Owning a brewery is the promised land for aficionados who obsess over malt and fixate on hops. From coast-to-coast, they plot in garages and over Pliny pints: Aspiring to hang a shingle, design a logo, and tap kegs. The dream seems cool and sexy and fun in the way that few jobs do in our ultra-automated age. Plus there’s money to be made; people are going to drink, no matter what the economy does. No wonder the beer-loving public sees craft brewing as the embodiment of their sudsy, half-buzzed dreams (perfectly skewered in this sketch).
For a certain (relatively sizeable) segment of the population, there’s only one thing better than building a brewery from scratch: Building a brewery from scratch with your best friends. And that, if you simplify things, is the story of Docent Brewing in San Juan Capistrano (CA). It’s the culmination of a decades-long dream and such a clear representation of the brewing fantasy that you can’t help but ask, “How the hell did you pull this off? What’s the secret?”
Which is exactly what I decided to do, visiting the Docent team to chat about what it took to spin their whispered beer fantasy into a brick and mortar reality. Their story, I quickly discovered over a flight of beers, was circuitous and even trying, but it feels well worth it now — with the taps pouring pints for friends, family, and fellow beer heads.
“I was just patting myself on the back last night,” Docent Brewing co-founder Scott Cortellessa told me, smiling over the rim of his pint glass. “My wife came in and said, ‘Why are you so happy?’ and I said, ‘Honey, we own a brewery!’ it’s so cool to think about.”