If the pair was searching for tangible proof that their hard work was paying off, it arrived earlier this week in the form of 150,000 16oz. cans, ready to be filled with one of Headlands’ three beers and waiting for its label to be slapped upon them. The leap reflects a steady spike in production from about 90 barrels total every four to six weeks up to about 220 barrels a month.
“To have the confidence of our board to make such a big next move – you have to pay for those cans up front,” Cutti says. “We’re really seeing some consistent growth, and that’s prompted this next big step. We’re feeling great about where we are.”
Headlands will showcase its beers at two upcoming local events: a Meet the Brewer event at the Sweetwater on June 16, and at Mill Valley Market Wine, Beer & Gourmet Food Tasting event on June 22 in the Depot Plaza.
The company’s early success is the product of hard work, but it’s also the result of the Bay Area brewing community from which it has spawned. Cutti and Horn are as steeped in the Bay Area home-brewing scene as any pair running an 11-month-old brewery could be, and they’re leaning on that tight-knit community as they catapult to new heights.
Take their fellow local brewers at Mill Valley Beerworks, who launched their 40-barrel Fort Point Beer Co. in the Presidio in January. Cutti has done some work for the four-year-old downtown Mill Valley outfit, and they collaborated on Ned, a Flanders Sour Red named after The Simpsons’ character. When it came time for Headlands to do some contract brewing – leasing space within another brewery to avoid the costs of running its own facility, a strategy often referred to as “gypsy brewing” – Beerworks owners Justin and Tyler Catalana were game, leasing Headlands space at Fort Point. Headlands is currently brewing its Hill 88 Double IPA and Groupe G Belgian RyePA at Fort Point and its Point Bonita Rustic Lager, a pilsner, at Sudwerk in Davis.
Justin Catalana says Cutti and the Beerworks team hit it off right away in terms of creative energy and a dedication to making great beer, so supporting Headlands’ fledgling brewery made perfect sense. When Cutti told Catalana this week that Headlands was nearing its one-year-anniversary, he was stunned.
“I honestly thought it had been a lot longer than that,” Catalana says. “They’ve really worked hard to make it happen.”
“We all just try to look out for each other,” Cutti says of the local brewing community. “People ask about competition among us, as in, ‘Aren’t you trying to try to take that person’s tap handle at a bar?’ – but a high tide raises all boats – so if we make each other make the best beer we can by teaching someone the best technique or by helping someone with equipment, it helps us all.”
Though their company is still in its infancy, Cutti and Horn are not entirely newbies. Horn is one of the co-founders of Pacific Brewing Laboratory and Cutti has been brewing at Southpaw BBQ in San Francisco in recent years. They connected at an event put on by the Sirwisa Brewing Collective, Cutti’s organization for home brewers who want to move to the commercial side. Sirwisa is the Peruvian word for beer – Cutti is of Peruvian descent.
Cutti started home brewing in 1995, and began thinking about it as a career in the early 2000s. But then the University of San Francisco grad became the director and exercise physiologist of the Human Performance Lab at Stanford, a great job that delayed the transition.
He later met Horn, who’d spent the better part of his career as a lobbyist in Washington, DC, primarily for the alternative energy business. They connected over their love of endurance sports, specifically long-distance open water swimming, a bond that seems to take a back seat only to brewing beer.
Through the open water swimming group Night Train Swimmers, Cutti met Matthew Davie, a Belvedere resident whose career in the tech sector has included stints at the Walt Disney Company and as CEO of Breaktime Studios. Davie now sits on Headlands’ board and handles the financial of the business.
“We’ve shown that we can make great beer at scale this quickly,” Davie adds. “For a company that’s on this trajectory, they’re doing exponentially more with less resources than other companies would be at this point. They’ve stayed true to themselves.”
Kim Sturdavant, brewmaster at Social Kitchen & Brewery in San Francisco’s Sunset District and an alum of Marin Brewing Company, says Cutti and Horn have a work ethic that matches their talent.
“They’ve been hustling since day one,” he says. “They’re just all over the place, handling every aspect of their business. I’m expecting their product to get better and better.”
Headlands’ three-year plan included adding a brick-and-mortar facility in the third year. They’ve pushed that leap into year two, hoping to ink a lease on a space, preferably in southern Marin, in the next 12 months.
“We’ve looked at some spots in the city, but with a name like Headlands, it behooves us to be in Marin,” Cutti says. “We always wanted to be a near the mountain and the bay. Marin speaks to us in that way.”
Cutti and Horn take their two-man operation to the distribution side of things as well, personally checking in with the beer buyers at places like Mill Valley Market, Whole Foods, BiRite, BevMo and Tony Tutto Pizza, all of which carry their beers.
At the June 22 Wine, Beer & Gourmet Food event, Headlands will be pouring a limited edition Hill 88 Double IPA aged in Four Roses Bourbon barrels especially to be sold at Mill Valley Market.
“You have to make bets on good people – Patrick and Phil are incredibly quality people, and they were put on this planet to make great beer,” Davie says. “It’s that simple.”
The 411: For more info on Headlands Brewing Company, check out their Facebook, Twitter, and website. And click here for more info and to buy tickets for the Mill Valley Market Wine, Beer & Gourmet Food Tasting event on June 22 in the Depot Plaza
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