Bottoms up! Tehachapi is getting a microbrewery in its own backyard.
Tehachapi residents Steve and Nicole Roemer are in the middle of renovations for "Honey Wagon Brewing," their new microbrewery and tasting room on Enterprise Way, with the intent to open by September.
"We're looking to offer the community good beer," said Steve, the establishment's brewmaster, "but most of all we'd like people to come in and enjoy a nice atmosphere."
The microbrewery is waiting for final approval from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The new facility is tucked into two warehouses in the industrial area near Home Depot, and right across from the U-Haul rental office.
Steve and Nicole noted that industrial areas house a good portion of microbrew operations, much to some people's surprise.
The Roemers' operations will start out small, Steve said, and open for just a few days a week.
"We're going to start out with a three-barrel system, so we'll only be able to brew about 90 gallons at a time," he said. "Hopefully we can make enough to keep up."
Honey Wagon Brewing will be the first microbrewery in the Tehachapi area, bringing freshly brewed beer to the area. The closest microbreweries are located in Bakersfield, Kernville, Inyokern and Lancaster.
The top selections include Steve's flagship brown ale, No. 2 Brown Ale, a blonde ale, an IPA, a Hefeweizen, an amber ale and a Belgian double ale (a strong version of a brown ale).
"Steve's got a lot of styles already but I think we want to open up and see what people are interested in, and what people like because there are a lot of tastes out there," said Nicole.
One of Steve's two brown ales, No. 2 Brown Ale, happens to be flavored with coconut, said Nicole.
Instead of a full-fledged bar, their goal is to provide a laid-back establishment conducive to a family atmosphere. While they will serve only what they brew, they are seeing about possibly having a food truck come in on a regular basis. In addition, people can bring in their own food as they wish.
They'll start small, Nicole said. Probably a part-time bartender and Steve being there a lot. As things grow, they'll see about expanding.
In addition to serving a pint, they'll sell growlers (jugs), of beer they make.
"We'd like to get into distributing and have some of the other restaurants in town carry our beer," Steve said. "But the main thing is that we want people to enjoy a nice atmosphere and take some beer home in growler form, or just sit and enjoy a pint."
Home-grown brewing breeds good business
Steve said the whole idea behind Honey Wagon began brewing about the same time he began making beer.
"Nicole bought a Mr. Beer kit three years ago and I started there, as which is the simplest form of brewing," Steve said. "It escalated really quickly from there and I just decided there isn't a brewery up here and we need one."
Steve and Nicole had considered breaking ground a year ago, but was delayed when the tank on Steve's septic truck imploded, causing a delay.
"We regrouped from there and looked at doing it again, and took a year to get this point," Steve said.
The new microbrewery's name, "Honey Wagon Brewing" is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Steve's main occupation as owner of Roemer's Septic Service, referencing a vehicle used to collect and carry contaminated water and waste from cesspools and sewage tanks and later dispose of it at wastewater facilities.
"We really wanted a name that meant something to us, and my biggest influence on this town has been my septic service," Steve said. "Hopefully people will have a sense of humor about it."
Steve is in the process of selling his septic tank pumping business, with plans to dedicate his attention to the brewery full time.
He said the stand out difference between the beer that microbreweries produce and those mass-produced is the taste.
"It's different when it's fresh and when it doesn't have any preservatives in it or has been shipped across the country," Steve said.
Nicole concurred, noting that most commercial lagers can taste the same.
"From what we know of the craft beer industry, people are actually looking for more flavor but everybody's tastes are different," she said.