Ian Schuster is a beer geek.
The 37-year-old former naval officer and London Business School graduate exudes an excitement that borderlines giddiness when talking about beer. His speech speeds up as he talks about fermentation, the benefits of canning beer as opposed to bottling it and how beer goes better with cheese than wine does.
At one point during our 45-minute interview at a in San Ramon, Schuster shared a story about how he sat in a brewery in Japan five years ago and tried a $90 beer called Nine Tailed Fox.
"It was tear-jerking good," Schuster said. "That bottle of beer changed my life. After that, I thought, 'I've got to be part of this.'"
Now Schuster IS part of "this." The San Ramon-resident still has his day job as a business consultant but is also the president of his newly-formed company, Schubros Brewery.
The company currently has a team of four, with Schuster partnering with brewmaster Mike Johannsen, who previously worked for Firestone Walker and Hovers 101, and two sale representatives that have more than 40 years of combined experience.
Schuster envisions Schubros to be the local brewery for the I-680 corridor, initially focusing distribution to upscale restaurants and bars from Walnut Creek down to Pleasanton and east to Livermore. One of the first four beers, planned for release by May 2012, is called 680 IPA.
"We want to engage the community," Schuster said. "So, for example, we are going to invest 1 percent of our 680 IPA sales to community causes, 1 percent of our Nico American beer to local environmental causes, 1 percent of our brown ale to local wildlife causes. One percent of our amber will rotate to different local causes."
But, right now, Schubros Brewery is looking for help from the community.
Schuster said they have already raised enough money to get off the ground, but it's "tight." So Schuster has started a YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) campaign, to try and raise the final $90,000 that will help his brewery get a quick start.
They've started a YIMBY website, where people contributing to the Schubros "seed fund" can receive a company beer glass, polo shirt, sweatshirt and a number of other items, depending on the size of the contribution. With a $2,000 investment, Johannsen, the company's brewmaster, will bartend your private party or event.
If Schubros raises more than $90,000, the next $10,000 will be donated and split between the local school districts. If more than $100,000 is raised, 25 percent of all other contributions will go to local school districts.
"The current economic climate makes it difficult to raise capital," Schuster said. "I saw another website, Kickstarter, doing this — helping small businesses raise money from individuals. We applied with them but were denied. They focus on smaller businesses than us. But I thought it was a fantastic idea. It's uplifting seeing people help others out."
Schuster is ambitious about the future Schubros Brewery but only to a certain extent. He never wants profit to overtake what he loves about great beer — the quality.
"You know, every large beer company reaches a point where it makes economic sense to sacrifice the quality of the beer to produce more of it and make more money," Schuseter said. "Our goal is to go right up to that point, but to never go over it. We aren't going make sacrifices that are going to hurt our product."