Since he walked away from Knee Deep last year, Jeremy Warren has been carefully plotting his next move. Beer geeks locally and well beyond Sacramento have been clamoring for details.
I recently sat down with Warren and Revision partner Jeb Taylor to hear about the new brewery, which should be up and running by fall or early winter. It’s an ambitious vision – working up to 50,000 barrels brewed annually and 25 employees. They will launch with four year-round beers, plenty of seasonals and a rotating array of anything-goes experimental stuff.
Warren commands attention because he is widely regarded as a master of hops and a magician when it comes to India pale ale, the top-selling style in craft beer.
While Knee Deep was celebrating its sixth anniversary recently, Warren was miles away working on blueprints for a nearly 20,000 square-foot brewery in West Sacramento and getting ready to launch what promises to be the most exciting development for local craft beer in 2016.
“Jeremy is a jewel to Sacramento and to the beer industry,” said Rob Archie, owner of Pangaea Bier Cafe, one of the top beer destinations in town. “Jeremy has created a reputation for himself throughout the state and he has the potential to be recognized as one of the top brewers in the country if he continues to do what he’s doing.”
With the exception of some collaboration beers, all that talent has been largely sidelined for going on a year.
“There came a point at Knee Deep where I wasn’t allowed to do the things I originally set out to do,” Warren told me when I brought up the past. “I wanted to be more involved in barrel aging. I didn’t want to have 12 IPAs sitting on a shelf. I wanted to have better diversification.”
Revision in West Sacramento will grow to a capacity of 24,000 barrels a year (that’s bigger than Russian River in Santa Rosa and twice the size of Track 7), and they’ve already lined up financing to open a second facility, possibly in Portland, Reno or on the East Coast. That will account for another 8,000 to 10,000 barrels a year.
“The goal is to become big but not too big. It all stems from product integrity,” Warren told me.
Warren’s first foray into the big time was in 2012, when his upstart brewery won the prestigious Bistro Double IPA crown for a DIPA called Hoptoloist, besting a pretty fair beer called Pliny the Elder. At the time, he was brewing in 900 square feet in Lincoln. Knee Deep started blowing up and moved to an 18,000-square-foot building in Auburn.
As Knee Deep grew, Warren and co-owner Jerry Moore seemed like an ideal team. Warren was the brewing talent, Moore the savvy businessman.
But Warren eventually became frustrated. It was a shock when he announced last summer on Facebook that he and Knee Deep were Splitsville.
What went wrong? The best way to explain that is to look at a single upcoming beer at Revision. Breaking Bud, a terrific IPA featuring Mosaic hops, is one of Knee Deep’s top sellers. In my blind IPA tasting, it was a unanimous pick as the best IPA of the night, besting Sierra Nevada, Stone and many of the top local offerings.
Now we’re learning the fascinating inside story behind the beer. Turns out, Warren had an excellent IPA in Breaking Bud, but he wanted to keep pushing. Revision’s flagship IPA will actually be the recipe for Breaking Bud 3.0. Back then, Mosaic was a hot new hop, known for big aromas and flavors without the standard bitterness.
“Keep in mind that Breaking Bud was a three-part experimental series. The Breaking Bud you’re drinking today was the first phase of the experiment. I took the information I learned from that and I switched the malts and hops and I brewed a second beer. It was a great beer, but it wasn’t as great as the first one. It was intended to see the influence of certain malts, waters and water chemistry.
“Before I had the opportunity to make this ultimate third beer, the decision was made by my previous business partner (Moore) that we would be moving forward with the first version.”
Did that upset him?
When I reached out to Moore about the episode, he said he didn’t get into that history at Knee Deep.
It’s safe to say no one will be trying to hold Warren back at Revision. It will be exciting to see what that means.