Last week I spoke with outgoing Figueroa Mountain brewmaster A.J. Stoll. He’s off to Ireland, but Santa Barbara Brewing Company’s Kevin Pratt is not going quite as far. He and his partners at the newly formed Heirloom Brewing Company, which will operate as a production brewery in the near future, is hoping to close escrow on San Luis Obispo’s Creekside Brewing Company this month.
I sat down with Kevin to discuss his upcoming future and his fleeting time at Brewco.
Kevin opened by discussing his feelings toward leaving Brewco to start his own brewing company.
PRATT: I feel very much the same way that a woman in the late stages of pregnancy must feel where I’ve gone through all the stages where this is what I’m doing and it’s great, I’m happy and everyone is happy for me. Then I educate myself on everything to come and I keep obsessing about it because I want everything to be great, just like a woman wants everything great for her baby. Then it gets to the last few months and it’s like here’s your due date. Then you get past that date and you say, ‘Ok, I’m done. I’m done now. Let’s have this, I’m really done.’ I feel very much like I’m slightly overdue.
Q: So you feel like you’re ready for Heirloom to be born.
A: I’m really ready for this. And I know there will be sleepless nights, and I’m Ok with that.
Q: When it starts, will it start off as Heirloom right away or is there an intermediate step.
A: First off, this project is Creekside Brewing. It’s not Heirloom. Heirloom is the parent company.
Q: Heirloom is the company buying Creekside?
We’re not going to change Creekside to begin with. We didn’t buy it to turn it into something else. We bought it because it was already a functioning brewery and already in the right construct we’re looking for — and a great location. It just happened to be the right magical combination to make this purpose.
So we didn’t buy it right away saying hey we want to change everything. We could have bought any other bar and done that. It doesn’t work for us to change the name until we have a production brewery to stand behind it and provide more core beers. Hopefully this place will make a lot of experimental beers and fun stuff. It will be a great place to go to have the beers, have great food and a few things that are not on the beer menu.
Q: Under the leadership of you and Heirloom, and your partners, what can we expect in the near future at Creekside?
A: It’s always going to be classic beers in the modern world. This is how we’re, we’re always going to be making beers that are the core of beer culture — the best of beer culture. We’re always going to offer food that is the best of going out to a pub and casual dining. You can always expect the highest quality of both. And every now and then, some fun. We want to have some fun while we’re brewing, we want to have fun while we’re cooking and we want to be creative. Beer has been a wonderful set of evolution and creation over time. America is just the latest to enter the particular fray.
Q: What do you feel about your time here in Santa Barbara?
A: I love it. This has been one of the best challenges of my career. It’s been rewarding because I’ve been able to meet that challenge. It’s been rewarding on a business level because I’ve helped my company become something really important. It’s been rewarding because even as I exit, the transition here is about keeping it an important place, keeping the quality up, making sure we hire the right person, making sure that person follows it, and making sure that I’m available if there’s an issue. This is not a just a sudden departure.
Q: Along those lines you’re going to be hiring and training a new brewer to take over before you leave.
A: Hopefully I’m going to be hiring a brewer with a lot of training and skill. Hopefully I’m hiring a brewer that wants to make their own mark. I don’t want a brewer that just wants to take over. At least a third of my job has been being creative, getting new and interesting things going and getting new and interesting thought process among the public about it. The next brewer has to be able to embrace that.
The most important part of this is that the new brewer understands where we’re at and where we need to go. They need to stay on the path of making great classic beers, balanced beers in this market that meet the goals of the restaurant and still allow him or her enough room to play. There’s plenty of room for that. There are only three or four recipes that need to carry on, everything else they can put their own stamp on.
Q: This being your fourth year here, are there any regrets as far as things you didn’t get to accomplish or any things that you would like to change?
A: I really wish I had time to do more collaboration beers. I’m very much going to miss this brewery. I feel like I’ve built a hot rod I learned to drive really well and I’m going to miss not being able to drive that brewery. I’m going to miss some of the mentoring opportunities I’ve had with brewers. I’m going to miss the new breweries that are in town and the growth of that, but I’m also looking forward to basically regaining all of that in San Luis Obispo.
— That’s it. And if you’re sad about the departure of Kevin and AJ, fear not — there are plenty of new breweries on the horizon. I’ll be discussing Captain Fatty’s in Goleta and Rincon and BrewLab in Carpinteria in this space soon. Stay tuned.