The story behind Santa Cruz, California’s Humble Sea Brewing isn’t wildly different from other homebrew-to-start-up brewery stories, though where they’re located, their guiding principles, and what they’ve accomplished as a result of their dedication certainly sets these “kooks” apart.
The founding of the brewery begins with Nick Pavlina cooking up homebrew batches in 2009. While he lived in a small beach bungalow in nearby Pleasure Point, Nick coined the name Humble Sea – maintaining humility as his beer began to receive acclaim, combined with his love for the ocean.
Fast forward to late 2014 when Nick pitches the idea of opening a brewery to co-founders Taylor West (Taproom & Accounts Manager) and Frank Scott Krueger (Creative Director), so they set to work on a small start-up. They see their joint effort as a collaboration, with each focusing on a specific strength they can contribute to the team – Beer, Community, and Design.
Before long they’d raised $10,000 to begin production in earnest, initially upgrading from a 15 gal homebrew set-up to 1 bbl brewhouse. They took up residence under the carport of Nick’s grandmother-in-law’s home in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains, the same area where all three grew up. County code enabled them to “transform a property zoned residential/agricultural into a home occupation including a winery or brewery.” In their first year, before opening their brewery/taproom in Santa Cruz, they spent a lot of their time doing “R&D,” brewing around 120 unique recipes.
With money running out and the new brew house still under construction, they finished the taproom and opened their doors on St. Patricks Day in 2017. With 15 taps of 1 bbl batches and 12oz pours, their “friends and family” opening wasn’t so soft… three days later all but 4 taps were empty. While awaiting approval on their new 10 bbl brewhouse – stalled by required upgrades from PG&E, they sought out guest taps and brewed on a friend’s system just to keep up with demand.
Regardless of acclaim and sales, according to Krueger “our whole philosophy is ‘Give before we make money’. So we get super excited about raising money for causes that we actually care about.” Before they even opened their taproom or could legally pour beer anywhere, they’d attend events in town to support the organizers, the community, and get their name out there. Once they opened their taproom, they hosted 23 events that were sponsored by non-profits in their first year, contributing proceeds to causes they care about such as Save our Shores and Save the Waves.
Humble Sea’s brewery and taproom lies just blocks away from the ocean on the westside of Santa Cruz. All three co-founders surf most every morning before the work day and delight in the creative process of coming up with new ideas and names for the beers they’ve become known for, Foggy IPAs – their take on the New England or Hazy IPA style. Since 2015, the brewery has created over 685 unique beers of just about every imaginable style, each labeled and named in a whimsical style befitting the “kook capital of the world.”
The next chapter of Humble Sea Brewing begins when they open their new taproom, up the coast in Pacifica, on July 1st. They’re also working on opening another taproom just north of Santa Cruz in Felton, and are currently seeking out a third satellite location in the South Bay area.
We’ve been lucky enough to work with Humble Sea for over two and a half years and have received another excellent fresh drop of their beers! Keep an eye out for the following assortment of three different cans and draft options that began hitting stores today and will continue to do so through the middle of next week:
- Blood Orange Socks & Sandals ~ DDH Foggy IPA double dry-hopped with Citra, Simcoe, Chinook, and Centennial with blood oranges. Aromas and flavors of tropical fruit medley, peach, and juicy tangerine. Our classic, foggy IPA recipe with an eff load of blood orange! – 6.5%. Available in 16 oz cans and on draft.
- My Neighbor Totobro ~ DDH West Coast IPA, double dry-hopped with Vic Secret, Simcoe, and El Dorado. Flavors and aromas of mixed berry, passion fruit, and lemon-lime with a hint of dankness. Brewed with a simple malt bill and a nice combo of classic, West Coast hops and fruit-forward new school hops for a crispy beer with a bright aroma and flavor – 7.1%. Available in 16 oz cans and on draft.
- You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Fog ~ DDH Hop-Fused Bi-Coastal DIPA, double dry-hopped and fused with Riwaka, Motueka, and El Dorado. Aromas of mango, white grape, melon, and a hint of pine, plus flavors of pineapple, orange zest, and ripe mango. We brewed this one with lots of oat flakes, malted wheat, and a touch of Vienna malt for a creamy body and then balanced it with some added intentional bitterness. The result? A perfect hybrid of the creamy, softness of our foggies and the crispy, bitterness of our West Coast DIPAs – 8.7%. Available in 16 oz cans and on draft.