Devil’s Canyon Announces Distribution Agreement & Bottling Plans

After self-distributing their beer for nearly 10 years, Devil’s Canyon Brewing has announced a distribution agreement with Matagrano Inc. that will put their beer on more taps throughout San Mateo and San Francisco counties. The following press release also declares their intention to begin bottling in July.

Belmont, CA. — June 29, 2011 — San Francisco Peninsula-based Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company takes great pride in announcing an agreement with Matagrano Inc. for distribution of their products in San Mateo and San Francisco counties. Until today, Devil’s Canyon has self-distributed their award-winning craft beer and root beer daily throughout San Mateo county from the brewery’s facility in Belmont.

The Brewery’s name is derived from the original Spanish designation for the City of Belmont – “la Canada del Diablo” or Devil’s Canyon, and as they approach their 10th year of operation, demand for their locally made products is soaring. Sales of their flagship brands such as Full Boar Scotch Ale (so named for the tusked inhabitants of the county’s many parks) and Silicon Blonde Ale (a nod to Silicone Valley entrepreneurs past and present) continue to see steady growth even with challenges of the current economy.

Word of the brewery’s high-quality products and top-notch customer service spread throughout the peninsula through a combination of sales efforts, social networking conversations and good old fashion face-to-face “taste-testing.” More recently, chefs, bartenders and owners of various upscale restaurants and pubs in San Francisco started to take notice.

When Matagrano Inc. contacted the brewery, the synergy between the two local, family owned companies was immediately recognized. The Matagrano family has been in the distribution business since before prohibition and survived this country’s dry years, reestablishing themselves in the beer industry as soon as the 18th amendment was repealed. They continue to run an independent, family owned business with third and fourth generation members still at the wheel.

The combination of a family owned distributorship with a fleet of vehicles and in-depth knowledge of the San Francisco craft beer landscape, along with Devil’s Canyon’s employee owned facility and civic-centric philosophy creates a powerful engine for economic growth in the local community.

“We spent 10 years building up successful local brands and getting them to our amazing, growing fan base,” stated VP of Sales and Marketing, Daniel Curran. “Having Matagrano assume distribution of our products makes sense, and with summer here, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.” He lauded Matagrano’s caliber of employees and their focus on customer service, adding, “Matagrano is a company with integrity and foresight. This is a huge win for the craft beer community as a whole.”

Curran added, “Matagrano’s distribution of Devil’s Canyon products in San Mateo and San Francisco counties is a welcomed extension of our brands as it affords a whole new segment of the city and the peninsula an opportunity to enjoy some of the best craft beer and root beer the Bay Area has to offer.”

Even with so many exciting changes ahead, both companies still take giving back to local communities very seriously. Each year Matagrano sponsors over 40 street fairs, church festivals, and various other charitable community events in San Francisco and San Mateo counties. Devil’s Canyon gives back to local schools, charities and noble causes through its “Cheers! for Charity” program.

With Matagrano meeting the delivery demands for craft beer enthusiasts in San Mateo and San Francisco counties, Devil’s Canyon will continue to self-distribute in the South Bay from Palo Alto to San Jose and everywhere in between. They also plan to begin bottling some of their most requested styles as soon as July.

Beer Mom Kristiann Garrett

Kristiann Garrett

Photos by Kelsey Williams

About four and a half years ago, Kristiann Garrett, co-owner of Devil’s Canyon Brewery with her husband Chris, was at the brewery finding it a bit more difficult to get through the day than normal. Sudden sharp pains had woken her early that morning and kept interrupting her daily activities at increasingly frequent intervals. By 3 p.m. she finally took a rare moment to lie down and grab a nap on the brewery couch, but was woken to help sell a gift card to a waiting customer.

At 6 pm, she looked at Chris. It was time to go to the hospital; their daughter was definitely on the way. Five days later, Millie Garrett, made her debut appearance at the brewery.

In some ways, it’s not surprising that Garrett would almost give birth in a brewery. Beer is in her blood, literally. Her maiden name, Dienstbier, means “beer service” in Czech, and her great-grandfather once worked in the Pilsner Urquell brewery.

“He didn’t know much English,” recalls Garrett, “but what he did know was, ‘I need my medicine,’ and what he meant was beer.” Chuckling she adds, “And he lived until he was 98-years-old, so…”

Like her great-grandfather, Garrett has always had a respect for the healing powers of good beer. “Beer is food,” she says, “it has all sorts of nutrients in it”

As a former personal trainer, Garrett said, “My clients would ask me, ‘do I have to give up beer?’” “It’s about balance,” she added, “Have a beer, walk around the track.”

Still, with her love of beer, she said she never expected to get into the brewing business.

As a child, Garrett grew up just down the road in Cupertino, and moved to Vancouver at 16. Her 18 years of ballet when she was younger, while seemingly a lifetime ago for her she says, still shows its mark in her strong, slender posture.

She attended the University of Portland, where she graduated with a degree in Secondary Education and Social Studies. After college, a one-month fellowship teaching English as a foreign language, finally took her to Prague, the land of her great-grandfather, where the national beverage happens to be beer. One month turned into two and a half years of managing a sports bar and teaching English.

Just before she left for Prague, however, Kristiann Dienstbier did run into her older brother’s college roommate, Chris Garrett, at the time a homebrewer that picked up the skill in college because, as Kristiann puts it, “it was cheaper to make good beer himself.”

According to Chris, that was the moment he knew there was something special about this girl, for Kristiann, it seems it took a little longer.

From Prague, Garrett agreed to move to Costa Rica, where for six month she helped a friend open a bar, until a few weddings finally brought her back to the Bay Area. Little did she know at the time that her own relationship and wedding would keep her there.

Garrett’s bartending and managing days are evident when she maneuvers a tap. With Millie perched on her hip, Garret grabs a pint glass in her free hand, deftly angles it under the tap, and pours herself a little of Devil’s Canyon’s newest special brew, a classic Saison. Now at 38, her movements are deliberate and graceful, but her style is casual. Her uniform today consists of jeans, white Adidas sneakers, and a zip-up jacket with a pink collar—functional and well-suited to keeping up with a brewery business and an energetic four year old.

“Is it Beer Friday,” Millie asks.

“Yeah, bud, It is Beer Friday,” Garrett responds with a smile.

It’s the monthly event put on by the brewery in what amounts to the backyard of their warehouse space in the back of a business park. Everyone was busy setting up the two bars; the caterers were prepping their food; and the band was arriving to set up inside.

Garrett, still with Millie on her hip managed to knock out a few managing details—helping the bartender figure out how to keep track of the beer club members, joking with the guitar player about his new rose embroidered cowboy shirt, and making sure the reporter got to try their Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale that Garrett had mentioned earlier as being “probably the best beer she’s ever had.”

Garrett then gathered up Millie to take her home to the sitter, although Millie would have hardly been the only preschooler to stick around at Beer Friday. As the people started to show around 6 p.m., strollers and baby backpacks were not uncommon accessories.

Early on in Beer Fridays, Garrett said, “It really is families; you get kids dancing to the band, you get everybody.” Later on, she said, the crowd shifts over as the kids leave and the younger adults move in, but in the early hours, Beer Friday appears much like a community block party.

Everyone who works at Devil’s Canyon is used to kids though. Since she was five days old Millie has been a fixture in the place. As a baby her crib sat just behind the desks in the only office, Garrett said. Now, in Garrett’s own office– they had a wall installed– the room is covered with Disney princesses, there is a play kitchen, several boxes of blocks and toys, and Millie’s own computer. With Garrett’s work computer and Millie’s computer side by side, it looks like Devil’s Canyon’s Brew Mom has a very small assistant.

“Everyone knows,” Garrett said smiling, “language, curb it.”

Garrett explained that she has even become a bit of a mom to everyone in the brewery. She said she advocates for everyone to quit smoking, take breaks on long days, and get a good night’s sleep as opposed to a good night of drinking in if she knows they have a busy day following.

“One of our employees calls me Mama K, and he calls Chris, Papa C,” Garrett said chuckling. “We are all a little family; we have to be,” she adds, “We’re all sharing space and it is small so we all really need to get along.”

Garrett’s duties at the brewery, however, extend beyond mommying the brewers, she is responsible for taking care of tax paperwork, licensing, dealing with other brewers that use their equipment, event planning, the brewery’s charitable donations, as well as picking up any extra slack. For a while, she was the brewery’s “Root Beer Queen” brewing batches of Devil’s Canyon’s now extremely popular kid-friendly product.

In the early days, Garrett said, she would help out with the brewing, move kegs, and work behind the bar with Millie in one arm, pouring beer with the other. Now, nearing the brewery’s ten-year anniversary, Garrett is still a “woman of many hats” as she puts it and running the business is still a seven day a week job. Still, she explained, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Before they decided to open Devil’s Canyon, Garrett had been working as a U.S. history teacher at Woodside High School and Chris had been working in the tech industry in the valley. Originally the brewery, was a very small operation, more of an elaborate hobby, but with the “dotbomb,” Garrett said, “We were like, ‘ok, here we go; full steam ahead in the beer business.”

“I thank god for beer because, teaching high school was not easy,” Garrett laughs.

Now, as one of a growing number of women, getting into the craft beer business, Garrett said she doesn’t really see herself as a woman in the beer industry but as a woman in the Devil’s Canyon industry.

While she said that she is encouraged by the rise of women in brewing she would like to see less of the more chauvinistic beer labels in the male centric beer universe.  Her view of craft beer, she says is more centered on her own Devil’s Canyon family and community.

“It’s just beer and good people, and it’s an amazing crowd we’ve pulled together here.”

SF Beer Week Kicks Off With Opening Gala

The SF Beer Week pressure valve was released on Friday, February 13, after weeks of social media fervor bolstered anticipation. With tickets in one hand and nervous fingers twitching for a treasured tasting glass, attendees formed a line that stretched around the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

At 3:30pm the doors leading to the Gala swung open for the ninety-minute VIP session. Inside Bay Area breweries lined the walls and occupied an island of taps in the center of the large room. For the time being, the floor was spacious and hopheads rushed around searching for the rare and unreleased. A line quickly formed in front of Russian River Brewing for a small keg of Pliny the Younger that emptied in minutes, but there was plenty of incredible beer to go around.

The highlight of the evening was the panel discussion that featured several brewing luminaries that included Terrence Sullivan, Vinnie Cilurzo, Pete Slosberg, Brian Hunt, Mark Carpenter, Shaun O’Sullivan, and Matt Brynildson. Rich Higgins, president of the San Francisco Brewer’s Guild, lobbed questions that fueled a wide-ranging discussion filled with history and knowledge laced with a passion for craft beer. Several video cameras were documenting the dialogue, which will hopefully reach a wider audience.

With highlights also come low-lights. When the doors opened for general admission at 5:00pm rumbles of discontent also trickled into an already packed hall. The line to get in was immense and ticket holders faced an hour-long wait or more. At one point they were even told capacity had been reached and refunds were offered. Topping it all off, when patient attendees finally crossed the threshold, commemorative glasses were gone in addition to some very desirable beer.

This debacle should have been avoided. Clearly way too many tickets had been sold. Jen Rizzo, author of the blog Pedals and Pints, was caught up in the headache and offers a very insightful editorial on her website.

Once tensions were eased with beer, the night carried on with tremendous fanfare. The Gala kicked off a week filled with over 300 tastings, beer dinners and other special events that will leave many beer connoisseur’s pleased in the end.

Update (2/14/2011): In response the difficulties surrounding the Gala festivities, organizers issued the following response via e-mail to ticket holders, which includes info on refunds and glassware.

Dear SF Beer Week Opening Gala ticket holders,

Thank you for your continued support of local craft beer and SF Beer Week! While the Opening Gala was a success on many fronts, we’d like to address our capacity issues with you, below.

We are profoundly sorry that some ticket holders couldn’t enter the Opening Gala. We are awed by your overwhelming support of the craft beer industry.  In brief, the problems we encountered were as follows:

1.  Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the fire marshal and SF Beer Week planners all had different understandings of the event’s traffic flow and capacity. We sold tickets based on the total capacity for the venue.  On the night of the event, the YBCA and fire marshal worried that too many people in one particular area of the entire venue created a hazard.

2.  Peoples’ enthusiasm for particular beers created lines that crowded too many people into one particular area of the entire venue.  We could not predict this beer lovers’ bottleneck.  Consequently, YBCA staff limited admission for the entire venue.

We will send refunds to ticketed individuals who were not admitted to the event. The refunds will begin on Monday, Feb 14 through Eventbrite.  If you do not receive your refund by Feb 18, one week after the event, please reply to this email at openinggalasfbeerweek@gmail.com with your name and ticket information. Thank you for your continued patience and support of the many grass root events that combine to create SF Beer Week.

Further, if you did not receive a commemorative glass, more are on their way.  We will be in touch with more information in the week to come!

Best,

SF Beer Week
Opening Gala

Steve Donohue pouring his beer from Firehouse Brewery.

The crew from Devil’s Canyon Brewing.

Sugar filled palate cleansers were available along with a host of other food options.

Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River Brewing.

A Russian River Brewing magnum on ice.

Left to right: Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River), Pete Slosberg (formerly Pete’s Wicked Ales), Mark Carpenter (Anchor Brewing), Brian Hunt (Moonlight Brewing), Matt Brynildson (Firestone Walker), Shaun O’Sullivan (21st Amendment), Terrence Sullivan (Sierra Nevada)

Shaun O’Sullivan of 21st Amendment snapping photos of the action on stage next to Matt Brynildson from Firestone Walker.

Fan favorite Brian Hunt from Moonlight Brewing.

A new brew on the horizon (bottles were empty).

Tom Dalldorf (left) publisher of Celebrator Magazine with the Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton.

Two generations of brewers, Pete Slosberg with Patrick Horn and Bryan Hermannson of Pacific Brewing Laboratories.

Lead singer of The Brothers Comatose.