open spaces we have in our region. Whether it is a surf at one of our amazing beach breaks or points, a hike to an unmatched ocean view vista, or a sail out to our hidden gem the Channel Islands, it's pretty easy to stay inspired around here. Lastly, our community inspires me everyday. Supreme court Justice Sonya Sontamayor was quoted saying, "my community inspires me more and more each and everyday". I fully concur with this statement. Everytime we gather our community or rally them for a cause, I'm blown away by the support. Whether it's a fundraiser for a fallen firefighter, a local nonprofit, or a local school, the community always rallies and gets the job done. It is truly inspiring what we can accomplish when we work together for the common good.
What are some things that you are grateful for?
My health. My family. My friends. My incredible team at Topa Topa. I'm incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to do what I do everyday. I'm also quite thankful to live in such a radical region that offers up what feels like a constant array of activities and enjoyment. It almost feels like a constant vacation living here on the Southern Central Coast of California.
Do you have any plans or projects that you are looking forward to in the future?
We have some fun projects in the works here at Topa Topa, but after the year and half we just went through with COVID closures, etc. we are resting on our laurels a bit and biding our time before jumping into anything new. We have basically been on a constant growth pattern here since we opened 6 years ago (5 locations in 6 years...whew) so for the remainder of this year we are looking to just use the tools we have in our rad new brewery and focus our efforts on our existing taproom network and distribution partnerships. We are constantly experimenting with new recipes and beers styles through our R & D program, most of those beers are sold out of our taprooms on draft or in 16 oz cans as part of our monthly can releases. Further out, I'd expect us to add a few more taprooms, since we are allowed a few more under our license type, and to continue to add more core brands to the market and possibly even dabble in other non-alcoholic beverages under the Topa brand.
What’s one piece of advice, encouragement, or challenge you’d love to leave our readers with?
Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and good things will happen. I've always kinda cringed at the title entrepreneur, as I think at times folks who use that title think they did everything on their own. It took (and continues to take) a village to help run our business. I had the idea for Topa Topa, but it took the creative, hardworking, kind and intelligent folks who work with me at Topa for us to accomplish what we have in these short 6 years. It took each of us having the support of our family and friends. And lastly, it takes the support of our communities who support us at our taprooms and buying our beers at our retail partners! It's truly a team effort.