VISTA — It was 2005 when Terry Little tried his first craft beer. Little, who was serving in the U.S. Navy at the time, was in Imperial Beach when he had a Stone pale ale.
“I remember it so vividly,” Little said. “This was just when Stone was picking up, so that was 10 years ago. They have come far.”
Little has come far, too. He and his wife, Page, are the owners of Bear Roots Brewing Company in Vista, which opened in December. It joins more than 100 craft breweries in San Diego County and is the 13th brewery in the city.
But the opening of the one-barrel brewhouse didn’t come without its challenges. The husband and wife team relied on 40 donors who contributed more than $25,000 on the crowdfunding website, Kickstarter, while family members supplied the rest of the monetary support.
“It was very stressful,” Little said. “I thought I knew what I had gotten myself into but I didn’t have a clue. We used loans, credit cards, and my in-laws gave us the financial backing we really needed.”
With about $100,000 to spend, the Littles created their one-barrel brewhouse on Santa Fe Avenue from the ground up. Nick Bowling, who is now the brewery’s manager, also helped.
“What’s neat about what we’ve accomplished is that we built everything you see in here,” Little said. “Everything but the concrete we created. It’s 100 percent ourselves.”
Little, who is the sole brewer of the company, serves up to 16 taps at any given time. He spends his nights brewing at least five different beers a week after working full-time as the director of operations for a manufacturing company in Sorrento Valley.
“I’m usually here from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. brewing beer,” Little said. “All the beers we have are very complex. I brew until all the fermenters are full.”
Little describes his beers as old-fashioned and distinct. He said brewing beer is like being a chef with the yeast being the most important part.
“We don’t brew traditional beers,” Little said. “I won’t put out a beer if it isn’t the highest quality.”
But Bear Roots Brewing isn’t just a tasting room. Little wants to share his passion and knowledge for brewing beer, too. To do that, he stocks his business with all the supplies one would need to brew beer at home. Customers can also call in their home brewing orders and have their ingredients ready for pickup, he said.
“Every brewer gets their start in homebrewing,” Little said. “I wanted to give people a chance to put together their recipe here and grab a pint too. This is the ultimate one-stop homebrewing shop. You don’t have to spend a lot of money making a beer you want.”
Little’s goal is to expand the homebrewing concept by having a brew-on-site facility where customers can brew beer together.
“It would be a great team-building exercise for companies or just something fun you can do with your friends,” Little said. “What better way to bond than to make beer in four hours.”
The ultimate vision for the brewery is to make a difference in the city the Littles call home. By doing that, Little makes an effort to get to know his customers and support local charities.
“We live a few minutes from here, we own a house here, we call it home — this is my community,” Little said. “This is my opportunity to give back and connect with the community while creating a future for my family. We want to put our mark in Vista.”
For more information about Bear Roots Brewery, visit brbrewco.com.