SF Local Interview: Hop Dogma

Gearing up for the upcoming SF Beer Week, this week we spoke with co-founder of Hop Dogma Brewing Company, Ethan Martini. 

How did you first get into brewing?

Both Dan and I have been friends since attending college at Cal Poly and at that time we both started home brewing separately. Coincidentally we both moved to the Bay Area, where we began to spend weekends together home brewing and this was the catalyst for opening Hop Dogma.

What made you decide to open Hop Dogma in El Granada?

El Granada was an easy choice…it was where Dan lived and we spent most weekends at his house experimenting with different styles of beer. The downtown area had a small-town feel, complete with a post office and a hardware store. It seemed like an ideal location to open a small brewery. By chance there was a vacancy at the victorian building next to the post office, at which point we began the process of building out the tap room and going through the legal process.

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Do you have a “typical” kind of crowd for any given night of the week?

We don’t have a typical crowd for any particular night of the week, it’s often a mix of locals and visitors to the coast. When we opened on July 4th, 2013, our goal was to provide a friendly place for people to appreciate great beer. I think we’ve accomplished this and many of our customers are now family. We have an active live music scene at Hop Dogma and if you’re lucky, you’ll come on a night when Dan is playing the guitar/harmonica and singing. Beer, friends, and music…it’s awesome.

Hop Dogma is a great name for a brewery. What’s the story behind the name?

A year before we opened the tap room, Dan, Chris (our graphic artist and college friend), and I took a brewery tour up through Portland, OR. During this whirlwind tour, we began brainstorming names for our brewery. Imagine the three of us, stuffed in a Prius with all of our luggage and Chris and Dan’s guitars…Chris threw out the name and we loved it. The meaning is somewhat tongue-n-cheek. We are constantly pursuing better beer, we love hops, and yet we embrace change through experimenting with new hops and recipes regularly.

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What has the process of opening a brewery taught you? What surprised you the most?

Both Dan and I knew it would be a lot of work, but I don’t think we realized the amount of time and effort it would take to keep this business moving forward. Although very challenging, this labor of love is also satisfying. Having someone approach us and claim that they really enjoyed a particular beer is a great feeling.

The biggest surprise to me is how the craft beer industry has embraced us. We didn’t know anyone in the business when we started and there isn’t a manual on how to operate a brewery. Even if there was a step-by-step guide, nothing can prepare you for the daily surprises. It took time, but we now have several close friends in the craft beer world. It’s with these friends we share knowledge, techniques, and experiences. This camaraderie is essential for survival in this industry.

What are your other favorite breweries to visit?

Hmmm…favorite breweries to visit: Half Moon Bay Brewing (James is a great brewmaster), Sante Adairius (awesome beers Adair), Faction Brewing (Roger!), Freewheel Brewing, Cellarmaker, Russian River, Lewis & Clark Brewing, Figueroa Mountain Brewing, Altamont, etc…

Breweries to visit in the future: looking forward to Jeremy Warren’s new Revision Brewing (can’t wait to do a collaboration), Fiddlehead Brewing, Mother Earth Brew Co., Three Weavers Brewing, Societe, The Alchemist Brewery, and many more…

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You can visit Hop Dogma at 30 Ave Portola #1B, El Granada, CA. Open Tuesday through Sunday, check the website for open times as hours vary.

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About the Author // Eliza Dropkin is the newest member of Vantigo. She enjoys live music, good food, and cruising around town in Jerry (the other newest member of Vantigo).

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