Humboldt Brewing Company absent from local store shelves
By Ian Bradley
Everyone can agree that in Humboldt County things are just a little bit different. People joke about life behind “the redwood curtain.” It’s hard to put a label on just what makes it unique, but the area has a well-deserved reputation for a laid-back attitude.
Nectar Ales has announced that it will be reverting to its original name, Humboldt Brewing Company. Unfortunately for locals, its products are currently unavailable in Humboldt County.
Andy Ardell co-owns Arcata tavern Humboldt Brews, commonly referred to as “HumBrews.” Until 2003, HumBrews was owned by the original Humboldt Brewing Company. He said the establishment had two of the label’s award-winning beers on tap until recently.
“I am a bit disappointed that we no longer sell Red Nectar and Hemp Ale,” Ardell said. “These beers were first made in Humboldt County and people associate them with that.”
Until a year ago, all Humboldt Brewing Company products were available in Humboldt, but the company has ceased distribution to this region. Its products are available in 24 other states.
Jamie Stanfield has been a bartender at “HumBrews” for three years. She saw Red Nectar for sale in Michigan in 2012 and says that the decision to revert to the name Humboldt Brewing Company is about capitalizing on the area’s reputation.
“They want to use the name on the East Coast. Everyone’s watched A&E and knows the name Humboldt.” Stanfield said, referring to the A&E special “Pot City.”
Humboldt Brewing Company was founded in 1987 and quickly gained attention for its Red Nectar IPA and Brown Hemp Ales. It also developed a reputation for enacting environmentally conscious brewing practices such as reusing water to cool fresh batches of beer and using soy-based inks on cases made of recycled cardboard.
As the microbrewery’s popularity grew, it began to face production issues. In 2000, Firestone Walker Brewing Company stepped in and offered the use of its brewing facilities. Five years later it absorbed the Humboldt Brewing Company and changed the name to Nectar Ales.
In 2012, Firestone Walker issued a press release that stated the company’s desire to focus on its own line of products. It was announced that Nectar Ales would be sold to Total Beverage Solution, who took the company back to its original name.
Stanfield says the change is all for publicity.
“Humboldt Brewing Company doesn’t exist anymore,” Stanfield said. “It’s just a name. Firestone brews it, Total Beverage Solution distributes it. No one from the original company is still involved.”
Humboldt Brewing Company beers are still produced at Firestone Walker facilities in Paso Robles, Calif. Total Beverage Solution handles distribution but the company is more than 3,000 miles away in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Jessie Haggerty is the social media coordinator for Total Beverage Solution.
“We saw the opportunity to continue an award-winning brand,” Haggerty said. “We wanted to expand their distribution across the country while showing the love and attention that their product deserves.”
Haggerty explained that they reverted to the name Humboldt Brewing Company to take the company back to its roots.
“Nectar Ales has a history in Northern California,” Haggerty said. “We wanted to bring back the feeling of what they originally represented.”
Vico Hernandez, a HumBrews patron and HSU graduate agrees that the rebranding is about image and questions why a product with the name Humboldt is not available in Humboldt County.
“It sucks that it’s not available anymore,” Hernandez said. “There’s no Humboldt in South Carolina, they’re just using the image.”
To promote the rebranding, Humboldt Brewing Company distributed a limited release of the 500 B.C. Double IPA in late October. A press release from Total Beverage Solution explained that the name is a “tribute the coastal redwoods that populate the original brewery’s home county, trees that are some of the longest-living species in North America.”
In keeping with its environmental roots, Humboldt Brewing Company will donate $1 from every case sold to help preserve redwood trees in Humboldt County.
As of yet the brewing company has not found an organization to help it in this goal.
Courtney Gibson, media coordinator for Total Beverage Solution explained that while they wanted to donate more, budgetary constraints limited the amount they are able to give.