John Freitas got the nickname “Sandude” because of his love for Pismo Beach and other coastal locales.
Now the name is on the beer he makes in a business park in southwest Turlock.
Sandude Brewing Co. last month started selling bottled versions of beer that has been available on tap for a few years. It’s a small operation, turning out just 900 gallons in each batch, but Freitas and his wife, Janette, hope to join the national boom in craft brewing.
“People are getting more educated about beer,” Janette said over the clatter of bottles being filled six at a time Monday morning. “The craft beer industry is taking off everywhere.”
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That day’s run was for the Woody Brown Ale and Double India Pale Ale, part of a retail line that also features Suntan Blonde Ale and Shades of Amber Ale. All of them, along with a basic IPA, are poured at close to 50 bars and restaurants in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and Tuolumne County.
A six-pack of 12-ounce bottles typically sells for $8.99. Sandude also has 22-ounce bottles, known as bombers, at a suggested $4.99 for the Double IPA and $4.49 for the others.
Sandude is Turlock’s second entry into the craft beer industry. Dust Bowl Brewing Co. launched in 2009 and could win approval Thursday night from the city Planning Commission for a major expansion in the west-side industrial zone.
Beer likely will not rival the dairy, turkey and other farm-based industries that anchor Turlock’s economy, but it did get a plug in a job-creation plan approved by the City Council last month. Among its many recommendations: “Identify and market companies that create a unique business niche for Turlock (e.g. Boutique Beer City).”
Sandude has just three employees so far. John Freitas is brewmaster, and Janette handles sales along with Nick Arakelian. They hope to hire a brewer’s assistant and a driver soon, and to have as many as 15 people by next summer if sales go well. They contract with a bottler, Davey Miksza, and have a few friends who help with packing and distribution.
Sandude also could have a tasting room at some point, likely in downtown Turlock rather than at the brewery. It is just off Montana Avenue and within earshot of Highway 99.
John Frietas, a general contractor, built the business complex and named it Freitas Park. He got the idea for the beer venture in 2009, after spending a day with a home-brewing friend. He experimented for a few years with very small batches and landed his first on-tap accounts in 2011. Production ramped up in February to about 120 barrels a month, each 31 gallons.
Sandude has the four basic ingredients of beer: malted grain, hops, yeast and water. Malted means that the grain – either barley or wheat – is allowed to briefly sprout before being dried. Hops provide the varying levels of bitterness. Yeast ferments the sugar in the mix into alcohol and carbon dioxide, a process lasting 11 to 21 days at Sandude, depending on the beer type.
“Time and temperature are really crucial in brewing beer,” Freitas said. “A few degrees in the brewing process will really change your beer.”
The grain and hops come from farms in the northwest United States and southwest Canada. The water, which Freitas called “very good” for making beer, is straight from city wells. He noted another advantage to being in Turlock: nearby dairy farmers who use his “spent grain” as feed.
The Red Brick Bar & Grill, on Broadway in downtown Turlock, has all five Sandude beers on tap. “It has been received very well by the public,” co-owner Stephen Backus said. “A lot of people are asking for it.”
He added that he has a high regard for Dust Bowl beers, as well, but does not serve them because that brewery has a restaurant just down the street from his.
The Brewing Association, which represents craft brewers across the nation, defines them as small, independent producers with a “traditional or innovative” style. They accounted for 15.3million of the 196.2million barrels of beer from all U.S. companies last year, according to the group, based in Boulder, Colo. Craft beer production rose 17percent over 2012, while overall volume dipped 2percent.
The craft brewers had a larger share of the 2013 dollar total – $14.3billion out of $100billion – thanks to generally higher prices per bottle than the makers of Budweiser, Coors and other mainstream beer.
Sandude is at several independent retailers and was expected to be at O’Brien’s Markets this week. The owners are looking to get into larger chains such as Save Mart, Raley’s, Costco and BevMo.
They also plan a sales push into Pismo, Santa Cruz and other coastal towns that inspired the labels. Woody Brown, for example, bears an image of the station wagon favored by surfers half a century ago. Shades of Amber features an octopus wearing sunglasses. Suntan Blonde is a bikini-clad beachgoer gazing out to sea.
How Sandude Brewing Co. describes its products:
Shades of Amber Ale: Full-bodied, hint of hops, caramel center, smooth finish
Suntan Blonde Ale: Light golden color, subtle hopped start, sweet center, clean, dry finish
Woody Brown Ale: Caramel and chocolate notes, a clean center, malty finish
India Pale Ale: Burst of hops, moderate bodied and bitterness, citric notes
Double IPA: Optimum balance of six hops, rich caramel center, malty finish
MORE INFORMATION: www.facebook.com/sandude.brewing