From the beginning, Humble Sea quickly found a passionate fan base in Santa Cruz, but given their smaller size they struggled to keep up with demand. Not exactly a bad problem to have, but one that frustrated the owners. About a year in they were able to add a new 30BBL fermenter, which helped relieve some of the strain and keep more beers on tap for the many faithful patrons pouring through the doors. But if you happened to go into the brewhouse you would have thought, “Wow, they really crammed that new tank in here.” Things were tight. Really tight.
TIME TO GROW
It had always been in their plans to expand into the other bays in their building. It was just going to be a matter of time for them to open up. Well, that time finally came in September of this year. The lease came up for the bay right next to the brewhouse and their landlord was kind enough to offer it to Humble Sea. They took down the wall, opening up an additional 1000 square feet of production space to their existing 1600 square feet.
It doesn’t look all that pretty right now. It is currently being used just to store their empty kegs and as a holding space for cans when they do can releases, but soon this space will be home to three new 40BBL fermenters and two 20BBL horizontal lagering tanks. Yes, you read that correctly: “lagering tanks.” Although Humble Sea has very much made their name on their amazing hazy IPAs, head brewer Nick Pavlina has always had a passion for brewing lagers. Lagers are a much more difficult beer to make, because there really isn’t any way to cover up mistakes. The clean crisp taste of a lager is very nuanced, and the slightest off flavor or discoloration is front and center in the glass.
GOODBYE TO GUEST TAPS
If you have been to Humble Sea in the past, you might have noticed how they commonly had a few guest beers on tap. This too helped relieve some of the strain on their ability to keep up with demand. But as you can imagine with all those new fermenters, there will be little need for guest taps. As taproom Manager Taylor West told us, they “loved being able to have beers from a good friend’s brewery or whomever you are doing a collaboration with, to showcase that beer. But at the same time, it’s more important to have our beers on the beer board.”
A BIG NEW BEER GARDEN
Another exciting development they have coming down the pike is to expand their beer garden on the railroad side of the building. The plan is to add an additional 4000 square feet of beer garden space. The current beer garden in front, while cozy and fun, is often quite full, leaving some patrons standing and waiting for seats to free up. The goal is to make enough beer to not only keep the beer board full, but to satisfy a much larger beer garden as well. As Taylor mentioned, it’s a gamble. They really don’t know if enough patrons will show up to fill that new space and drink the tremendous amount of additional beer they will be brewing. The expectation is that the people will come. And while I absolutely want Humble Sea to be amazingly successful with this expansion, my hope — and theirs — is that they can start to provide more beer to accounts outside of Santa Cruz and throughout the Bay Area.
We have started to see Humble Sea pop up in a few select places on the inland side of the hill. It has been rather select, though. While it’s nice to have a “rareness” quality to your beer, as Russian River has been so successful with, I would love it if more people throughout the Bay could enjoy the magic that is Humble Sea without having to go to Santa Cruz.
MORE BEER MEANS MORE BREW TIME
With their current set-up, Nick brews three to four times a week. But with an additional 160BBL of tank space, the plan is to start brewing five times a week and on some days brewing double batches in order to fill up those huge tanks. It means a lot more work, but having witnessed the vibe in the brewhouse first hand I can imagine they will tackle the extra hours with gusto and the enjoyment that comes with brewing beer for a living.
These are exciting times not only for Humble Sea, but for the patrons who enjoy their beer. Less than two years old, Humble Sea has found sure footing in the craft beer scene and they have a loyal band of followers. While expansion has always been on their minds, Taylor says they are “not looking to over expand, but looking to provide the right amount to satisfy the demand we have now.” Over the next few months, it will be exciting to see these plans take shape and hopefully reach more craft beer drinkers, who will surely become fans of the Humble Sea.
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