How Healdsburg Beer ​Has Scaled Up Nano Gems in Its Return

After putting a decade-plus pause on the production of Healdsburg Beer to do things like help his family purchase and rebrand Anderson Valley Brewing, Kevin McGee and his wife Katee have relaunched the beloved local brand to the Bay Area and select retailers nationwide.

Long before McGee took the reins at Anderson Valley Brewing Company in late 2019, he toiled in his garage, creating small batches of Cask Ales and Lagers that he sold faster than he could brew under the Healdsburg Beer moniker. It was one of the first few breweries to be classified as a “nano-brewery” back in 2007.

Keeping with the theme of balanced, easy-drinking, and pint-friendly ales, the team at Anderson Valley began to scale the one-barrel batches up to 100 barrels per batch and McGee shared his appreciation for them being able to recreate the classic styles he started as a homebrewer.

“Our team there has literally decades of experience working with the big copper brewhouse, our proprietary water source, and yeast,” he said. “Thankfully, the water profile I was using at HBC was already pretty close to the AVBC water and the yeast strains were similar enough that only I would really notice the difference in results between the two.”

The biggest adjustments were to account for the different efficiencies in mash extraction and hop utilization that are inevitable from scaling up to such large volumes, McGee added.

“We’ve been able to dial it in pretty close to the originals,” he said. “I still want to tweak one of the hop schedules but, again, it’s a difference that really only I would ever notice.”

READ MORE: Turn Around: Fal Allen’s Innovations That Changed Anderson Valley

There have been two big improvements from making the beers at Anderson Valley, he pointed out.

“First, just from being able to use the brewhouse at AVBC is a big deal — the kettles are hand-hammered copper, made in Bavaria in the 1950s and they just make beautiful beer,” McGee said. “Second, the brewing and cellar staff at AVBC are extremely skilled and experienced and the humans that are brewing and taking care of the beer are doing a flawless job.

“I couldn’t have scripted a better brewery for HBC to scale up in.”

Now President and CEO at Anderson Valley since December of 2019, McGee sees the HBC portfolio fitting very well into what the brewery has to offer.

“The priorities of both breweries are to make balanced, flavorful beers but the recipes are different enough that they both present a ‘house style,'” he said, adding that the HBC beers are more classically UK and heritage flavor profiles, while is clearly grounded in the West Coast styles it helped create.

“But [it] also has some modern and innovative offerings that wouldn’t be right for HBC,” McGee said. “Overall, the brewing philosophy makes the two breweries compatible but the actual beers are different enough not to step on each other.

“That wasn’t planned – it’s just serendipity. Awesome serendipity.”

​Bringing the retro brand back and marketing it to old fans while adding distribution to outside the original territory means creating a marketing strategy​.

McGee said using the perspective that went into creating the brand and the personal nature of the beer was key.

“Why I thought it was a good idea in the first place,” he said when asked what sort of message will be conveyed. “There’s an actual reason for making each beer and some very personal stories around each.

“We’re going to be telling those stories and explaining those reasons in the market.”

McGee added that they have already seen several people stepping forward with their own stories as well.

“HBC has had a deep and loyal following in its local market for more than 10 years and we were pleasantly surprised to see the energy the community is putting behind our recent announcements and the increased availability of the beer and are working on ways to strengthen the community,” he said.

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