By Don Priest | firstname.lastname@example.org
That’s how the crew at Zone 9 Brewing Company in Clovis looks at it. The four owners Brad Edmonds, Dave Maur, Sean Wolfe, and Richard Benevedes have been making beer together since 2009 and have brought their families along for the ride. What began as a modest brewing-in-the-garage pastime has now blossomed into a full-on business run by the four men and their wives.
“We all do something here,” says Co-Owner Sean Wolfe. “It’s a very collaborative effort.” On any given day clients can expect to see owners and wives on hand to keep the business running – in their spare time. “We all have full-time jobs. The wives all have full-time jobs. We all do something here on top of what we all do every day,” he says
The tradition began in 2009 when they brewed their first beer in Brad’s garage. The routine started with the guys meeting lunch and a couple of beers at Sequoia Brewing Company, followed by a trip to buy supplies (and a couple of cigars), then back to the garage to start brewing. “We’d brew all day, and the families would come over, and we’d BBQ, “ said Wolfe. “That was our fun. That’s what we did. So this is just a continuation of that.
The move to turn pro got a big push in 2016 when the guys, then known as “Two Dudes Brewing” won the People’s Choice Award at a home brewing competition sponsored by Tioga Sequoia Brewing. As part of their reward, they got the opportunity to work with Master Brewer Drew Mordon, who became their mentor. “He taught us how to brew on our system,” said Sean. Then adds, ”I think he was born with a glass of beer in his hand because he can talk for ten hours about nothing but beer and never repeat himself
From there the Four Dudes followed their dream in earnest. They opened their cozy taproom and brewing facility in 2017 with Brad and Dave in charge of the brewing.
“Dave & Brad are the chefs, they’re the artists,” says Wolfe. “They do all the research to figure out what they want to brew, figure out the right way to do it, what’s the right recipe, what’s the right process. Rich & I come in as assistant brewers – we help the 2 chefs put their recipes together. And they’re just knocking out some great recipes.”
Like “Lay ‘n Around Stout,” a brew Dave made up from ingredients he found lying around the brewery. “It was fantastic,” recalls the crew.
Other beers were formed around the Ag theme of Zone 9 – which refers to the agricultural zone for this part of California. Beers like “Ain’t That a Peach” a hazy hefeweizen using peaches from Wawona Farms, “Foggy Melon IPA” and “Cultivator” all reflect that Ag inclination.
While still considering themselves a ‘nano-brewery’ (producing about 20 barrels a month) the team at Zone 9 is not concerned about getting lost in the competition as the taste for craft beer grows, and more breweries are opening around them. “We’re not seeing that as a threat,” says Wolfe. “We see that as an opportunity. Because that means more people are going to be coming in, more people are going to make the rounds, and when people know there are several breweries in the area, they’re more inclined to go to that area and skip around and try them all.”
To further emphasize the point, he described the cooperative nature of local brewers. “Any time we get the chance we collaborate. We want to work together. When other brewers come in, we’re always talking about brewing. We talk about business. We talk about recipes, about the process. It’s a very friendly environment.”
There may be plans for growth in the future, but at this point, the Zone 9 families are grateful they’re still getting to do what they love. “We are very thankful for our customers and our distribution partners that have helped us with our success here.” Says Wolfe. “Without them we’re nothing. Without the great beer, we’re nothing. We’d just be a bunch of friends sitting around the garage drinking beer.”