Five years ago, Josh Landan was looking for something new. The legendary surf filmmaker, best known to those in the action-sports world for directing the seminal surf films Flow and The Union Express, grew up in a blue-collar town with an entrepreneurial spirit and had started a sports-management firm, but still wanted to start a business from the ground up.
“So my management company was managing about 12 athletes at the time, and most of them were my surfer friends like Mick Fanning and Taylor Knox,” Landan told GrindTV. “And me and Taylor were in Puerto Rico for this event five years ago, and a hard-alcohol company approached him about sponsorship. He came to me and told me it didn’t really make any sense, and I sort of wondered out loud, ‘Why hasn’t anyone in the action-sports world ever tried to make a craft beer?’
“And as soon as I said that, it was like a light bulb went off in our heads.”
So Landan went to town calling his friends to see if they’d be interested in starting a brewing company. Those friends just so happened to be some of the biggest names in the action-sports industry.
“I met with Josh a weekend after he was with Taylor Knox, because he was going to shoot a skateboard movie about me,” pro skater Mikey Taylor told GrindTV. “He mentioned a beer company and I immediately said, ‘Yes.’ We called up [pro skateboarder] Paul Rodriguez, he said, ‘Yes,’ and Saint Archer Brewing Company was born.”
Joining Landan, Knox, Taylor and P-Rod was snowboarder Todd Richards, the subject of Landan’s 2009 documentary Me Myself & I. With their core group established, the guys went about building their actual product.
“Sometimes you see these companies, these lifestyle companies associated with action sports, and they’re a flash in the pan,” Knox told GrindTV. “And we didn’t want to be that; we wanted to build something to last. In order to do that, we knew we couldn’t just make a good beer, we had to make a great beer.”
Saint Archer went about collecting some of the best talent in the world of brewing. They brought on Yiga Miyashiro, the head brewer at San Diego brewery Pizza Port, and Kim Lutz, the lead brewer at Maui Brewing Company, to helm their ship. Then they went around building hype around the lifestyle aspect of their brand.
Everyone in the crew, from Rodriguez to Richards, were tweeting out about Saint Archer to their followers before they had even developed a product. Soon enough, the excitement about the brand had reached a fever pitch.
“Growing up snowboarding, we came up on the cheap, watery beer our fathers were drinking, and that their fathers were probably drinking,” said Richards. “What’s interesting to see now is how the craft-beer industry has really been embraced by the world of skiing and surfing. You know, after a hard day of really shredding, people want to step off the mountain or out of the surf and have a good beer. It’s natural.”
To Richards' point, the company’s success has been meteoric.
Shortly after opening its 17,000-square-foot brewery in San Diego in 2013, Saint Archer started flying off the shelves. More athletes wanted to get involved, and legendary names like Jack Freestone, Eric Koston and Atiba Jefferson came on board. The company won gold at the Great American Beer Festival a little more than a year after opening its doors, and the orders continued to flood in.
“We’re making 35,000 barrels of beer yearly right now, and we have orders for more,” said Landan. “We weren’t planning on being anywhere near those numbers within our first two years. At this point, we can’t keep up with the demands.”
As a result of the startling and immediate demand, Landan says that despite having standing orders for Saint Archer in all 50 states, the company won’t be able to get outside California until they expand.
“We’ll be expanding into a 53,000-square-foot facility soon,” said Landan. “But the most important thing for us as we continue to grow is we stay true to ourselves. This beer was born in the action-sports world, and we don’t ever want that to change.”
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