Beer

'Like the little engine that could,' Lincoln brewery on goat farm wins national honor

FILE -- Brewery owner Cathy Johnson with a sample of beer in the tasting room at the GoatHouse Brewery in Lincoln on Thursday, October 30, 2014. The brewery/farm, owned by Michael and Cathy Johnson, won a Brewers Association award, announced Tuesday, April 10, 2018.
FILE -- Brewery owner Cathy Johnson with a sample of beer in the tasting room at the GoatHouse Brewery in Lincoln on Thursday, October 30, 2014. The brewery/farm, owned by Michael and Cathy Johnson, won a Brewers Association award, announced Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Sacramento Bee File

Catherine Johnson describes her Lincoln-area brewery as a place with no televisions, spotty Wi-Fi reception and a tasting room that operates out of a converted barn. About 90 percent of the hops for the beer is grown right on the site, which is a farm with goats, orchards and its own bees.

Despite the humble trappings, GoatHouse Brewing Co., which opened in 2013, on Tuesday was named the second-fastest-growing small and independent craft brewing company in the country for 2017 by the Brewers Association (BA) for Small and Independent Craft Brewers.

“We got the call (about the national recognition) and we just started laughing," Johnson said.

Johnson, who owns the business with her husband, Michael, said people thought they were delusional for choosing 11-plus acres in the middle of nowhere for their brewery instead of an industrial site in the city.

Goat is considered a nanobrewery and puts out about 400 barrels a year on a three-barrel system, Johnson said; microbreweries run on systems that start at two to three times that size.

GoatHouse wasn't the only brewery in the region that made the Brewers Association fastest-growing list. Device Brewing Co. of Sacramento came in at No. 37.

Device co-owner and head brewer Ken Anthony said he was surprised his company ranked so high among about 6,000 breweries under consideration.

But it's not that shocking. Device has been experiencing exponential growth in its production since 2013.

“We’ve done more than double the previous year every year since we opened,” Anthony said.

This is the first time BA has released the rankings for the 50 fastest-growing small and independent brewing companies and, among the 25 states with breweries on the list, California boasted the most with seven, three of which were in the top 10.

BA looked at median growth from the years 2016 to 2017. The list includes eight brewpubs, 40 microbreweries and two regional craft breweries, according to a press release. The median growth for the top 50 companies was 216 percent.

"With 5 percent growth overall for small and independent brewers in 2017 and microbreweries and brewpubs delivering the majority of that, we wanted to spotlight some of the breweries driving that growth," said Bart Watson, BA chief economist. "As the growth base for craft becomes more diffuse, these fast-growing brewing companies illustrate that a diverse set of success stories still exist."

Johnson said GoatHouse is in the process of looking at larger brewing systems and, possibly, a bigger building to meet growing demand and continued expansion of its hop fields.

“We are kind of like the little engine that could,” she said.

Device is targeting a Beer Week opening for its new Ice Blocks taproom, said Anthony, but the brewery isn't planning on the same kind of growth in the long term.

“It feels great to be where we are and be an established brewery in the emerging Sacramento craft beer community,” he said.

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