HSU alums sustainable farmhouse brewery
By Carlos Olloqui
The tap tilts forward. Fresh alcoholic refreshment begins to flow out. Twelve ounces later, you have yourself a glass of Humboldt Regeneration’s Red Jay craft beer.
Pressey is the owner and brewmaster of Humboldt Regeneration Brewery and Farm, a sustainable farmhouse brewery.
“The concept built overtime,” Pressey said. “We are one of the first breweries in the country, and the first in California, to grow and malt our own grains since prohibition.”
The wheat and barley they grow is floor-malted on site at their brew house located at the north end of McKinleyville, California. Humboldt Regeneration Brewery and Farm also grows their own grains and hops. They produce everything from seed to sip.
“This was something that was pretty normal in the old days,” Pressey said. “But nowadays, the reason it’s not as normal is because a lot of the agriculture industries got scaled up after the Green Revolution. Everything became really mechanized.”
Pressey grew up in Napa one of the biggest wine counties in California.
“I worked in the wine industry during high school,” Pressey said. “During the summer time I’d bottle. My friends family owned the winery so, after I graduated, they ask me to stay on for crush. That’s when you actually make the wine.”
He then moved to Humboldt County to attend College of the Redwoods before he transferred to Humboldt State University.
“I was always interested in plants and sustainable agriculture,” Pressey said. “When I got to college I knew I needed a job to pay rent, so I basically just started applying at all the breweries here.”
In 2001, Pressey was hired on at Eel River Brewery as an assistant brewer.
“I pretty much just got lucky with the timing, they needed someone,” Pressey said. “I started off just doing cellar work and night brewing, but I got trained up pretty fast.”
Pressey graduated HSU in 2010 with a degree in environmental science, focusing on soils and alternative agriculture.
He worked at Eel River Brewery for over seven years before trying to brew his own.
“I just wondered why aren’t there truly local breweries anymore,” Pressey said. “Why aren’t people using local ingredients?”
That was when he realized that it was because of the malting process. In comparison to some of these other beverages such as wine or cider, beer requires an intermediate step.
“For wines and ciders you are just growing the raw ingredient, such as the grapes or the pear and apples,” Pressey said. “With beer, your growing barley and other grapes – but you can’t just make beer out of that.”
Pressey began to put his degree to work and Humboldt Regeneration Brewery and Farm was born.
Upon arrival at his brew house, after you take a left at the “Beer to Go” sign off Central Avenue, you’ll notice the some of the “sustainable” aspect of the operation. A barbecue grill turned into a roaster, solar panels on the side of the building, and a malting table which he built himself.
“We dry farm all our grains,” Pressey said. “This means you plant in the Spring and use the Spring rains. There’s no irrigation.”
Humboldt Regeneration Brewery has been up and running since 2012. The operation is currently a two man team that consists of Pressey and his partner Matt Kruskamp.
“I was a customer here, I used to come around here regularly when he first opened,” Kruskamp said. “I asked him if he needed an intern, I told him he wouldn’t have to pay anything since it was through HSU.”
Kruskamp was hired on full time after he graduated in 2014.
“It’s great to be such a big part of this and to be able to say I contributed so much of the ideas and effort towards it,” Kruskamp said.
You can find over 100 different house recipes being filtered through the brewery Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.. A new flavor comes out every week.
Pressey transforms his labor into alcoholic beverages and serves it to a growing clientele. Sean von Devlin is one of the many fans of Humboldt Regeneration Brewery. He is amazed by Pressey’s passion for the product.
“The beer is great, I used to live just across the street. It truly epitomizes the local handmade blue collar mindset,” von Devlin said. “I have spoken with Jacob only a few times and he always is excited to share his story. It amazes me to see how everything operates.”
Humboldt Regeneration is not only Humboldt’s first locally grown beer, they also offer a community supported brewery program. This program gives community members the opportunity to purchase shares that will allow them to a free weekly growler fill-up.
“I have a new beer come out every week, you can miss weeks and not lose your credit,” Pressey said. “We fill our growlers on a bottling machine. They are fully carbonated, just like a store-bought beer.”
The principle is simple, sustainability.
“Right now we are just on tap at a handful of spots in Northern Humboldt,” Pressey said. “But no distribution and no bottling, the whole concept is to reduce waste.”
With a brewery, your main waste products are water and spent grains.
“After you’ve extracted all your sugars and proteins from the grain you got all the wet solid grains left over,” Pressey said. “Most breweries will give that to a rancher as feed in exchange for them taking it off site.”
Unlike other breweries, Pressey grows a mixture of bacteria and mixes his spent grain in with it. This ferments into a soil amendment.
“There’s a similar process called Bokashi, I call it Beerkashi,” Pressey said. “We spray that [soil amendment] pretty heavy twice a year in the fields, this basically makes the soil extra healthy.”
From seed in the field, to the malt floor, to the brewing process, and then back out to the fields, an entire lifecycle of a foamy pint of beer is what you can expect at Humboldt Regeneration Brewery and Farm.
“In the future I hope to establish a larger brewery and have the farm all in the same location,” Pressey said. “We could give tours and have a full beer garden.”