If you are familiar with the craft beer scene in the South Bay and even more so if you live near Campbell, you have probably had the pleasure of enjoying some beer at Out of the Barrel in The Pruneyard. Tucked into a corner near Peet’s Coffee and a few doors down from Rock Bottom, Out of the Barrel has found a steady following, and turned some heads with their stellar tap list.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Out of the Barrel owner Evan Jaques and discuss his path into beer and how he has found success running his taproom.
Evan grew up in Campbell, but now calls Morgan Hill home. His passion for beer started while studying at UC Davis, where he took an Intro to Beer and Brewing class taught by Charlie Bamforth. That class inspired him to drink something other than Natty Light, which was “the beer of choice in college.”
OUT OF THE BARREL IS BORN
Out of the Barrel was originally born as a sales and marketing company to support small craft breweries. After college Evan began working for his father’s construction company, but realized he wanted to get involved in the brewing industry. Out of the Barrel was intended to be a side gig to his day job working for his father — a little bit of joy on the side to balance out the frustrations of the day job. Things went well and Evan proved to have a knack for selling beer.
THE BAREBOTTLE DISCOVERY
While touring breweries in San Francisco, Evan ended up falling in love with Barebottle Brewing. He loved the branding, he loved the taproom, and he loved the beer. Barebottle wasn’t interested in a distributor; they did, however, need a sales rep for the South Bay. So instead of becoming their distributor, he took a job with them. They only had one account in the South Bay, but they soon exploded in popularity.
Eventually the frustrations of working in construction became too much for him and Evan decided to make the leap to working full time in the beer industry. Evan saw the huge success of taprooms like Taplands, Original Gravity, and Running Shop and after some back-of-the-napkin math, he realized it truly was doable to open a new taproom.
The location in The Pruneyard seemed like a good fit. A massive remodel was underway to make The Pruneyard a much hipper place to be and the The Pruneyard was receptive to Evan’s idea of a taproom.
There was a lot of potential in the area around Out of the Barrel that also got Evan excited. “The demographics in Campbell are amazing for what I’m trying to do.” With Peets, Burger Lounge and soon Luna Mexican Restaurant, there was a lot of foot traffic that could be attracted to Out of the Barrel.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TAP LIST
As Evan said, “I’m trying elevate the type of beer this community enjoys. So, I want to bring in the best of the best at all times. I want to find the best breweries out here and bring them to this local community, so that they can fall in love with the beer as much as I have. That’s the whole point. Spreading good beer to this community.”
Out of the Barrel works almost exclusively with self-distribution accounts. These are breweries that don’t have a distributor, like Fieldwork, Barebottle, Alvarado, Casa Agria, Moonraker, and Rare Barrel. That list alone would make most craft beer fans pick their chins up off the floor.
“This has been wildly more successful than I thought it was going to be. We beat our sales expectations based on my business plan by roughly double within the first three months of being open.” They have been very consistent with sales through the summer, but they are bracing for a slowdown in the winter, which is to be expected.
AN INVITING ATMOSPHERE
Evan credits part of the success of Out of the Barrel to creating an atmosphere where people feel comfortable enough to bring a co-worker or a boss, their parents or friends visiting from out of town. The ultimate goal was to create an open atmosphere where anyone from any walk of life (as long as they are over the age of 21) could come in and have a good, relaxing time. Evan feels that his staff has been amazing at creating that kind of atmosphere. He stressed the importance of that when he hired them. It wasn’t so much whether they had a lot of experience with beer or with bartending, but they needed to have the right attitude to help foster the kind of atmosphere he wanted for Out of the Barrel.
LANDING THE BEST OF THE BEST
How did Out of the Barrel get the hottest breweries in the Bay Area to sign on to their tap list? Part of it was just plain luck. Also, being in the industry, working for Barebottle, and knowing the right people helped. Above all, it was developing relationships. Evan met with the guys at Alvarado months before opening and planted the seed that they were one of his top choices and he needed to have them on his tap list. Amazingly they agreed, despite the fact they do not accept new accounts. Evan was able to develop a rapport with them and work his relationships to allow them to see a great partnership. Another factor is that these breweries know that Out of the Barrel is storing the beer properly, serving it properly, and moving the product. “You need to show these kinds of breweries that you actually care, and you aren’t there just because you want their name.” Out of the Barrel explains their passion for beer and how it needs to be served and these top breweries recognize that.
FLYING BEER IN
The story of Moonraker is an amusing one. Evan also met with them months before he was going to open. He took them some beer and tried to start things off on the right foot. He told them his story and how he really wanted to have them on tap when he opened his doors. They were receptive to his pitch, but as opening day approached, chaos set in. There was so much to do to ensure a successful opening and yet he still needed to drive all the way to Auburn to pick up his Moonraker kegs. Evan’s wife suggested he reach out to a friend who has a plane and get him to fly him. His friend was down for the idea. They landed at the airport right across the road from Moonraker, grabbed the kegs, and flew back. It was a bit of a coup to have Moonraker on tap the day they opened their doors.
HOW DO BREWERIES GET ONTO OUT OF THE BARREL’S RADAR?
The way Evan looks at the tap list is like a competition. He wants to feature the best of the best at all times, and have as many beers from a single brewery as he can. He wants to recreate the same experience you get from going to a brewery and seeing their full draft list. So he looks for breweries that can knock it out of the park across a variety of styles, not just, say, Hazy IPAs. He wants to see them make a great Pilsner, a great West-Coast, and a great Stout as well. So rather than have 22 random beers on tap, he wants to have a feature across several different breweries.
SAYING NO TO THE BIG BOYS
Early on the big distributors came to Out of the Barrel hoping to get some tap handles, but Evan feels they have so much business everywhere else that they don’t need to be represented at Out of the Barrel. That is why you will probably never see Russian River’s Pliny the Elder on tap at Out of the Barrel. While Evan thinks they are a fantastic brewery and he would love to have their beer, they are with DBI, one of the largest distributors in the area. Out of the Barrel would prefer to save room on the tap list for the smaller, independent, self-distributed breweries.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Out of the Barrel has signed a long-term 5-year lease. The hope is to maybe get more patio space allocated to Out of the Barrel to make it more enticing. Another plan for the future is to put in a glass accordion door where the front wall is, so in the summer they can just open that whole wall up and make it much easier for people to come in and out.
As the craft beer industry races towards 7,000 breweries nationwide, there are signs of the growth starting to flatten out. New breweries are opening, but many are also closing their doors. Evan isn’t concerned by this trend. “Beer has been around forever. It’s not going anywhere. People aren’t going to suddenly wake up and decide they don’t like good beer. Even if the economy crashed tomorrow, people are still going to buy beer.” And I can tell you one of the best places to find good beer is at Out of the Barrel.