Tried And Brewed
By Ronda Alvey
story: Joshua Corbelli photo: DevenCarter.com
Nor Cal Brewing Solutions
When Jay Webster imagined his own business three years ago, it didn’t look like this. In his sights were large vats, lots of bottles and a tasting room full of eager beer aficionados of varying maturity. And for a while, it looked as though that’s how things might end up. Then the economy fell out, and so too did the investment capital that Webster and his business partner had all but secured to fulfill their dreams.
“My original vision was to have a brewery first, and to have a supply store second. The store was my Plan B, but that’s just how it came about,” says Webster, 37. His store, Nor Cal Brewing Solutions in Redding, opened its doors in late June. Six months hence, Webster says business is explosive. “It’s amazing how well-received this store has been in this town. It was kind of a whirlwind thing, but I was kind of tired of chasing a dream,” he says, acknowledging that in order to open a brewery, he’ll have to fund it by his own means.
But the dream is still in his sights. Webster’s found a niche with locals looking to reap the fruits of their labors. “This town was just screaming for a home-brew store,” he says. Webster runs the store with his wife Michele, and his original business partner is no longer involved.
While it may not be the American pastime, brewing one’s own beer is an increasingly popular hobby that has placed itself in the sights of many modern beer enthusiasts. Nowadays one needn’t possess technical know-how and scientific savvy to accomplish such a feat. To brew one’s own beer is, at its most introductory level, actually a pretty simple task. In any case, Webster had done his homework. He’s been brewing his own beer for the past eight years – after having watched the TV show “Good Eats: Water, Hops Barley and Yeast.” But a year ago he worked with Steve and Cene Bryant and the trio formed the Shasta Society of Brewers. The first meeting drew some 25 people, and each meeting since has regularly attracted 15 to 20 people. Members gather to meet and discuss all things brew – recipes, tactics and other advice from personal successes and failures. With all the interest the society brought about, it was clear that Redding was in need of a place for people to learn about the craft. Residents from Chico all the way up to Oregon and west to Humboldt County frequent the shop, he says. The store also offers Beer Brewing 101, a free introductory class to those new to the craft. Webster also says he spends a lot of time one-on-one discussing methods with inquisitive customers, and sharing his personal recipes (he lays claim to a phenomenal bleach-blonde ale). What’s more, he’s willing to take the task on the road. For a fee, people can hire him to come to their homes for “brew parties” and teach them the basics right there in their own kitchen, with their own equipment. “We’ve tried to take all the hard stuff – the stuff that turns people off from the idea – and we try to simplify it. We’ve got a full line of products in the store that take the guesswork out of it,” Webster says. And it seems to be working. Each week a handful of customers, new and old, bring him in samples of their latest concoctions.
While the brewery portion of the business is yet to come, it looks as though Webster is on the right track.
NorCal Brewing Solutions 1768 Churn Creek Road., Redding (530) 243-BEER