Larry Kreider (Noozhawk photo)
Beer is more than just a passion for Larry Kreider; it’s also a business. Before he discovered the pleasures of fine craft made beer, Kreider had endless campfire debates over the superiority of Budweiser to Miller and Coors. Now he’s spreading the joys of pairing homemade food with handcrafted hops at Goleta’s Hollister Brewing Company.
Leslie Dinaberg: When did you first develop an interest in beer?
Larry Kreider: It was kind of an epiphany. I was working as a manager for Home Depot in Torrance, and I had to approve checks. I kept approving these checks that said Manhattan Beach Brewing Company, and I finally asked the guy, “What’s the Manhattan Beach Brewing Company? Do you make coffee, soda, what do you do?” He said, “No, we brew beer.”
… I had never heard of that before. It was close by, so I went and visited it and it was just oh my God, this is like nirvana.
… For a couple of years I was just so pissed at Budweiser that they had brainwashed me into thinking that that was the best beer. … But then after I started brewing some beer myself, you start having an appreciation for the technologically perfect beer that they are able to make, especially with breweries located in different parts of the country.
So I’ve kind of come full circle. To their credit, they do take a big part in getting people to drink more beer period. … For the past three or four years the growth of beer consumption has been pretty stagnant, but craft brewed beer has earned double digit increases in consumption.
LD: How did you get started in the restaurant business?
LK: I moved to Santa Barbara in 1995 with the intent of opening up the Santa Barbara Brewing Company. I had some partners from the South Bay area … the three of us were middle-aged bachelors, had never worked in a restaurant, never brewed beer before but we knew someone in common that had opened other brew pubs and could help us. … Our naivete kind of helped us. …That’s right when lower State Street was starting to become a little gentrified. … We were in the right place at the right time
… That’s where I met my current partner, Eric Rose. I hired him to be a part-time brewer assistant. … We worked together there for about four years and then I sold my interest in the brewing company to my partners who are still there and still doing well. I moved on and at that time I was becoming involved with Elements.
I knew, from the very first week I met Eric that at some point in his life he was going to open up a brewpub on his own, professionally. We stayed in contact for four years in that interim where I was trying to get Elements off the ground, and he was still at the brewing company perfecting his profession, brewing better beers.
(Eventually) Eric and his father (Marshall Rose) started putting together a business plan, and they contacted me and wanted to know if I was still interested in doing a project. And I said, “absolutely.”
LD: Even though there are a lot of restaurants, it still feels like Goleta has room for more.
LK: People have been extremely supportive and we’re flattered and humbled by the response that we got when we came out here. There was a pent up desire for people to go to locally owned and operated restaurants without having to go downtown.
LD: Is the beer you brew only sold here?
LK: We have the ability with our type of license to self distribute beer. But not to sound smug or anything, but we’ve been so busy trying to keep up with the demand here that we haven’t pursued that avenue yet. We have beer on tap at one place and it’s the Hungry Cat. We’ve developed a nice relationship with the chefs that work there, and they’re willing to put different beers of ours on tap and then create dishes around it.
LD: Can people buy beer to take home?
LK: We have the growlers only; we don’t sell it in kegs.
LD: Do you have a favorite beer?
LK: The one that’s in front of me. (Laughs)
LD: I know you’re here full time but you still own part of Elements?
LK: Yes, but it has nothing to do with the partnership that owns Hollister Brewing Company. That’s just me personally. My partner there, Andy, knew that at some point I was going to get back in the beer business. Fortunately for me my wife Tina is able to keep our interest going in Elements.
LD: She mentioned to me that you guys get a little competitive.
LK: Yes we do. We check sales with each other on a daily basis and see who is doing what. We’ve even tried to get some synergy a little bit out of it, if they need employees or if we need employees we’ll see if they have people available, stuff like that. But it’s a completely separate entity.
LD: Does whether or not UCSB is in session affect your crowd very much?
LK: Everyone said when we were building the place, “oh brew pub right by a university, that’s going to be busy,” and people had this pre-conceived notion it would be filled with these undergrad students drinking beer. We’re not that kind of a place. We make a craft made product so it’s a little more expensive.
.. I think anyone would be naïve to say that the university doesn’t affect every business in Goleta. It does; there’s a huge population increase, but we’ve been able to keep to our core demographic of the people who live and work here in Goleta and not just the students who tend to be a little more transient from year to year.
… It’s so funny, the three busiest weekends that we have are graduation, move-in and parents visitor’s week. So for 49 weeks a year the students go to Albertsons, and whatever is on sale they buy, but the three weekends that mom and dad are in town they bring them in here to foot the bill (Laughs).
LD: What else do you do when you’re not working?
LK: As you know, I have two young kids, so that takes up pretty much all of the time that I’m not here. I have to give credit to Tina — you know, trying to run two restaurants with two young kids is not the easiest thing to do and we’ve been able to. Our partners are very cognizant of that also … I try to take Sunday off regardless of what’s going on and that’s kind of our family day.
LD: Looking down the road, would you ever want to open another Hollister Brewing Co.?
LK: I could see opening a different variation of this. This was our first shot together and most of the menu design, the beer design, the food pairings, came from Eric. He’s got the most sophisticated palate. This site lends itself more toward the volume that we have to do and we’ve been very fortunate that we have that, but if you really want to get into a palate driven place you need a little bit smaller place. So we can see doing that at some point in the future. Maybe a smaller venue where we could still supply it from here, not necessarily brew it there, but have a really nice palate-driven, food-driven, foodie place with really nice wines, really good beers, pairing with more entrée-type foods and things like that.
LD: It sounds like an amalgamation of your two businesses.
LK: Exactly. Something like that maybe sometime but there’s no immediate plan. I mean, we’re still pounding the turf here and trying to get this going. But we’re well ahead of what our scheduled business plan said. Thank you to the people in Goleta that they have been very supportive, and we do thank the people from Santa Barbara, too, who come all the way out here to Goleta. (Laughs) I swear people think they have to cancel their newspaper subscription and cancel their mail just to go to Goleta.
Vital Stats: Larry Kreider
Born: Aug. 30, 1958, in Martinsburg, Pa., “with a population of more cows than people.”
Family: Wife Tina, son Jake (8) and daughter Claire (4)
Civic Involvement: Santa Barbara Mission, Washington School
Professional Accomplishments: Manager at Home Depot; co-owner of Santa Barbara Brewing Co.; current co-owner of Hollister Brewing Co. and Elements.
Little-Known Fact: “People look at me as the beer person since I’m out here, but I mean, If I go into a restaurant and I don’t like the beer selection they have, I’ll order a Budweiser … It’s the best of that style of beer. … We just don’t like the fact that they market to get people to think that that’s the only style of beer there is.”
Originally published in Noozhawk on September 7, 2008.