Saint Archer nods to surf culture with photos and film at its Leucadia tasting room

Saint Archer nods to surf culture with photos and film at its Leucadia tasting room
Veteran surfboard shaper John Carper poses at the surfboard workshop located at the former Waialua Sugar Mill in Oahu, Hawaii. This photo is part of an exhibit on display through March at the Saint Archer tasting room in Leucadia. Photo by Jeff Johnson

ENCINITAS — As a way of honoring the surf and skateboard culture at the root of its brand, Saint Archer Brewing Co. debuted its latest short film, “Craftsman’s Paradise,” at its Leucadia tasting room on Feb. 28.

The film chronicles the transition of the former Waialua Sugar Mill in Oahu, Hawaii, into a workshop producing some of the best surfboards in the world, according to Adam Warren, Saint Archer’s director of marketing.

“Craftsman’s Paradise” is the third short film produced by Saint Archer in an ongoing series intended to “shine light on people doing interesting things,” Warren said.

After Saint Archer launched in San Diego in 2013, MillerCoors acquired the craft-beer company in 2015 but allowed it to maintain its brewing autonomy. The second tasting room, at 978 N. Coast Hwy 101 in Encinitas, opened its doors in May 2018.

When asked why Saint Archer chose the Leucadia neighborhood, Warren explained, “Leucadia reflects exactly what our brand is about: California coastal, a little funky, and with a rich surf and skate history.”

On display for the “Craftsman’s Paradise” debut were photographs by Jeff Johnson, a photographer, writer and Saint Archer brand ambassador. Johnson took still shots of the Waialua workshop during the film shoot.

“I was just trying to get a clear and intimate glimpse into an era, a culture, a place that will soon be gone,” Johnson stated of his work, which will be on display at the tasting room through March.

The photos capture the surf workshop’s creators, clad in bright colors and covered in dust and paint, against the decrepit background of the now defunct sugar mill on the North Shore of Oahu.

These surfboard craftsmen, including John Carper, Eric Arakawa and Jon Pyzel, forge their brands in what’s essentially an underground co-op where custom boards have been made for the famous likes of John John Florence, Kelly Slater, Andy Irons and many more.

Johnson wrote of the workshop via email, “These are some of the unsung heroes of the surfing industry — glassers, sanders, fin makers, shapers. Thankless work, but without them, surfing wouldn’t exist. Plus, I’ve looked up to a lot of these guys over the years. Some of them are my personal heroes.”

The 1,200-square-foot Saint Archer tasting room in Leucadia occupies the former site of Roy’s Market, a general store in the 1930s where you could buy food and beer as well as train tickets, Warren said. With high ceilings, white walls and wood accents, the space feels simultaneously roomy and cozy.

Asked how the brewing company got its name Saint Archer, Warren laughed. “One of the founders wanted to name his child Saint Archer, but his wife said no. So he named the company that instead.”

Saint Archer produces about 40,000 barrels of beer annually and distributes its beers to seven states. Its offerings include Mosaic IPA, Blonde Ale, Citra Session IPA, Coco Stout and the newly released Mexican Lager.  

Noting that he’ll only support companies he believes in, Johnson shared that it was “paramount” to him that the beer be exceptional if he was going to represent Saint Archer as an ambassador. And to him it was, particularly the IPAs.

“When the brand changed ownership,” Johnson stated, “the beer was my first concern. And the quality of the brewing hasn’t changed; there are just more flavors to choose from. The new ownership understood the uniqueness of this brand, so they didn’t mess with it, just supported it. They understood the culture behind it all.”

The original Saint Archer founders and investors, many of whom are no longer with the company, mainly consisted of pro skateboarders and surfers and an action-sports filmmaker.

Warren and Johnson say the new guard represents those same industries and cultures — as Saint Archer continues to craft its brews and root its brand in action sports.

The Leucadia tasting room is open daily from noon to 9 p.m.

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