We had an incredible chance to sit down with the owners of one of Carlsbad’s newest breweries, Culver Beer, and interview them on the process of opening the brewery. Co owners Ben Fairweather and Mike Stevenson opened Culver Beer this year back in April, and have been wildly successful in doing so. Here’s a little behind the scenes look into their success…
How did you get into the beer business?
Ben: What got me into the business was home brewing. My old teacher from high school would always talk about brewing with me after class, and inspired me to start home brewing on my own. I went to college for business and entrepreneurship, and decided I wanted to open a brewery in San Diego after graduating. That’s when I met up with Mike and started talking about possibly partnering with him on this idea we had.
Mike: My dad had home brewed when I was younger, and when I was in college I got to use his equipment to start brewing on my own. When I graduated college in 2012, my mom was working as a flight attendant, so I was able to take advantage of that and go to some breweries in Germany. There was this one brewery in Germany that was kind of like a bed and breakfast with a brewery and a pub that I stayed at for a little while. There I was able to help them brew for about 6 months and really learned a lot in doing so. Once I returned to the states, I got an internship with Manzanita and met a lot of great people there, and after that point I had met up with Ben and started planning Culver.
How has the transition been from home brewing to professional brewing?
Ben: It’s so much easier brewing when you have pumps and hoses that are actually dedicated to certain things as opposed to not really having that with home brewing. Really having all the right professional equipment makes a huge difference.
Mike: I graduated from the UCSD brewing program, which was pretty indispensable in making sure opening the brewery really worked out. You can spend almost a million dollars and get brand new everything for the brewery, or you can take the route we did. We routed everything in here, did all the plumbing ourselves, and really did a lot of the ground work to keep our overhead lower to save on costs so we could use this money in other aspects of the brewery.
How did the concept of Culver start and where does the name originate from?
Ben: We originally had a different name picked out in the beginning (Palomar Brewing Company), but someone had already trademarked that name, so we ended up changing it. Palomar actually means pigeon in the Native American language that was originally in this area, so that’s where we get the bird logo from. Working backwards, we figured out the name Culver, which also means bird keeper. Culver is also an old English term, which fits in with the continental-style beers we have on tap.
Mike: We actually got into Carlsbad because some of the breweries here really changed some of the rules for Carlsbad, allowing more breweries in planned industrial zones. Up until last year you were not allowed to open up a brewery here.
What makes Culver unique from other breweries in the area?
Ben: It’s a nice mix, we have a couple of lagers on tap that not a lot of places have. For example, our Tiger Ride beer is a nice 8% Belgian Blonde that is definitely one of our top sellers. Our goal was to keep things local to the Carlsbad area. Our beer is a quality product, so we really wanted to focus on providing great, knowledgeable customer service with a laid-back atmosphere.
Mike: We really aren’t too heavily focused on the IPA scene, so we like brewing a lot of Belgians and more German-style beers. The IPAs we do make are killer and they are very different from one another. We wanted to have 4 awesome IPAs, but we also wanted to include a good mix of other beers as well.
What is your favorite beer at Culver and why?
Ben: Mine is the True Hero, our double IPA, because it has a really great hoppy taste. It’s very traditional West Coast style. I also really like the Slow Lane German Pilsner because it’s really unique, not a lot of places do Pilsners like this one. They’re all pretty good though haha.
Mike: My favorite would be Strange Ways. It was one of the first beers that was really successful when we opened. This beer is like a hoppy Saison, which is pretty unique to us here. It’s hopped heavily mostly with mosaic hops, and it has a light Belgian quality to it. It’s a Belgian IPA, but it’s not a Belgian IPA, and a lot of our customers actually come in strictly for this one in particular. This is definitely one that we want to start bottling in the next few months.
What have been some of your biggest challenges and accomplishments in opening Culver?
Ben: Being patient was the toughest part for me. I’m not the most patient person and waiting for all the approvals to open was pretty tough. It’s hard when you’re super excited and ready to get to work and you have to wait around for a few months for everything to start happening. It’s also a learning experience; not only is this our first brewery we’ve opened, but it’s also our first business, which has been so fun and extremely gratifying. The biggest accomplishment was actually opening the brewery successfully. Also getting our beer out to restaurants has also been gratifying as well.
Mike: Getting everything all set up and digging for all the plumbing for the space here was tough. The process of buying all the equipment was also tough and time consuming. But definitely just opening the brewery was our biggest accomplishment this far.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of the job?
Ben: I definitely enjoy chatting with people and interacting with everyone who walks through our doors here. I like building relationships with our customers and seeing people come back too. Getting unexpected bills in the mail would probably be my least favorite part of the job haha, that’s never fun. The accounting side is also not really my favorite, just because its more monotonous work.
Mike: Least favorite is cleaning haha, but that’s just something that comes with the job. My favorite part is actually working behind the bar and interacting with our customers. I think people really appreciate that when they get to talk with the owners and brewers.
What is next for Culver? Any plans for the future?
Ben: Continuing to expand our production capabilities, getting more tanks, and getting our beers into more restaurants. Really just getting our name out there a little more. We’ve actually gone way over our projected barrellage which is great, and we’re hoping this continue as we get out beers out to some more places in the near future. Eventually we’d like to have an outdoor area with grass for customers to enjoy here at the brewery too.
Mike: We actually hit the bars a little sooner than we thought, but we had enough inventory to make it happen, so that’s sort of what’s next for us as well. We are also hoping to double our production for next year. We also might eventually expand at our location here in Carlsbad once we start growing.
Ben: We really didn’t have a huge sum of money with opening Culver, but we worked hard and made it happen, which is actually the most gratifying thing. Looking back and seeing how hard we worked for this is really cool to see. And just being local to Carlsbad it’s a great feeling to serve our awesome community here too.
Mike: Both Ben and I are local and we both grew up here in North County. We’re really just two local kids making a name for ourselves here. I think people really appreciate local talent and we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of friends, family, and customers who have really backed us on everything with Culver.
You can find Culver beer at Knockout Pizza in Oceanside and coming to Green Dragon Tavern in Carlsbad soon. Keep an eye out for bottle releases over the next few months as well. Culver plans to bottle the Strange Ways, Tiger Ride, and the True Hero. Culver Beer often has great food trucks and weekly events (such as Geeks Who Drink trivia night), so make sure to swing by for a pint or two if you’re in the Carlsbad area! Just tell them the aliens sent you!
For more information on Culver Beer, check out their Facebook page here.
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Be sure to follow us on Social Media as we invade more breweries and discover more awesome craft beers from all over the world! Cheers humans!