A Beer Day Q&A: Topa Topa Brewing Company's Jack Dyer

If you're not in California, you may not know about Topa Topa Brewing Company (yet) but they're neighbors to our Santa Barbara, CA headquarters, a fellow purpose-driven brand, and awesome for about a million and one reasons (including that they make delicious beer). We partner with them just about whenever we can – whether we're hosting a pop-up shop at one of their taprooms, they're competitively grilled cheesin' at our annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown, or we're catching up as we join a meeting for our local 1% for the Planet chapter. They're also a cool group of people – the kind of people you want to sit and have a beer with, you know what we mean?

April 7 is National Beer Day, so we decided to open a cold one and sit down with Topa Topa co-founder Jack Dyer to learn a little more about his vision for beer that does good, the challenges they've faced over the last few years, and what he's especially stoked on right now. 

Man in a taproom

Photo credit: Jordan Santamaria

Toad&Co: We're obviously already huge fans and likeminded partners...but for those across the country who may not know about you (yet), can you tell us what Topa Topa's all about?

Jack: Well the feeling is mutual. We are so fortunate to have started our company in a community with so many purpose driven companies. We look up to Toad&Co a lot! Topa Topa Brewing Company is all about good vibes and great beers.  We believe in using our beer as a force for good in the communities we serve. We truly love what we do and do what we love around here.  

Topa Topa brewmaster and co-founder cheersing at the taproom

Photo credit: Jordan Santamaria

Toad: From day 1, what was your vision when you founded Topa Topa? 

Jack: I was compelled to start Topa Topa to create something tangible and build a community around it. I had a passion for great beer and figured that the greatest beverage in the world (ahem... beer) would be the perfect product to build some community around. Beer is amazing like that, it levels the playing field and allows all parties to partake, so long as they are 21 of course!

Toad: Like us, you are committed to 1% for the Planet. Why is this so important to you? 

Jack: Beer is an agricultural product, so obviously we rely on a healthy planet for our ingredients. Grain, hops, and access to clean water sources are all critical aspects of making great beer. An unhealthy planet makes it difficult to produce great beer. Also, a beer just tastes better after a good hike, surf, mountain bike or a sail. We are very passionate about preserving our open spaces and wild lands here in our region, so our 1% FTP commitment helps our non profit partners do their amazing work. Lastly, I'm a firm believer that consumers buy why you make something, not what you make. Even subconsciously at times. The craft beer scene is crowded so we try to separate ourselves from the pack with our commitments.  

Toad: What qualities do you look for when you’re bringing on new members of the Topa Topa team?

Jack: We are blessed to work with some amazing people. There is one common theme that we look for in all of our employees. I like to use the term "optimistic warmth" as a defining term of the types of folks we hire. We like people who can problem solve and remain optimistic. For our front of house beer tenders, that is a critical trait that they simply must have. On the production side of things, we like to hire folks who have some tangible brewing experience and have been lucky to recruit a number of highly skilled folks in brewing and packaging. We also love to have folks join our team that have a love for great beer! 

Group of people on the top of mountain peak

Photo credit: Mikaela Hamilton

Toad: You have a couple of exciting brand new releases…How does a new beer come to be? 

Jack: I'm very excited about our new releases this year.  Before we expanded into our larger facility (pre-Covid) we weren't really able to create new beers often because we had to keep up production of our Chief Peak IPA. It's been incredible to see the creative side of brewers come to life in the form of monthly can releases and even more frequent draft-only releases in our taproom networks.  We're very lucky that we have a network of 5 taprooms that we operate, so new ideas are easily tested out there. When one hits and people love it, the numbers always show it. We can then graduate that beer into our monthly can release schedule, rotating seasonal program, or finally a core beer. Right now we have 4 core beers that we keep in the market at all times, a rotating seasonal program with 4 releases (3 months each) a year, and a monthly specialty can release (12 per year). So we have a good system for evaluating new beers. New beers are constantly being dreamt up and many of those ideas are spawned with conversation over a pint or even a good hike in our region. The inspiration really comes from all over. I'm super excited to see it continue and am continuously curious about how every new release is going to perform. One thing is certain, if it makes it to our taps or into a can, the beer is going to be GREAT! 

Toad: These past few years have been tough across the board, for all types of businesses. What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome? 

Jack: Professionally and personally the last few years have been the hardest time I could imagine. The pandemic specifically had an insane impact on virtually every aspect of our business. From having our taprooms shuttered for 182 days in 2020 and another 58 in 2021, to supply chain disruptions, to staffing turnover, it has been challenging to say the least. Overall, I'm super proud of our team for adjusting to the endless scenarios and challenges that stemmed from the pandemic. The silver lining is that it forced us to be curious and learn. From public health, to supply chains, to shipping and to-go options, the learning was constant. We are looking forward to brighter days ahead for sure. 

Woman with full glass of beer on top of her head

2 men tasting beer in a brewery

Photo credit: Jordan Santamaria

Toad: What are you most excited for that you have in the works/about the future of Topa Topa (that you can share)? 

Jack: In 2022 we are just super excited to still be here. We launched our expanded production facility and beer garden just months before the Covid shutdowns, so we are pretty amped on just using what we have and seeing the company prosper, grow and continue our commitments to our community partners and 1% for the Planet. We have some fun new beers and new formats coming this year that I'm pretty pumped about, but most of all we're excited to see our taprooms stay vibrant and continue to grow our brand in our region.   

Toad: At age 5, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Jack: Probably a professional basketball player or a teacher. I actually taught 3rd grade for a minute so I guess I accomplished that dream!  

Toad: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? 

Jack: Give selflessly. Never give anyone anything or do something for someone expecting something in return. My Mom instilled this in me early on and I've tried to keep that spirit alive in the decisions we make here at Topa Topa. Give selflessly and good things will happen. 

Toad: What’s your personal favorite brew? 

Jack: Chief Peak IPA. To me, this beer is perfect. We crafted our IPA recipe to be super drinkable, and I can attest that it is! I likely drink more Chief Peak than any other human on earth and I'm not sick of it. Really, I love all of our beers and drink a variety of them, but Chief Peak is my regular, go to beer when in our taprooms.  It is just really good. 

Toad: Anything else we didn’t cover that you’re super stoked on right now? 

Jack: We are super stoked on the incredible network of brands that we have the good fortune of working with, both inside the brewing industry and outside of it. There are so many commonalities across purpose driven businesses, it gets me excited to continue to partner and work with brands and companies outside of the beer industry. I'm also pretty stoked on my new snowboard setup. I re-vamped my setup after about 17 years on my old equipment and was blown away by the new gear on my last trip to the mountains. 

A cheers of two beer cans with water behind

Photo credit: Mikaela Hamilton