8one8 Brewing Celebrates Four Years
Nestled in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, 8one8 Brewing Company can trace its roots back to the early 20-teens and the eternally impressive beer list at Winnetka’s CraZy Harry’s Bar. As with many craft beer aficionados, once cousins Derrick and Bryan Olson had their eyes opened to joys of craft beer, there was no going back to the mass-produced domestic brews. After classes with legendary California brew club The Maltose Falcons, the Olsons went from garage brews in 2012 to opening the doors of their very own brewery in 2015.
The boys were kind enough to invite us to their 4th Anniversary event and feed us copious amounts of their tasty brews to keep us hydrated while we took pictures. We were able to sit down with Bryan and Derrick to get their perspective on what it means to reach that 4 year anniversary and what the future of the industry, and 8one8 Brewing, looks like.
So first off, what motivated or inspired you to open a brewery?
Bryan: Every experience I had with beer once we started home brewing pulled me closer into the scene. Seeing other cities like San Diego have such a deep culture and enjoying that vibe and scene with beer. As people tried our beer I felt an army of thirsty supporters behind us! The Valley was dry and we wanted to bring the culture of craft brewery to our area.
Derrick: I fell in love with craft beer at a local bar and had one of the bartenders show me the different European styles and explain why they tasted the way they did and the history behind them. From there it became a journey to try and re-create some of my new-found favorites with my cousin and partner at 818 Brewing, Bryan, as well as his brother-in-law Mario. I am a mechanical engineer so figuring out how to put the brewing equipment together and add and remove heat was right up my alley.
Are you where you thought you’d be after four years?
Bryan: At this point with our resources and workforce we’ve exceeded my initial growth plans.
Derrick: We are where I wanted to be and above on the tasting room, with its popularity and the reviews and love we have received from our faithful customers. As far as the brewing goes, I would like to have our packaging and distro a little farther along but we are a bit tight on space, and had to add another cold box and grain storage area. Breweries take up quite a bit of space and we had to be pretty clever on how we set up our brewery to maximize the space we have. I see that as our next step for production.
How has the industry changed in the years since you opened 818? How have you changed?
Bryan: The local LA scene has been on fire and LA has some street cred in the beer world now. I’m more confident in myself and my business partner, and also our ever-growing team to reach and attain whatever opportunity is on our path.
Derrick: When we first started brewing, hazies were not popular out here and very few microbreweries were trying to copy mass produced light lagers and/or hard seltzers for that matter! (laughs)
Customers’ palates have developed as well, and the little guys who are not super on top of their game making repeatable good beer are starting to go away. The craft beer community is becoming more and more educated and while the hype beers still exist, I feel like most "new to craft beer" customers I talk to are open to new beers and not as “anti-IPA" or "dark beer", etc., and willing to give what we recommend a try. They usually fall in love with something they thought they hated.
What seems obvious now that you didn’t know when you started?
Bryan: The pace and speed of our business and industry! Fix, solve, improve daily and there’s only 24 hours in a day!
Derrick: Bryan and I couldn't really brew and cellar and keg and bottle and pour behind the bar and clean up at the end of the night all ourselves. We thought we could do quite a bit of the day to day just ourselves in the beginning but found out how much work is needed to run a brewery and tap room. Customers don’t want to come in and talk to a half dead, overworked, stinky owner when they walk in the door and ask for a pint.
What’s your favorite style of beer to brew? What about your favorite style to drink?
Bryan: To drink… the freshest non-hazy IPA!
Derrick: I like brewing all styles, but anything new piques my interest. I like to learn and try new things on the brewhouse. There is always a surprise in store and brain power needed to figure out how to resolve it. I feel like that is where I shine the most and get my greatest enjoyment.
What about the industry? How do you see it changing in the next 4 years?
Bryan: There’ll be an increased focus from the consumer on quality vs hype. And also I think a thinning of the herd will probably happen as well.
Derrick: I feel like some of the breweries that are limping will go away. Some of the medium to larger ones will get bought out. The ones that are doing well now will need to be able to improvise and be flexible in both their business plan and offerings if they want to continue to grow. The economy will inevitably take a dive and tastes will change. The smart and scrappy will survive and hopefully more entrants will come into the arena. The more local craft beer the better!
What are your big goals for 818? Where do you want it to be in 10 years?
Bryan: I’d like to own the building we’re currently operating out of. And also continue to build a diverse team that adds more fuel to our passion and puts us in a place to really execute our goals and our dreams!
Derrick: I’d like to increase our production and distro reach across the entire San Fernando Valley and even reach a bit beyond that with our cans/bottles. An increased barrel aging project would also be awesome with another possible tap room one day.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to open a brewery?
Bryan: (laughs) The conversation would start with… Why?
Derrick: I’d say home brew every weekend for a year and develop your first 10-15 recipes. Then brew the ones you want to make your cores at least 15 times each - you should have at least 3 to 5 cores. Also, if you have any free weekends or evenings, go to all of the taprooms... all of them. See what they are doing right or wrong and what you like or hate. Then, now that you have home brewing under your belt, do a brewers extension program like [UC] Davis or Siebel. Now… find yourself investors.
You should also know quite a bit about construction, getting things approved with the building dept, ABC, TTB. etc... go join your local chamber of commerce. You should also get on the neighborhood council in the area you want to build your brewery.
Wait, do you still want to do this? If so, there is much much more... Oh and get ready to work harder than you ever have and not make any money for 2 to 3 years!
Speaking of opening breweries… the Southern California brewery market is very crowded. What sets 818 apart from the rest?
Bryan: Our backbone is our beer and I’ll let Derrick explain that part… but beyond that, naming ourselves 818 filters out where we are located within a large city footprint. Anywhere in SoCal, when you hear “The Valley”, you know it’s the 818.
Derrick: We produce a wide array of styles that are all influenced by our roots here in the San Fernando Valley. We also pay homage to traditional brewing techniques, plus our quality and consistency is much higher than most breweries our size due to our attention to quality and as well as systems control.