Once in a while you come across something truly special… not that all craft breweries aren’t special in one way or another in my eyes, but this one really gave me all the feels. You how what I mean… I introduce to you Gyppo Ale Mill!
Now trust me, you aren’t going to just stumble upon this one. Gyppo is nestled on California’s Lost Coast, 21 miles off 101 in the King Range. Don’t like winding roads? Your other option is to get there by private jet, which will bring you almost right to the brewery’s back patio. Not too shabby if you can afford it. Time to meet the good folks behind this incredible gem: Head Brewer Jared Smith and Owner and Product Tester Julie Peacock.
Julie, Jared, please introduce yourselves:
Julie: I moved here from Bend, Oregon via Salt Lake City in 2001. My husband, Josh Monschke, and partner Trent Sanders, also own the brewery with me but are silent partners, though do give me a pile of advice as successful owners of other businesses.
Gyppo Ale Mill did its first brew in December of 2017 and we opened our doors in May of 2018. Our Executive Chef is Robert Mason. He has been in the culinary industry most of his life and brought along his amazing wife, Adrianne Trimm, who is our pastry chef. We have an amazing taproom manager, Katie Schmitz-Wallace and our assistant manager is the positive, problem-solving Catherine Gabitan.
My husband and I both grew up in Oregon, he in NE Oregon with Terminal Gravity and I in Bend, Deschutes Brewery and Cascade Brewing. Drinking craft beer was part of our culture. Once we had our daughter Esmé, we decided that we may need to start adulting. At that time, we were weed farmers and legalization was still just a rumor. As we began coming up with a game plan, we started looking at our options. We actually met with a realtor to buy a car wash in Redway. But as we sat and discussed it, we both realized it lacked passion. That is when we landed on brewery. It really appealed to us for, of course, the craft beer part of it but because we are very involved with our community. We donated a lot of time and energy into the local nonprofits in our area and that was still something that was important to us and we wanted to continue.
Jared: I got involved sometime around 2011. I moved to Bend, Oregon specifically to break into the brewing industry. It took a lot longer than I anticipated! Persistence paid off and I was fortunate enough to land a position at the Ale Apothecary and was able to not only learn the ropes there but work my way through the Institute of Brewing and Distilling’s Certification and Diploma programs. I came to Gyppo last February and have been applying all the knowledge I gained through both of those experiences here. The intent is always the same: to make great beer and to bring people together!
When and how did Gyppo get started?
Julie: Opening our doors was a fun little struggle. We started out in Redway. We actually purchased a bare piece of property there after the then-manager of the Redway Sewer District told us that they would service us. Turns out he and the entire board don’t speak truth very often. They set us back a good two years and cost us a lot of money. To this day, they are still making poor decisions for our community.
Enter Trent Sanders. Trent owned the piece of property that the brewery is built on. That is part of the reason why we chose Shelter Cove. The other part is because we live 5 minutes away. The community was extremely supportive of the project and still continue to be. We had a family friend that actually designed the Ninkasi brewery in Eugene, Oregon design Gyppo. And then we hired a retired Redhook brewer, Al Triplett, to design our brewery.
Tell us what’s good at Gyppo…
Julie: Our brewery is awesome. We have a 10-barrel JV NN Brewhouse and the whole brewery side of things can be run by one guy, Jared Smith. But I’ll let Jared elaborate on this.
Jared: When I came to check out Gyppo the first time and meet Julie and Josh, the first thing that struck me was how well designed and built the brewery is. It was also so new! The brewery I came from was a very very different style operation and was beautiful in its own right, but Gyppo is a perfect 10-barrel brewhouse. We have four 10-bbl fermenters, and one 10bbl Brite Tank. I have flexibility to brew anything between 5-10 bbls with our Mash/Lauter Tun and Kettle. Everything works the way it’s supposed to, and I can easily manage all the brewing and cellar work on my own. It was setup to grow into a 20-barrel system should the need arise with no hiccups. I feel fortunate get to use and maintain this beautiful brewhouse.
Recipe design, for me, comes form a few directions. Sometimes I will have a clever name that inspires an idea for a beer I would like to make. Sometimes I have a foggy memory of a fantastic beer I had once a lifetime ago and I try to chase that thread. Sometimes I am making a tried-and-true classic, like Pilsner, and all I want to do is hit the benchmark. In the end, balance and intent are the most important to me. I heard a fantastic interview with Fritz Maytag, the man responsible for Anchor Steam, on the Master Brewers Podcast where he said something along the lines of the importance of “putting something into your beer”. In other words, if there isn’t some form of passion, curiosity or excitement in the recipe, I tend to not brew it. Every brew day is exciting and I feel like a kid on Christmas morning when I see the fermenter ripping away. It’s the small things, the heart, the .02% of biscuit malt in the malt bill, the music you’re playing while brewing. It all adds up in the end and the customers can tell.
Our best selling beers tend toward the lighter side and we are fortunate to have a great water profile for these beers. Mexican Lager is probably our best seller, close second being our Beach Beer which is a gluten reduced session ale, dry hopped with Amarillo, El Dorado and Centennial hops. I’ve introduced a few new brews that have done very well, like Whistle Punk, our IPA which is up there in the running too. I am proud of our ability to have a pretty diverse offering here and feel lucky to be able to rotate as often as I feel. We have 12 handles. Mexican Lager, Pilsner, Beach Beer will always be on tap. The rest I can play with.
Julie: On the culinary side of things. Chef Bob is passionate about what he does. He is a from-scratch chef and loves working with locals farmers, ranchers and fishermen. We have brought back locally caught fish and chips to Shelter Cove. The other establishment that was open at the time no longer used local fish. Chef Bob created a delicious menu for us, with top items being the fish and chips and our ½ pound cooked-to-order burger. My daughter cannot get enough of it. He has nightly specials that feature what produce he wants to highlight. Right now, we are stoked to be having chanterelle mushrooms. This weekend’s special highlighted those and they were delicious! (Sorry folks. This was back in October…)
The taproom is a bustling place, but we are lucky to have Katie and Catherine. They roll with the punches when they have an overly energetic owner that likes to open the place up for fundraisers or the constant revolving door of events. Almost every week we host a Pints 4 Nonprofits where we partner with an organization. Usually the hours are 3-6PM, we’ll donate $2 per beer and then we leave tins out with the organization’s logo on it for guest to add bills to. Works out great. Gyppo is up to $4k this year but I have never tallied how much those tins bring in. Probably about $2k….
Being located on the airstrip has been very entertaining. Talking to pilots that have flown in from Oakland for dinner and then headed back home is great! Watching planes land and take off always gets people’s attention. And of course the 9th hole of the golf course. Just kind of good karma that it worked out that way. We have a golf tournament in the works for the near future but are still working out details.
Any future plans?
Julie: That is a great question. We have been doing some strategic planning meetings of late. We do have the room, just not the money, to install a canning line here at Gyppo. But distributing cans seems to be a very competitive market. Because of our location, it isn’t cost effective for us to do much distribution. Really the distribution we do now is more thought of as an expense that is budgeted into marketing. A way for us to get our name out there and maybe encourage folks to come and visit us. But we do have some preliminary plans to start doing some bottling of specialty brews. No dates have been set for when this will happen; we are just getting going on that project now.
What do you this of the craft beer scene in Humboldt County?
Julie: As far as the craft beer scene goes, we are excited to be a part of it. We have the Lost Coast Fresh Hop Fest is this weekend (back in October) and we got a few of the breweries to participate with us. The Mad River brewers actually came down and brewed with Jared. We have all tasted it and it is damn good. It will debut on Saturday. I love the spirit of Humboldt craft breweries. Six Rivers is an amazing inspiration in the way they have built their team and how passionate their employees are about beer and their brand. Redwood Curtain is another inspiration. Their beers are consistently delicious. It’s been a while since I have got to go to the taproom but I do drink on tap down here at the Lost French Men.
Julie: Gyppo is a name that my late father in law, David Monschke, threw into the hat when we were brainstorming this new project. Josh’s family was Gyppo logger in that they used to run small family owned timber mills in this area. Gyppo was spoken of with pride as someone that worked hard, pulled themselves up by their own boot string but also wasn’t afraid to break the rules. It seems to fit well with the spirit of Humboldt. Josh wrote this about us and I still think it says it all:
“Our family came to Southern Humboldt when the Great Douglas-Fir Forests of Washington and Oregon, where they logged, had been cut to a fraction of their former glory. What they found in Southern Humboldt was rugged country with minimal access, torrential winter storms and long parched summers. Here was a land of incredible beauty and bounty that had been skipped over in the development of the rest of the Pacific Northwest. With virgin stands of Doug-Fir still intact, there was still room for a small GYPPO logging outfit to make a go of it.
Things changed, the roads were cut, trees were felled and hauled and the floods came. The houses washed away and with them some of the greatest salmon runs on earth. And with all of this a new era of GYPPO’s arrived, not the hard loggers busting down the forest but hippies moving north to get back to the land, growing marijuana on small plots and trying to stay out of the eye of The Man.
Some things change and some don’t. Nowadays, you’re more likely to see someone barefoot in town rather than walking around in a pair of corked boots. Once again, fortunes are being made in the hills of Southern Humboldt, not from timber, but from the largest cash crop in California. What hasn’t changed is the independence of the people living here. Whether they’re pushing a logging road through a creek or trying to restore it for the salmon or just making a buck on one’s own terms, all are striving to live free of the constraints of a modern world.
What GYPPO ALE MILL wants to do is celebrate all the groups that make this place so dynamic, bringing the back-to-landers and loggers together over a great beer brewed in the hills of Southern Humboldt that we all love. Whether we tell the story of our grandfathers running timber or our fathers running from the feds through the timber, collectively let’s raise an independently brewed beer to a freewheeling life!”