Born in a garage in the mountains, the Santa Cruz favorite expands to the Coastside with creatively brewed beers.

Humble Sea Brewing Co. has come a long way since its bootstrapped beginnings brewing beer in a home garage in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The Santa Cruz brewery is now opening two new taprooms, including in Pacifica next month, and is also eagerly looking to expand in the South Bay. The expansion is thanks in part to their launch of online shopping, shipping and delivery during the pandemic, which took off, said cofounder Frank Scott Krueger.

They stumbled onto the Pacifica location after hearing the former Devil’s Slide Taproom space at 5560 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Pacifica was available. It was a good fit for the Humble Sea team, who you can often find surfing or mountain biking in Pacifica on their way to San Francisco, and who prefer the concept of a “destination” brewery over a spot on a main thoroughfare for quick, after-work beers.

Humble origins: The original brewing setup (at left) in a home garage in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Humble Sea is now opening two new taprooms, including in Pacifica next month, and is also looking to expand in the South Bay. (Images via Humble Sea)

“We want as many of our future locations to have that feel,” Krueger said. “We want it to be a little out of the way, to feel like you have to make a trip.”

Humble Sea was born when head brewer Nick Pavlina first started home brewing in 2009. He eventually brought in two childhood friends, Krueger and Taylor West, to open a brewery in Santa Cruz. Krueger’s background was in tech and design, and West had worked in restaurant and bar management.

Short on money and unable to secure a loan, they found a loophole: Pavlina’s grandmother-in-law’s house in Ben Lomond happened to be zoned residential-agricultural, so they used her garage to start brewing beer, one keg at a time.

They eventually opened a small taproom in Santa Cruz and grew a loyal following for Pavlina’s hazy IPAs (which they call “foggy” in homage to Santa Cruz weather), lagers and more unusual takes, like smoothie beers brewed with fruit like blueberry, mango and peach. The smoothie beers, called “Super Pops,” sell out in less than a minute online, Krueger said.

Pavlina, however, is most proud of their lagers, a beer style that’s seeing a “resurgence,” Krueger said.

Humble Sea brews, from left: Steven Seagull, a “foggy” (hazy) double IPA; a recent version of “The Hop Box,” Humble Sea’s monthly beer subscription program; barrel-aged Feel Güd, a black lager aged in bourbon barrels. (Images via Humble Sea)

“Pilsners are the hardest styles to brew well. There’s nothing to hide behind,” he said. “I don’t think anything could possibly compete with IPAs in California. We’re seeing lagers as a whole be a very happy second place to our hoppy styles.”

The Pacifica taproom will have all their classic beers, plus a kitchen that will allow for a full food menu. They’re planning for expanded outdoor seating and to devote half of the space to retail so people can quickly grab cans, bottles and to-go items.

They hope to open in Pacifica on May 1, Krueger said.

Opening weekend at Humble Sea’s Swift Street location in Santa Cruz in March 2017. (Image via Amber Gaeta/Humble Sea)

Humble Sea is also opening a taproom at the historic Cremer House on Hwy. 9 in Felton. And they were on the verge of buying Campbell Brewing Company, Krueger said, but it fell through. They wanted to open in Campbell in particular as the “epicenter” of Humble Sea’s local beer delivery, Krueger said, but are still looking for locations in the South Bay. (Anyone with tips or connections can reach out to them here.)

Until then, Humble Sea offers free delivery to Fremont, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Milpitas and San Jose with a $30 minimum.

Elena Kadvany

A writer with a passion for investigative reporting, telling untold stories and public-service journalism, I have built my career covering education and restaurants in the Bay Area. My blog and biweekly newsletter, Peninsula Foodist, is the go-to source for restaurant news in Silicon Valley. My work has been published in The Guardian, Eater, Bon Appetit’s Healthyish, SF Weekly and The Six Fifty.

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