The sun was shining in Santa Barbara, as it always does, and James Burge was outside with a shovel in his hand. His 2-year-old son, Sawyer, was mimicking him with a shovel of his own, helping his father move a bit of soil to fill some last minute holes before Saturday’s grand opening.
It’s in this workman atmosphere that James welcomes me, my father-in-law and my dog into the brewery for a sneak peak. Just inside, we’re greeted by his wife, Megan, and month’s-old daughter, Olivia. Olivia was clad in a small Pure Order Brewing Company tee-shirt that’s much too large for her infant body, but a perfect metaphor for life and Santa Barbara’s newest production brewery.
“This is pretty much my life,” James said, “brewing beer and holding babies.”
Pure Order opens Saturday at noon, but for James and his family – including co-owner and cousin, David Burge – this has been a work-in-progress for several years.
The story starts about 12 years ago when James Burge first started home brewing at the tender age of 16.
No, it starts long before that.
The Pure Order story starts in the early 20th century, when James and David’s great grandfather immigrated through Ellis Island at the tender age of 14 — by himself.
“We come from a long tradition of self-made men,” David Burge said.
The Burge boys followed in their grandpa’s footsteps, they even used his 60-year-old wrenches to help build the brewery, and built their own dreams into a reality. That reality is a full-scale production brewery and family business that’s been on James’ mind ever since he was working construction and dreaming of something bigger.
“I was kind of unhappy and was bored with where I was,” James said. “There was no way to move up the food chain and nowhere to go where I was.”
So James decided to take his home brewing hobby full-scale. He developed a business plan and began sending it out to family members for feedback and possible investments. When it passed his cousin David’s desk, it struck a nerve.
“His passion for beer was sort of contagious,” Dave said. “I saw how passionate he was, and it made me passionate.”
As soon as it was decided that the brewery would be based out of Santa Barbara, Dave was sold. The lifelong Santa Barbarian and Santa Barbara High School alum (once a Don, always a Don) was set to take over the sales side of the business, and James moved his family up from Huntington Beach in 2012. From there, it was a steady work in progress working its way up to Saturday’s grand opening.
Saturday’s opening will feature three of Pure Order’s mainstay beers — Crooked Neck Hefeweizen, Santa Barbara Pale Ale and Red Eye Wheat. Crooked Neck is a standard and traditional Hef with a bright banana and clove nose, SB Pale Ale is the brewery’s IPA offering and one of my favorites, and Red Eye Wheat is perhaps the nascent brewery’s most popular beer even though it’s a relatively obscure Dunkelweizen. Ultimately, it’s a strong lineup that Santa Barbarians should appreciate in our beautiful summer weather that’s just around the corner.