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Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023

Moorpark Brewer Crafting Expansion Beyond City

Small craft breweries have been opening their doors and expanding rapidly in Southern California – a trend that has even reached Moorpark. Enegren Brewing Co., the first and only craft brewery in the small Ventura County city, is moving to a facility nearly three times the size of its current 2,800-square-foot location after less than three years in business. The move to a 7,300-square-foot location will take place in the next nine to 12 months following the Moorpark planning commission’s approval last month. “We’re pretty much at capacity where we are now,” said Christopher Enegren, who founded the brewery in 2011 with his younger brother Matt Enegren. The facility will feature a 1,400-square-foot tasting room, about twice the current size, but the brewery is counting on distribution to retail outlets for its largest sales growth. The brewery produced 500 barrels last year, pretty much the capacity of its seven fermentation tanks. In the new space, Enegren has enough room to house about 15 tanks. The brewer’s success comes as the local craft industry continues to experience growth. Other nearby craft brewers that are expanding include Fireman’s Brew Inc. of Canoga Park and LadyFace Ale Companie –Alehouse & Brasserie of Agoura Hills. Nationwide, craft brewing saw growth of 15 percent in volume and 17 percent in sales 2012, showing that the trend isn’t ready to tap out, according to the Brewers Association, an industry trade group in Boulder, Colo. The organization expects the industry to post double-digit growth for last year when those numbers become available. Cyrena Nouzille, founder of LadyFace Ale, was elected to the board at the Brewers Association in January. She has steadily grown her business and now manages 46 employees at her restaurant and brewery. She said there is plenty of room for more competitors. “There’s a lot of potential for L.A. to become a beer town,” she said. Humble beginnings Christopher Enegren, 30, couldn’t have imagined back in 2005 that his weekend hobby that made him popular among his college buddies from Loyola Marymount University would transform into a thriving business. He and his brother Matt, 27, perfected their craft through college, and even after they graduated and stepped into full-time jobs unrelated to beer. They gradually became the go-to guys for house parties in Moorpark because friends always knew they would have some free beers waiting for them. “We were making 10 gallons a week, and obviously we can’t drink all of that, so we pretty much had parties at the end of every month,” Christopher Enegren said. “But then in 2010, it came to a point where we were like, ‘We either need to get a life and stop brewing all of this beer or we need to start a business.’” The brothers, and third co-founder Joe Nascenzi, their lacrosse teammate in college, applied for approval to open a brewery with a tasting room open Wednesday through Sunday. The application was approved by the city’s planning commission in September 2010 and the facility at 680 Flinn Ave. opened in August 2011. The Altbier was their first product and it has become the signature brew for the company. It’s a California twist on a traditional German style beer, blending Munich dark malt with Hallertauer and Mount Hood, which are two varieties of hops, one German, one American. All Enegren employees contribute their input for the beer recipes, but Nascenzi, the chief of marketing, primarily handles brewmaster duties, creating all of the recipes. Last fall, the company added its only full-time employee, as all three founders are still employed full-time elsewhere. Because Enegren’s brewing company did not originally start out with paid employees, the business became profitable in its very first year. Enegren’s tasting room now accounts for about 60 percent of the company’s profits, by selling a pint of beer for roughly $5 or a 25.4-ounce bottle for $15 to $18. And Enegren doesn’t expect that portion of profits to increase too dramatically. Rather, he intends to boost sales largely by bottling and distributing more. Enegren began distributing to other bars as soon as the company started brewing. Now, Enegren’s beers are on tap in 25 bars around the greater Valley and Los Angeles area. Once the business moves into its larger setup, Enegren wants to expand to more than 100 locations, including supermarkets. “Our first decision will be to decide on a distributor,” Christopher Enegren said. “Then we will just build up each part as we go.” Crafty locals Fireman’s Brew, another brewery in the San Fernando Valley, was founded by two firefighters and has found its niche by catering to firefighters and donating funds from the beer to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. The company just expanded to distribution in its 14th state. It took about five years for the beer business to expand into other states, with Illinois being the first in August 2012. “Although the competition in beer is fierce, consumer demand for craft continues to significantly outpace the overall beer category,” said David Johnson, chief operating officer. “I see plenty of room for growth with existing brands and new concepts, especially when compared to the highly fragmented wine industry.” Johnson pointed out that, according to the Wine Institute, there were 8,806 wineries in the U.S. in 2012, and U.S. retail wine sales were estimated at $34.6 billion. By contrast, the Brewers Association reported 2,403 breweries operating nationwide in 2012 with retail beer sales at an estimated $99 billion, leaving a large margin for growth and profitability. Although much of Christopher Enegren’s venture with his brewery has relied on self-education, he continues to build upon his experience on the manufacturing and engineering side of the business. His job at Premier Stainless Systems LLC in Escondido, which he took six months ago, allows him to learn about the manufacturing of tanks, keg washers and other brewery equipment. “This makes sense for what I’m trying to do, and gives me experience in both worlds so I can continue to build up our business here,” he said.

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