Beer and skateboarding are almost synonymous. You rarely see one without the other. They’re family members who actually enjoy being with each other. Naturally, a brilliant idea would involve skateboarders and beer. Black Plague is the newest skater owned and influenced beverage company coming up in San Diego. United had some time to talk with brand manager and pro skater-Jordan Hoffart to get the story behind Black Plague, and why we should be stoked on it.
You’re the brand manager, can you talk about who had the original idea for Black Plague and who else became involved? How did the brand get started?
It was actually my neighbor John who approached me with the concept. He was the original craft beer geek out of our group and always brought over some new specialty brew for me to try. We already had friends in the craft beer industry (Booze Bros in Vista) that seemed to be loving the whole deal and really got us stoked to be a part of it ourselves. After loosely playing around with the idea, John came over one night and basically just asked straight up “Are you down to do this for real?”. We had a couple mutual friends (Dr. Philip Vieira Neuro Scientist / Brew Master and Jarred Doss, Director of Design and Tech) that after very little convincing were fully on board for the adventure as well. I think we were all ready for change and got excited about taking on such a cool endeavor. Since we didn’t have the cash required to fund a brewery, we formed a detailed business plan and started recruiting friends and family to invest. A lot of these people ended up being professional skateboarders naturally. Joey Brezinski, Matt Hensley and Paul Hart among others… to name a few.
What’s been the hardest part of getting the company started?
I’d say the biggest challenge was deciding on what level we wanted to start brewing at and what we could realistically afford. The startup process has a pretty drawn out time line as well that I didn’t really understand until we got going. The capital raise took about 3 months and then finding an appropriate building another 2-3 months. Once we got the location we could apply for our licensing, which is another 6 + months to process. So it will have been a solid year before we are up and brewing.
You have three beers on your website, are these three perfected and ready to be served? You have a large selection of prospective beers also on the site, how many of those are currently being worked on to be served as well?
Well our brew master has been brewing for about a decade, so he has developed a plethora of great beer in his career. We basically took a few of his Award winning recipe that fit more of a mainstream audience to be the front runners in our distribution. Whereas the tap room will offer a wider spectrum with more adventurous beer types. We will have roughly 14 different brews on tap ranging from Blondes to Porters with everything in between. (IPA, Saison, Brown, Stout, Citrus IPA, IIPA etc.)
How do you guys distinguish yourselves from other skater owned beverage companies?
From a branding standpoint I’d say we have a much more counter culture vibe. A little darker, little heavier on the imagery scale. We also have a lot of people involved that are not from the skate industry, so I think it will help create some balance and bring it back to our main focus, creating amazing beer. We love skateboarding and there are a lot of parallels with the craft beer industry that people are starting to identify with. But just like in any industry the spectrum of branding is so vast we feel there is room to make our own path. Brewing & skateboarding are both very passion based industries and are built around creating through self expression. We want to stay true to ourselves and true those values. Consistently creating new tastes and hopefully the new high standard of beer.
How have you guys come up with your recipes for the beers? What’s the process for creating the beer?
All the categories have certain ingredients that set up the “base” for that style of beer, but then that’s where the craft kicks in. Every brewer has their own way of tweaking their recipes to create something completely different from the next. Often it could be something as little as increasing the heat in the wort by 2 degrees; or changing the amount of hops by an oz or 2. Our brew master is a neuroscientist by day, so he has the repetitive brewing procedure dialed in, along with a meticulous attention to detail. Having a detailed recipe log to refer to also helps to keep our batches consistent, and narrow down variables to tweak in order to make the recipes the best they can be. At the end of the day a lot of great beers come from experimentation through trial and error. That’s why pilot batching is so essential.
You guys have a warehouse/brewery you’ve been working on for awhile now. I’ve been seeing on yours and the Black Plague’s IGs that you’re getting more done! Where are you guys going to be located in San Diego? Do you have a timeline for when you’d like to be up and running?
We are located at 2550 Jason Court in Oceanside. 92056. We would be stoked if you cruise in for our grand opening scheduled for late January 2017! Sign up for our mailing list to stay updated on specific dates: www.blackplaguebrewing.com
Is that ridiculously long ledge located at the brewery?!
Yeah! It’s a 100 ft ledge that oc ramps built us. While we are waiting for the equipment to be manufactured, we figured we’d make the most of the empty warehouse and build something no one’s really messed with before. We have teamed up with the ride channel to film a segment of some fellow pros n bros attempting to take tricks coast to coast. we’ll see how it pans out, but it should make for a good time.Stay tuned.
What is the brands vision for the brewery when it is finished? Will you be able to go in and sit down for a beer? What will customers experience?
We are a young, aggressive, brand that plans to hit the ground running and come out swinging with distribution to restaurants & bars throughout SD and Orange county. We’d like to responsibly grow beyond southern California once we gain some traction and hopefully one day be a national brand that everyone can enjoy. We will have a 2300 SF tasting room in the production warehouse, where customers can expect a friendly, enthusiastic experience from a knowledgeable staff. We feel it’s important to offer the customer insight to the beer they are about to enjoy and can hopefully teach them a thing or two about the craft they didn’t know before. We are planning to regularly have live band entertainment and events from video premieres, art shows to industry parties etc. We will also have a VIP table available to reserve for private parties where they can chop it up with our brew master and taste new specialty brews not yet available to public.
What is most exciting to you about being a part of the brand?
Constantly seeing new creative ideas being brewed up and become a reality. Creativity through self expression is a extension of my 25 years on a skateboard. Its what keeps life interesting and worth living.
Skaters seem to be pretty content with drinking cheapo PBR, Coors, etc. What will make them want the craft beer you guys are creating?
Well aside from being award winning recipes, I believe there’s a beer for every occasion. What makes those lighter beers so popular is that people can drink a lot of them without getting knocked onto their ass. When you are watching a football game or going golfing, you can’t chug IPA’s all day and expect to last. But a lot of those mainstream beer drinkers are starting to get curious about the craft and want to try something new, for a elevated brew experience. Something with a little more flavor or more depth and that where craft beers like ours can flourish. The craft beer industry is a lot like skateboarding in that once you get a grasp of the basics, you constantly want to expand into new territories, to see what else is out there to satisfy your palate. People start to research local craft breweries and seek out the acclaimed beers, available in the area. We are confident our award winning brews will be at the top of many peoples list.
Your branding for the company is cool. Can you tell about how the logo was created, and how it connects to how you guys came up with the name Black Plague?
Our original name was Dark Ages, as there is a rich brewing history associated with that time era. As we dove into the era’s imagery, we developed the Plague Doctor logo and everyone was really vibing with it. We ended up having some trademarking issues with the Dark Ages name and decided to rebrand as Black Plague. Water was unsafe to drink during those times, so the people added alcohol to water with the belief it would kill the bacteria responsible for the spreading the Plague. They would gather in drinking halls mourning their losses and it helped spawn the brew pub era. That then lead us to develop #aplagueofflavor as our slogan.
What are your hopes and dreams for the company? Where do you dream for it to go? Do you see it becoming closely connected to the skateboard industry? Like sponsoring guys etc?
Well, coming from an industry that has consumed 99% of my life (Skateboarding), I wasn’t going to jump into anything I wasn’t passionate about. You have to love what you do, or it isn’t worth doing. So it’s safe to say we are in it for the long haul. We all enjoy and respect the craft of brewing, we enjoy working together and building a brand that represents us as people. We would love for Black Plague to become a nationally recognized and represent a high standard for quality craft beer. We’ll always see our brand staying closely connected to the skateboard industry as it’s important to remember and respect where you came from. It’s a large part of what makes us what we are. Since a lot of our partners are active professionals I feel like we have a great team that can consistently represent Black Plague to the fullest.
Thanks so much for the time Jordan! You guys have a solid business model and enthusiasm! I can’t wait to see the amount of success you have in the craft beer industry!
Yeah! I tend to get pretty excited about talking about the brand. Thanks for the interest!