Stab Magazine | A Craft Brewery Named Desire
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A Craft Brewery Named Desire

How Saint Archer turned hops into gold.

style // Jun 13, 2016
Words by Jake Howard
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Nearly three years since its inception, Saint Archer is one of the fastest growing breweries in America. Founded by one-time surf documentarian Josh Landan and an amalgamation of action sports heroes, including Paul Rodriguez, Mikey Taylor, Erik Koston, Taylor Knox, Jack Freestone, Laura Enever and more, the brewery is based in San Diego and currently produces 37,000 barrels of beer a year. In September 2015 the sale of the brewery to MillerCoors was announced. The final price tag was not disclosed, but the Wall Street Journal estimates Saint Archer’s value to be somewhere in the $35 million range. Rumours abound that it was twice that. Shortly after the foam settled and the cheques were kicked out to overwhelmed investors, Stab sat down with Landan to discover just how surfing’s official brew gamed the big-beer establishment. Success, with Josh Landan:

I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t nice to change the lives of my closest friends. That’s what they signed up for, man. You have your friends and family invest in your dream business, and at the end of the day they hope it works out so they make money off their investment. Taylor Knox doesn’t have millions of dollars floating around to lose. When I had the opportunity to make the decision to change their lives, dude, I’m going to do that every time.

There’s always the people that are going to have something to say and call you a sellout, but people who have those opinions don’t have the responsibility of their friends and families looking at them to make the right decision to protect their investments. You have to do what’s best for your company, your employees, and your investors, and as president and CEO that’s what I did. Some of the best times of my life – besides my wife having our kids – was handing out some of these cheques to my friends and seeing their reactions. Their wives were crying, hugging me. It doesn’t get any better than that. It was really a fun time to be able to make good on the promises I’d made.

People have the misconception that because a lot of these guys are pro surfers and skateboarders and snowboarders they’re flush with money. I had one guy go, “Yeah, I’m down, I totally want to be a part of Saint Archer. Come with me to the bank.” So we walked up to the bank teller, and he goes, “How much do I have in my account?” And the bank teller tells him he has $21,000. So my boy says, “Make a cashier’s cheque out to Josh, empty and close the account.” That’s how down people were. People are emptying their savings accounts? I don’t care if it’s two grand, 500 bucks or a million dollars, when you hand over everything you’ve got, that’s gnarly.

When you’re in a hyper growth business, you’ve got no financial history, which you need to have your business financed by the banks. We’d only been in business for a year, and needed multiple millions of dollars – because that’s what’s required in the craft brewing business, you can’t just spend a couple hundred grand, brew beer and ship it to Northern California – so for us the only way to go was private capital. And when you do private capital raises you lose equity. It’s just that simple. Almost every bank in California turned us down. Then we got a call from MillerCoors.

People only see the end result and are like, “Oh, you guys killed it and you’re all millionaires now.” But they didn’t see what it took to do this. I was making films and walked away from it overnight. Mikey, Paul and I had been thinking about doing Saint Archer for about a year and it just came down to the point where Mikey Taylor’s not going to quit being the face of DC, and Paul Rodriguez isn’t going to quit being the face of Nike. So it was really up to me, or it was just another great idea that we didn’t follow through with. So one night in downtown L.A we made the call. I drove home and told my wife. We had two kids at the time, five and two, and I told her we’re moving to San Diego and we’re going to build Saint Archer from the ground up. I’m going to quit everything else.

When you quit everything and you’re in the middle of trying to raise money, you don’t have access to the money because it goes into an escrow account (an untouchable investment account). So for the first six to eight months of trying to build this business, Mikey and Paul were paying my utility bills. I was working 60 to 80 hours a week trying to raise $3m to build a brewery from scratch. It was a crazy time, we definitely pushed all the chips into the middle of the table. We had this we’re-gonna-die-before-this-fails” mentality, and I think that’s the part that a lot of people didn’t see. They just saw the product hit the market and we had success. But dude, it was hard. It’s not as glamorous as everyone thinks.

I figured out a long time ago that money’s not what makes me happy. It’s the competition of trying to prove the doubters wrong that excites me. People in the action sports world laughed at us. I had one person who didn’t invest, say, “I went to Whole Foods last night and stared at the beer section. There’s no way in hell you guys are going to pull this off.” So that’s a good one to think about now.

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