Jenny Lewis & Drew Erhlich / Photo © Brian Stechschulte
Office cubicles are a daydream incubator. The drab interior, droning computer fan and annoying neighbors can suck the life out of any man or woman. With a little forethought and diligent planning anyone can break down the walls of corporate fatigue. Jenny Lewis and Drew Ehrlich started assembling their escape plan three years ago. Both were spending hours of free time over the homebrew kettle and decided it would be a more fulfilling career in spite of the risk.
Not long after the plan was hatched, Lewis went to business school at Rice University where she spent two years writing the business plan, researching the industry and getting advice from anyone she could, while Ehrlich was fine tuning recipes at home. The day after graduation capital razing commenced and permit applications were filed so Strike Brewing could call the South Bay home. Lewis, 27, will fill the CEO position and Ehrlich, 29, is the brewmaster.
Their first three batches were contract brewed earlier this month over at Hermitage Brewing. According to Lewis “we wanted to get the product out as soon as we could and start establishing accounts, while still raising capital. We plan on opening our own facility in the spring or summer of 2012. It will be a fifteen to twenty barrel production and warehouse facility with a tasting room in the front, which we would like to locate within walking distance of downtown Campbell or Los Gatos.”
On December 15th, kegs and six packs of Strike Brewing Blonde, Porter and Brown will start turning up in bars and stores in the South Bay, which are part of their Session Series. “Right now we want to offer people beers they can have a couple of with friends. Eventually we’ll turn things up a notch with an IPA and a few seasonals in 2012,” said Ehrlich.
The series also ties into their active lifestyle-marketing plan, which Lewis explained is targeted towards a wide range of individuals who walk the dog or run a marathon. “In Northern California people are doing every sport you can imagine. We want to reach out to people that may be conscious of calories and give them an alternative to Bud Light. For us it’s more about full flavor and modest alcohol.”
The effort will extend even further as they attempt to build an athletic community around the brand, which will start with a free running club and extend to sponsorship of marathons and other sporting events. “We want to have a community that can identify with Strike. We both love sports and we know and understand the market” said Lewis, who’s been competing in triathlons since being a collegiate swimmer. Ehrlich retired from a career in professional baseball.
By now you’ve probably made a connection between the brewery’s name and their fondness for sports, but it wasn’t meant to be a clear correlation. They simply wanted a one-syllable name that was easy to spell, could convey a variety of different meanings and be memorable. As for the Phoenix on the logo, it doesn’t contain any personal significance, but it’s hard to ignore the symbolism of the mythical bird. Starting any business is a trial by fire that can lead to rebirth or reinvention. For Lewis and Ehrlich, this could be the beginning of a craft beer transformation.