We began Refuge Brewery nearly four years ago with a simple mission: Take the ideas and concepts of old world Belgian breweries and blend them with modern brewing techniques and styles. The result is a brewery full of unique beer, brewed without traditional rules, and often using local fresh seasonal ingredients.
In 2015, Refuge grew nearly 300% and became the second fastest growing brewery in California. For 2016 we've added our Grapefruit IPA to the distribution portfolio and challenged ourselves through experimentation at the brewery. Nevertheless, a picture is worth a thousand words. So we put together a little timeline below for you to get to know us a little better and understand and see what we've been up to the past few years... Cheers!
After months and months of looking around, we officially signed the lease papers for our original brewery space in April 2012.
Construction began in May 2012. We made a point to try and do nearly everything ourselves. This trial and error method led to redoing much of the initial work, but this place has our blood (Curt's to be exact), sweat, and tears in it and we wouldn't have it any other way.
The original brewing equipment arrived in June. The initial set up had 80bbl of fermentation capacity run by a 10bbl brewhouse. Fun fact: We outgrew every single piece of our original equipment and no longer have any of it.
Although construction continued throughout the summer of 2012, as we worked into the fall, it was clear we'd never meet our goal of opening in September. In reality, we still had months of work left.
The build-out shifted into overdrive in late September, and we focused on opening before the end of 2012.
The first brew day! We would go on to brew five beers over the next week to prepare for our grand opening! The original five beers were; Abbey Road, Last Haven Hefe, Exile Pale Ale, Illusion IPA, and Refugee Tripel.
On December 15th, we officially opened up to the public. It was out of control busy, and none of us had any experience running a bar. We never had a grand opening because our soft opening was so busy.
In early 2013, we began to experiment with more brews. We also started to do some self-distribution throughout Temecula. Fun fact: The first tap handles made used real glass plates. We quickly discovered that the glue used didn't hold, and we had tap handles literately shattering in restaurants. We've since switched to acrylic.
After opening, we soon learned that Mitch Steele (former Brewmaster of Stone Brewing) lives in Temecula. He happened to come by one Saturday in February and liked the beers. Mitch introduced us to the Stone Distribution team, and after a few nerve-racking meetings with the higher ups at Stone they brought us into their portfolio as a distribution brand. At the time we were the youngest brewery ever to be brought into their portfolio. In retrospect, we probably weren't ready, but we were going to make it work through sheer will.
With the increased demand and pace the brewery was growing Chad (Curt's youngest son, and Jake's brother) decided to move back from Eugene, OR to help out at the brewery.
Brewery locals Ken and Tina mentioned that they had a blood orange tree on their property in De Luz. They asked if we wanted some of the fruit for a beer, we said "why not." A lot has changed because of that casual conversation.
Blood Orange Wit became our best selling beer and flagship overnight. It would at one point become nearly 95% of our production!
Needless to say, the steps needed to go from being home brewers to professionals were immense, and it took time to learn. By mid-2013, we got into the groove.
One year and counting... what a huge year for Refuge and all of us personally. It was crazy, and it felt like it flew by until you look back and reminisce over everything that we accomplished in one short year.
No rest for the weary right? In early 2014, our new wave of fermenters arrived adding 80bbl of capacity to the operation, essentially doubling the amount of beer we could brew.
By February, Chad had been back for nearly a year and it was time to get rid of him again. This time he'd be going to Munich, Germany for the summer to get a degree in brewing.
Lots of hard work and no play wasn't our goal. We decided to do a summer concert/food truck series in 2014. We've now done these events for three years, and they just keep getting better. Seriously our favorite time of year!
In August, some of the brewery crew traveled to Europe for Chad's graduation, and of course, we had to go to Belgium. Given how Belgian brewing inspired us at Refuge, getting to see some of the greats first hand was eye-opening and inspirational.
With the new 40bbl tanks we had really outgrown our original 10bbl brewhouse, so in September we decided to upgrade. The new 20bbl brewhouse was massive! It took up every inch of space available and then some.
Since we opended in 2012, we had only sold our beer on draft, but that all changed in November 2014. After much debate and a few beers we decided that the unconventional 16oz can was the right call for us. So we went for it and officially began canning Blood Orange Wit!
Two years down! 2014 was in a lot of ways a setup year for us. Adding fermenters, a larger brewhouse, and a canning line set the groundwork for some remarkable growth in 2015.
Blood Orange Wit is the king of the castle around here. Using real fruit means we have serious planning to do every year. For 2015 we harvested and stored over 12,000 lbs of blood oranges!... and yes we picked most of it ourselves that year.
In February, while picking Blood Oranges, we grabbed some ruby red grapefruit as well. We added the juice to our Shelter 9 IPA. We didn't realize it at the time, but this would radically change our world once again.
By April of 2015, we had far outgrown our original 3,300 sqft space. So we leased the space next door and began the long process of rebuilding again.
Grapefruit IPA's popularity in the tasting room was hard to ignore. By that time we were so dependent on Blood Orange Wit we could not have been more excited to finally give it a side kick!
As if moving the entire brewing operation next door wasn't enough work; this was also one of the fastest growing periods in our history. The growth of Blood Orange Wit cans and the introduction of Grapefruit IPA was tremendous. The Brew Crew was busy!
By early November we became operational in the new space. For a building that felt massive when we first walked in it quickly filled up. In November we added 160bbl of fermentation capacity.
Three years down... From the expansion to new beer launches it was a roller coaster. In 2015 we nearly tripled our production which made us the second fastest growing brewery in California, and set us up for even more growth in 2016!