A fixture on the corner of State and Perkins in Ukiah, the Ukiah Brewing Company was opened by Els Cooperrider in 2000 as the first certified organic restaurant in California and the first certified organic brewpub in the nation. Since those days, the restaurant has undergone a couple of changes of ownership settling on Taylor Pedersen, and his business and life partner Chris Struett. We visited Taylor and his crew and UBC to see how the restaurant business is faring.
WC: Hi there, nice to meet you all. Please tell our readers who you are.
TP: I’m Taylor Pedersen. I own the Ukiah Brewing Company. We’re in the business of brewing beer, and making craft cocktails and food. And these are some of our team members!
AR: My name is Andrew Radabaugh, I’m one of the two general managers here at UBC. I really like being part of the community and this restaurant is right in the centre of town, which gives us the opportunity to provide a place for people to eat, listen to music and enjoy.
KF: My name is Keith J. Feigin and I’m the director of the brewing operation here. I’m a big fan of beverages and Iâ€™m here to help the brewery revitalize the brand and take the beer to a new level of quality.
SZ: I’m Sandy Ziviani, one of the general managers here at Ukiah Brewing Company. I get to book and promote the bands who play here. It’s exciting being part of a team that supports local artists and musicians by hosting a live music venue here.
WC: Taylor, what’s it like having a small business where your number one goal is to make beer?
TP: It’s hard! If you embrace the hospitality industry, be careful, I warned you! It’s a lot of work, a lot of hours but it’s very rewarding to make and craft your own product and feel really good about the outcomes,from pastry to food to cocktails to the beer, to everything that this place produces. It’s a real pleasure to be a maker; to be a fabricator.
WC: How did you come to own the Ukiah Brewing Company?
TP: Magic! Out of curiosity, I looked at the listing when the business was for sale. I was fortunate to find a backer who was able to loan me the money to purchase the business. We leveraged everything to get it and worked really hard for the past five years and have finally paid it off. So now we’re in business for ourselves.
WC: How does it feel to now own the business?
TP: I feel it’s really important for me to build this into an institution for Ukiah. We’re centrally located; we’re Ukiah’s brewery and brewhouse. I think it’s very important to provide this to the community. Now that we’re the owners, we get to make fun decisions about how we use the space and how we curate the culture. We have a music venue, we have a games room, we have 8,000 square feet to fill up! We host artists, and open mic nights, and games nights. We offer this space up as an event venue for people to book their own event. And that feels really important for the fabric and culture of this community.
WC: What kind of feedback do you get from the community?
TP: I feel that we get a positive response everywhere we go. For example, I’ve had moms come up to me in the supermarket and thank me for having an all ages metal show for her kid’s band. The feedback has been super positive. Wendy DeWitt, who’s a monster boogie woogie piano player and world traveler, is thrilled to be able to host the open mic nights right here in her hometown.
WC: How many people work here and what’s their role in shaping this place?
TP: We have about 30 employees. It would have been impossible to launch this without this great team. They’ve been invaluable. We’re looking towards expansion, distribution, and doing much more with the beer and the brand now we have some resources.
WC: How did you first hear about West Center?
TP: Our deputy city manager, Shannon Riley, gave us a bunch of resources and West Center was one of them.
WC: What was your experience with the Mendocino SBDC?
TP: My experience with the SBA and West Business Development Center and their consultants was so helpful. We got so much guidance as we went through the PPP loan process. Everyone was figuring out things in real time, even applying for loans without knowing the full details. Our consultant at West Center was constantly in touch, emailing us, giving us updates. It was invaluable and gave us great peace of mind.
WC: What would you tell a fellow small business owner in the community about the Mendocino SBDC?
TP: I would tell them to definitely take advantage of any tax-supported entities that are created by the Small Business Administration. It’s a federal program and there’s tons of free advice. When I opened my restaurant in San Francisco, I visited the local SBA office to get free advice, just the same as what West Center provides: help with negotiating leases, funding loans, dealing with HR issues, and more.
WC: What led you to beer and brewing?
TP: I grew up in Germany as an army brat. I was there until I was six years old but I remember that Oktoberfest was the most fun event ever. Those are some of the happiest memories â€¦ of gatherings, food, and beer of course!
WC: Tell us about the beer you’re brewing here.
TP: They are all European-style beers. We do have a new Hazy IPA going now that’s on-trend. And we have 21 recipes that we’ve tried but our European-style Pilsner is our flagship beer.
WC: What’s the process for coming up with a new recipe for beer?
KF: The process essentially is to find a beer that you like and experiment by using different yeasts, play with the malt and the hops, test it on the customers until it feels right. Because we’ve been continuously operating for 20 years, we have a lot of recipes to draw from. We’re known as an English-style brew pub so we have those typical British pub beers like ales, porters and stouts using British yeasts. This year we’re taking things in a new direction and implementing some new world recipes for beers like New England-style IPAs, Pilsners, Mexican-style lagers, things like that.
WC: How about the food? Who dreams up the menus and recipes?
TP: That’s on me. I went to French Culinary in Manhattan and I designed all the menu and the pastries. I was raised Sicilian so I’ve got that culinary side under my belt and that’s why I chose to go to FCI to learn technique. I like to exercise that technique in the pastry case.
WC: What do you think the UBC experience is for a customer, whether they are local residents or visitors?
TP: A nice casual environment with a focus on value and simply prepared good pub fare with great beer and quick friendly service.
AR: The experience here is to be approachable, something for the community as well as people travelling through. We source our products thoughtfully from local purveyors. We consider ourselves to be casual but with some fine touches in the way we plate the food and in our service.
WC: What do you want to tell the community about UBC?
TP: Come and visit us! We have an entirely renovated brewery and brand new facility. Soon we’ll be open seven days a week and back to our regular schedule of open mic night on Tuesday and music on the weekends.
WC: Where do you see this business in five to ten years?
TP: I see that we’ll have acquired a commercial space and launched our beer distribution business as a national brand.
SZ: I think the sky is the limit and we’ll have exponential growth potential. We’ve been thinking about festivals in particular a craft beer and music festival. Stay tuned!
WC: And what do you see for Ukiah in that same timeframe?
TP: For Ukiah I see extreme growth. The world has changed so much and I think Ukiah is well positioned as the seat of Mendocino County to grow exponentially in the near future. Growth is a good thing because the more institutions that people have — education, healthcare for example — make life possible and increase the standard of living for all.
We couldn’t leave without sampling the flagship Pilsner and the Peanut Butter & Hazelnut Pyramid, one of Taylor’s mouthwatering desserts!