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Turlock beer scene stays crafty
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Owner John Freitas steps into the cold storage room at Sandude Brewing Company in Turlock.

One day John Freitas was drinking a beer poolside with a friend when a life-changing idea came to him.

 “I just thought ‘I should brew beer’,” recalled Frietas.

Freitas’ whim has since taken shape in the form of a fully-fledged company: Sandude Brewing Company.

Based in Turlock Sandude Brewing Company’s four different craft beers including blonde, amber, brown, and double Indian Pale Ale brews which can be found on tap across Turlock and surrounding towns. While having Sandude beer on draft at local restaurants has been a huge accomplishment for Freitas, the best is yet to come. Beer drinkers will be able to purchase bottles of Sandude beer in 2,800 locations across eight counties and in big name stores such as Costco, BevMo, and SaveMart starting in about three weeks, thanks to a contract Freitas nailed down with Budweiser.

While the project has been nearly a decade in the making, Freitas hasn’t made Sandude a success alone, as his wife Janette has furthered sales and increased the brewery’s visibility. Freitas also took some direction from a friend and home-brewer of 20 years during Sandude’s genesis in 2008. After observing his friend’s operation, Freitas immediately tried his hand at brewing.

“I went home that day and built my own pilot equipment. He was just dumbfounded. It was already better than the system he had been using for 20 years,” said Frietas.

While his friend was impressed with Freitas’ commitment and ingenuity, the venture proved a labor of love for Freitas who would stew over the equipment for half a day producing a meager three kegs of beer. However, this pilot equipment carried Freitas through his first three years of brewing and still sits in the corner of Sandude Brewing Company’s headquarters, though it is now dwarfed by Freitas’ current operation that produces 60 kegs of beer in a mere five hours.

With the intention of “selling a guy more than one beer” Freitas not only is looking forward to increasing access to Sandude through bottling the beers, but also eventually aims to turn his current brewing facility into a tasting room where locals can learn what it takes to create each Sandude brew. Named after Freitas’ own nickname as a frequent Pismo adventurer, each Sandude bottle bears a beach themed label and name in an effort to keep the company true to Freitas’ vision.

Sandude is now riding the wave of a steady increase of interest in the craft beer industry as evidenced by the company’s success. Sandude is just one of many breweries in California, which now boasts 12 of the 50 largest craft breweries in the country according to the California Craft Brewers Association. With a 20 percent volume increase in the number of California breweries in 2012, Sandude and fellow local brewery Dust Bowl Brewing Company have been able to cater to locals’ growing interest in beer.

A downtown hotspot for years, the downtown taproom and eatery portion of Dust Bowl Brewing Company is just one segment of the brewery’s operation. Founded in 2009, Dust Bowl has been brewing beer at a 3,000 square foot facility in Turlock’s Industrial Park that allows the company to produce 4,000 barrels of beer annually. However, the company intends to expand in upcoming months to a property 10 times that size pending the approval of the facility before the City of Turlock Planning Commission.

Slated to appear before the Commission in November, Dust Bowl owners Brett Tate and Brett Honoré have big plans to “grow smarter and seize new markets” with their expansion. Having been sitting on a five acre property near Highway 99 at the intersection of Fulkerth Road and Dianne Drive for months, Dust Bowl intends to develop 2.5 acres of the property for the establishment of a new facility that will house a significantly larger brewing system, tasting room, merchandise shop, as well as offer locals tours of the facility.

“We’re not looking to grow fast, we’re just looking to grow smart,” said Tate.

With hopes of brewing at the facility in the summer of 2015, Dust Bowl’s expansion will also include the need to hire for several positions in the production facility, for packaging, support personnel, as well as sales positions.

Both Sandude and Dustbowl breweries have placed Turlock on the map in an industry dominated by Bay Area and Southern California craft beers and locals have been receptive to the beer market as evidenced by the annual 2014 Central Valley Brewfest which drew hundreds in May. While both Freitas and Tate are thrilled with the industry’s success and locals’ receptiveness to their craft, they are both focused on one chief concern: making good beer.

“Everything has a bubble, who knows if it will last five years or 10. But for now it’s a good wave we’re riding,” said Freitas of the craft beer industry’s success.

“Where does it end? I don’t think anytime soon,” said Tate. “We’re just going to keep ourselves crafty.”