Making It: Saint Archer Beer

If you don’t live in Southern California, this post might make you sad or jealous or at the very least, thirsty. But if you have Instagram and follow any number of professional action sports athletes, you probably already know what we’re talking about. Saint Archer Beer is a new craft beer company that is owned entirely by action sports athletes, lead by the fearless Josh Landon who admittedly isn’t an action sports athlete, but he did spend many years managing them. He’s the glue that holds the whole thing together. 

Saint Archer Beer

Since Saint Archer came out with their handy (and beautifully designed) six-packs in cans, we’ve been slowly trying all the varieties and have yet to be disappointed. Who knew skateboarders, surfers and snowboarders could brew beer? That’s the interesting part, they themselves didn’t even know that, but apparently knowing how to brew beer isn’t a prerequisite for owning a beer company. Shocked and awed by their incredible expansion, we chatted with Josh for a better understanding of how it all went down. Here’s an abbreviated version of what he said:

How did it all begin?

When I was 18 I started filming for Taylor Steele. I was born and raised in Ventura. When I was growing up, the Malloy brothers and Timmy Curren and his brothers and Bobby Martinez and a very young Dane Reynolds, they were all in their prime. Taylor’s last movie before I started working for him was The Show and that’s when Steele was a God. You’d wait two years for a movie and every single person under the age of 30 was waiting for Taylor Steele. That’s why I got into filming surfing, because he was my hero. Those guys lived around me and I just stood on the beach and filmed them – didn’t even know them really.

Taylor needed a filmer for the Malloys and Timmy and I was able to do it and I wound up filming all of the Malloy stuff and Timmy’s stuff for Loose Change. From there, I made this movie called Arc on Taylor Knox with Poor Specimen. I made that when I was 20, that was my first film, I actually taught myself how to shoot 16mm and shot that whole movie on film.

Saint Archer Beer

I’ve always been interested in business, every since I was younger. I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit. Even with making movies, was always very interested in the business side. Because of movies, all my friends are some of the best surfers and snowboarders in the world. I always found myself in conversations with them about their sponsors and endorsements and different things like that. So [Pat] asked me if I wanted to start the sports management department of our music management business.

So we did it. I wound up managing about 12 athletes on the surf end. I managed Mick Fanning and Taylor Knox. Dylan Perillo, Nate Tyler. Skaters I managed Mikey Taylor, Sean Maltow, Omar Salazar and Mike Capaldi. So that kept me pretty busy. I was in Puerto Rico for a search event with Mick and Taylor and Dylan Perillo – it was his first wild card into a pro event. I was down there and a hard liquor company approached Taylor about investing and being an ambassador to the brand. When you think of fit surfers, you think of Taylor Knox. I didn’t really see the hard alcohol as being a good fit for him. I was like “hey, look if you don’t want to do the energy drink route – which I completely understand because you don’t drink those beverages – if you wanted to do a beer, well, everybody drinks beer.” For the most part, you can have a beer one every two months or two a day. For the most part, everybody drinks beer. So I said if you wanted to do craft beer, well that would be even better because we actually drink it. We don’t drink Bud Light, Coors Light, none of us drink that. Either you’re Pacifico or a Modelo or you’re having and IPA or a Pale Ale…no one’s really drinking Coors Light, at least me and my friends aren’t.

That’s really when the lightbulb went off for me. I was like how has there never been a brand, like a beer company, that’s come from us. It’s always been Bud, Miller, Coors, Pacifico and Corona really throwing millions of dollars at our demographic. When I say demogrpahic, I mean surf, skate, snow, art, film, photography, music, the real California culture. That’s what they’ve been trying to portray in marketing and throw millions of dollars at and hoping that all of us would buy their product. No one looks at their promotional stuff and goes wow, that really makes me want to buy Bud Light. So I was with Mikey Taylor, whos’ the face of DC, the pro skater, I was with him the next week. I brought it up to him and he loved it.

When you think about craft beers, how much do you really know about these beverage brands? They only influence you at the grocery store or at the restaurant bar.

They do no marketing, there’s no brand story. There’s no branding in general and the beer just sells. It took us two years to even believe that. So I thought hey, none of us know how to brew beer, but if we could build a brand that all of us came together…

Saint Archer Beer

How many people own it?

Mikey, Paul and I started the company. There’s about 14 investors who are also ambassadors. It might be a little bit more than that. Look at the website. Everyone got together and we raised a lot of money – we raised, not just from our friends but from inside the business community of action sports and family and friends – we raised $3 million and build a 20,000 sq. ft. brewery from the ground up here in San Diego.

Why San Diego?

My wife and I were born and raised in Ventura. Janine, my wife went to SDSU and I was living down here when I was working for Taylor Steele. We just always wanted to come back to San Diego. Really, it’s kind of a double-edged sword. You put a new brewery in arguably the most competitive craft beer city in America, to sell beer here as your home base, that’s a tall order. That’s not easy and I knew that. And it was hard to get this thing off the ground – it took three years.

Saint Archer Beer

What happened that it started to change?

It just takes time to raise $3 million. When you’re in the process of raising it, there’s no income. So it was just Mikey and Paul making it so I could live which was the ultimate gamble. We put all of our money in and that only got us so far and we hadn’t raised all the money yet. Just like with anyone who is putting everything they have on the line, that’s how it was for me. It was one of those things that took longer but worked out. Building it, for us, we didn’t know any brewers so just three years of talking to people about beer and us wanting to do this company. You get led in different directions.

Fortunately for us, we got put into contact with Kim Lutz who, she was the head brewer at Maui Brewing company for five years and is responsible for all of the award-winning beers they had coming out of there. She believed in me and she believe in Saint Archer and what we were going to try to do and she left Maui to come here. She led us to Iga Mirashiro who is now our director of operations. He was the head brewer of Pizza Port for five or six years. Won every medal under the sun.

To have them come on board was massive.

We were under construction in this 20,000 sq. ft. building which at the time seemed massive and now we’ve grown out of it already. I’d gotten an email from a friend who knew Steve Wagner, the president of Stone. He was like “hey just shoot him an email.” I emailed Steve cold and a week later he got back to me and was like that sounds like a good idea you have there, why don’t you come over here for lunch.

Saint Archer Beer

So I did, and I told him about Saint Archer and now he’s my mentor and Stone is our distributor from Santa Barbara to the Mexico border. He just really believed in the brand and wound up signing us to a distribution deal before we even had beer on the market which is unprecendented. I sat in there and, now, looking back, sounding incredibly naïve and overly confident, I was like “I need to sell 5,000 barrels in my first year for this business to work,” which is equivalent to about over 100,000 cases of beer. 400,000 six-packs. Steve sat there and was like “you know Josh, I love the vision, but you’re not going to sell 5,000 barrels. You need to go back, do yourself a favor and re-do your numbers and scale it down. No one has ever sold 3,000 barrels in their first year. It’s never been done. We’ve been distributing beer for 15 years, we have 47 brands. None of the companies that we have that aren’t even from San Diego have never done that. If you do 3,000 that’s a huge victory and you would need about 70 things to break your way if you were going to do that.”

I said “ok, we’ll see.” I wasn’t going to re-do my business plan and in our first year we sold 7,200 barrels. So we pretty much did everything that everyone said we couldn’t.

We’re doing about 25,000 cases a month, about 75,000 six packs a month.

All over the U.S.?

That’s just from L.A. down. We can’t make enough beer to get out of our region. It continues to grow, which is crazy. I wish I could sit here and tell you this is what happened and that’s why it happened. But I see the sales reports and I’m like are you sure this is right? How is this happening? This is crazy. How are we selling this much beer? It’s insane. We have distribution in 30 states waiting for us and I can’t make beer to get out of L.A.

All the tanks that we have in here were supposed to get us through all of California, into Arizona, into the Pacific Northwest and we can’t even get out of L.A. I can’t even properly service Ventura.

Saint Archer Beer

How long ago was the first 7,500 barrels?

April 1 of 2013 to April 1 of this year.

So really you’ve been selling beer for a year?

Yeah.

So are you looking into moving into a new place?

No, we’re just knocking down walls in this building.

Where?

Off Miramar and Distribution off the 805. There’s a full tasting room here. Our merchandise, our Saint Archer t-shirts and hoodies and hats are going to be sold in every Sun Diego and Active starting this fall. When people see these guys wearing these shirts, people want them. That wasn’t part of the plan. We sell about $10,000 a month just out of our brewery.

Five more tanks went in June 1. That was supposed to get us out but it’s not going to happen, so that’s only going to go to Southern California too.

That makes 17 tanks total. That’s about 250,000 cases of beer, about 1 million six-packs, on an annual basis…

So Southern California, consider yourself lucky. Find Saint Archer beer in local retailers throughout the city. And follow the crew on Instagram, starting with @SaintArcherBrew.

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