Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce begins promoting Brew Paso

Helps put a spotlight on region’s growing craft beverage industry

PASO ROBLES — Paso Robles is a world-class wine destination. It wasn’t so long ago, 2013 to be exact, that Wine Enthusiast named it Wine Region of the Year.

The Paso Robles American Viticultural Area and its more than 200 wineries consistently land on any number of “best of” lists put out each year.

While wine is clearly king, and likely always will be, the region is also attracting visitors for its beer, cider, distilled spirits, and coffee.

Paso Robles is home to 25 artisan beverage makers — 10 distilleries, nine breweries, two cider makers, two coffee roasters, a soda maker and a cocktail mixer. Easily the most widely recognized figure in the brewing community is the iconic Firestone Walker Brewing Company.

To help get the word out about what is happening in Paso Robles, the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce put into play. Not only is the campaign and accompanying website a great marketing tool for the businesses, but it also provides useful information for prospective entrepreneurs looking to start a micro-brewery in the city’s Downtown.

The Brew Paso logo includes a stately oak tree, tea leaves, hops, coffee beans and wheat with the tagline “Paso Robles. Craft Here. Taste Here.” The Chamber is also selling Brew Paso merchandise.

“We are extremely excited about Brew Paso and the opportunity it creates,” said Chamber Economic Development Director Josh Cross. “We noticed a gap in our community’s marketing efforts to promote craft beverages, so the Chamber stepped in to help elevate Paso Robles as a brewer-friendly region.”

The Paso Robles Chamber kicked off Brew Paso with a booth at the exclusive Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival in early June at the Paso Robles Event Center, putting it out in front of thousands of craft beer enthusiasts. To help promote their message the Chamber had Silva Brewing and legendary owner Chuck Silva pouring at their booth.

The Brew Paso initiative started a little over a year ago, Cross explained, shortly after the City adopted a modification to the Downtown zoning ordinance to convert a portion of the downtown to TC-2 zoning that would allow for breweries, wine tasting facilities and distilleries less than 10,000 sq. ft. to be approved administratively. They can be larger, but they would have to be processed with the conditional use permit.

Silva, which came online prior to the zoning change, is tucked behind an H&R Block tax office and the Pour House and operates in a small space at 525 Pine St., Suite B.

While Silva was not able to benefit from the zoning change, the city’s newest brewery, California Coast Beer Co., did and is up and running at 1346 Railroad St.

“These amazing incentives mean we can have fully functioning breweries right in our Downtown.  Breweries such as Silva and other small guys are operating out of 2,000 sq. ft. or less,” Cross said.

Prior to launching Brew Paso, Cross said he reached out to established breweries to get their input. After all, not every business is keen on the idea of bringing in competition.

“We needed to make sure that we had brewer’s support behind this initiative because we are trying to bring additional breweries to town,” Cross said. “We wanted to know if we were crazy by promoting additional competition that would hurt their business. And we wanted to get their feedback regarding the demand for craft beer.”

About that time, the Chamber received a call from Professor John York from the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo business school, who was looking for a project for his class. The timing was perfect.

“The student team took the Brew Paso project on as a class assignment,” Cross said. “They put together a marketing plan and visited with local brewers, to ask a series of questions. And the response was ‘yes, there is room for craft beer.’ They see the benefit of having a cluster of ‘craft’ businesses from visitors and residents to choose from.”

Brew Paso even received approval from Adam Firestone, co-founder of Firestone Walker Brewing Company.

“He said, ‘I think you are on the right track,’” Cross said of his conversation with Firestone. “He also said that we shouldn’t limit our efforts to just craft beer, but all craft beverages — spirits, coffee, cider. He even said ‘kombucha.’ And once he planted that seed, we just ran with it.”

The initiative will help bring awareness to a number of craft beverage companies who are improving their local market presence. For instance, Paso Robles is home to Sunshine Bottle Works, a purveyor of natural sodas and yerba mate beverages. The company has been on the Central Coast since 2008.

“Given that we are only a town of 30,000, the diversity of craft beverages is amazing — there is something for everyone. At the end of the day, we think this industry complements our wine industry. People know Paso for wine, but they are always surprised to see that we have so much more to offer.”

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