It’s nearing 5 p.m., and the dudes of Zone 9 Brewing Company are gradually checking out of their day-jobs and into their second place of business — one that’s littered with old brewing equipment, random tools and fitted with an awesome rustic, wood-planked wall as its current focal piece.
There are only five weeks until the official grand opening of the 1-year-old Clovis brewery’s taproom, and it’s all hands on deck for the four founders of Zone 9 Brewing Company, formerly known as Two Dudes Brewing — an M.O. the friends have actively embraced since the start.
Brad Edmunds and Dave Maur are the resident brewers, concocting the company’s various recipes and working to make them an actual, drinkable reality. Sean Wolfe and Richard Benevedes — both presently strapped in big rubber boots to help drive the point home — are tasked with maintaining and handling the construction of the 1,400-square-foot facility on Tollhouse Road between Sunnyside and Fowler avenues.
“Everybody brings something to the table,” Edmunds said. “Not one of us could do this on our own. It’s really fortunate that we have the members that we have, and our wives as well. They’re supporting us and pushing us.”
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In fact, it was by the generosity of Edmunds’ wife that the home brewer started cutting his teeth, using the then-recently married couple’s kitchen as his experimental grounds. He later changed venues, and set up camp in Wolfe’s garage seven years ago until Zone 9 Brewing Company signed the lease on its new digs last September.
A banner proudly displaying the business’ new name is the first thing that greets entrants as they step into the space, a change that is still in its early days of the official trademarking process. The original brand, Two Dudes Brewing, was facing two legal oppositions — a battle the guys weren’t financially up for with plans to open the taproom and grow their business as their main priority . So, it was back to the literal drawing board.
“We threw up a plethora of names on the whiteboard, and Dave one day said Zone 9,” Edmunds explained. “That’s the USDA climate growing zone of the Central Valley, and we always wanted to be connected to the Valley.”
“We always wanted to be ag-related and use local fruits, almonds and honey in our beers,” Wolfe added. “We continue to use local organics in our flagship beer, CFW, so Zone 9 made a lot of sense — and it wasn’t taken.”
Zone 9 Brewing Company has developed 12 beers in its tenure, ranging from the extra hoppy double IPA, Big Plow, to the well-received flagship California wheat beer, Cold Feet Wheat. One of the newer products, Little Plow, has great potential, Edmunds said, and got great feedback at this month’s annual ApCal Craft Beer Festival in Madera and roll out at Rocket Dog Brats and Brew in Fresno.
The company’s relationships with various local eateries — including BC’s Pizza & Beer, House of JuJu, KuniSama, Craft Beer Wine Bistro and Popolo’s Pizza — as well as supportive area breweries — have helped Zone 9 Brewing Company gain more exposure and footing with community members. And its new taproom will hopefully only further those efforts.
“Since we started talking about our business plan, having the taproom was absolutely essential to getting the word out there,” Wolfe said. “Distribution is great and our distribution partners are doing us a great service, but we want to bring people here. We can get face-to-face and be able to interact with our friends and customers.”
The owners have reconstructed the place from the ground up, with even the brewers getting in on some of the wall-destroying process. The landlord has given Zone 9 Brewing Company full reign on designing the space to match the guys’ original vision: a rustic, industrial-like spot where people can come, have a pint and simply relax and hangout with friends.
Zone 9 Brewing Company also plans to feature menus from restaurants within delivery distance, allowing those who want to pair one of the five rotating beers on tap with a hot, tasty meal. On-site board games, collaborative events with neighboring businesses and beer launches are just a few of the ideas the four owners have in mind for the taproom’s future — starting, of course, with the tentative June 24 opening celebration.
Expect a local food truck, lots of quality suds and the release of their newest beer, a California peach hefeweizen, to round out the evening. It’s all about creating a fun environment around good, quality beer for Edmunds, Maur, Wolfe and Benevedes, and making their mark in the growing Central Valley craft beer scene.
“There’s a big opportunity. I think people are looking for good beer, and we can have it right here,” Wolfe said.
“The more the merrier — but we want to be the best,” Edmunds continued, chuckling. “We’re always striving to make better beer.”