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A beer-cubator? A brewer of breweries?
Whatever you want to call it, Fresno now has a brewery incubator.
The business is in the process of launching two new breweries onto Fresno’s growing craft beer scene, in addition to brewing its own beer.
All three are in a former radiator shop downtown that started as 411 Broadway Ales & Spirits. It’s named after the building it’s in – which is not open to the public – at 411 Broadway St., a few blocks from the heart of the brewery district.
Joseph Soleno, co-founder and head brewer at 411, originally planned to have a tasting room there where beer fans could come have a glass. But he decided the cost and work involved in upgrading the building to make it comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other codes turned out to be too big a hurdle for a building he didn’t own.
Instead, he’ll keep brewing there, but is planning a tasting room a couple blocks away near Tioga-Sequoia.
The incubator model is growing across the United States. It’s designed to help mostly home brewers who want to go professional but face challenges making the switch from brewing in their garages to running a brewery.
There’s a saying in the industry: Take what you think it will cost to open a brewery and triple it. It’s an accurate saying, Soleno said.
But an incubator can ease that cost.
“They get to start up their own little brewery for a fraction of the price,” he said.
The incubator is full for now, but eventually the two breweries will move out into their own spaces and space for other newbies will open up at 411.
On a recent early morning at 411, Incinerati founder Mike Sumaya was pouring hops into what would become a New England-style India pale ale.
Sumaya is a professional brewer with a day job brewing at Riley’s Brewing Co. in Madera. He’s worked at other breweries around central California, including as head brewer at Full Circle Brewing Co. in Fresno.
He brews his beer at Incinerati on mornings, evenings and weekends, sometimes filling kegs until midnight. His wife Natalie handles sales, taking the beer to restaurants for sampling and taps.
Incinerati makes a “Blacken The Cursed Sun” coffee stout beer made with coffee from locally owned Lanna Coffee Co. He also has a vanilla cream ale dubbed “Minute til 6” (that’s a sneaky reference to the 559 area code, in case you didn’t notice).
For Sumaya, the incubator is less about learning how to brew beer and more about having an affordable place to do it.
“It’s a really low-entry cost,” he said. “I didn’t have to get the building. I didn’t have to get the brew system. … It’s ridiculously cheap as far as production space goes.”
He didn’t have to take on the risk of signing a lease and paying the full rent himself.
Both Incinerati and Grayview use 411’s mash tun and brew kettle, which are two large tanks used in the first stage of the brewing process. Each brewery has its own fermentation tanks where the beer is finished and their own coolers to store kegs.
Each brewery must have its own licensing.
Being a part of the incubator also makes it easier to attract potential investors as he can show them he’s up and running.
Sumaya’s next goal is for Incinerati to find its own place to brew and open a taproom in the same spot. He’s looking for a space downtown now.
Where to find Incinerati beer: Rocket Dog Gourmet Brats & Brew locations, Goldstein’s Mortuary and Delicatessen, House of JuJu restaurant, and in Visalia at Pita Kabob and The Planing Mill Artisan Pizzeria. A cigar night will feature Incinerati beer at The Planing Mill at 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28.
Incinerati is also pouring its beers at a pop-up event at Art Hop, Thursday, Oct. 3 at the Peerless Building, 1755 Broadway St., from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The men behind Grayview Brewing are home brewers Jason Gray and Jason Hatwig. The pair twice won the “fan favorite” award at a Tioga-Sequoia home brewing competition.
Their brewery is named after Gray’s grandfather’s dairy of the same name in Petaluma. Grayview has been brewing at 411 since June.
They make all kinds of beers. Gray has been tinkering with an ale infused with green tea and local honey for about a decade. And they have an oyster shell stout, infused with oyster shells to give it a bit of saltiness.
“What we want to be known for is esoteric beers that are made with local ingredients,” Gray said.
Despite a pretty big brewing operation in a garage, neither Gray nor Hatwig was ready to make the leap of quitting his job to run a brewery full time, Gray said. Gray is a physical therapist who owns Physiomotion Physical Therapy and Hatwig is a program manager at an engineering firm.
“We both have our day job professions,” Gray said. “There’s no way the brewery could support our two families.”
Instead, the brewery is growing slowly.
“When you go from home brew to the next level, there’s a pretty steep learning curve in the sense of using the larger equipment,” he said.
Soleno of 411 helped with beer recipes and government paperwork, and taught them how to clean industrial-sized equipment.
Also expect to see Grayview pouring at Art Hop events later this year.
411 Broadway Ales
Aside from the incubator, 411 is its own brewery.
Soleno is a brewer who has worked at Rogue Ales & Spirits in Newport, Oregon, and several Valley breweries.
He makes a variety of beers, including sours and “farmhouse beers.” Those are beers that use yeast, but also bacteria (the same sort of bacteria you’d find in yogurt), he explained.
For now, the brewery is closed to the public. But Soleno recently signed a lease to open an as-of-yet unnamed tasting room with retro games and a rec room vibe at 721 Fulton St.
Once 411 is able to sell food at the tasting room, it will also be able to feature other beers on tap, like beers made by the breweries in its incubator.
And once the tasting room is up and running, 411 will start making spirits.