Silicon Valley Business Journal on new Santa Cruz distillery

February 13, 2014

Lauren Hepler of the Silicon Valley Business Journal takes a look this week at some new wineries and distilleries in the Silicon Valley, including one that will be starting up right here in Santa Cruz.

The increasingly diverse alcohol market reflects both a strong economy and a broader consumer trend toward local or artisanal goods. But Silicon Valley companies in each of the market subsectors — wine, beer and spirits — are experiencing distinctly different growing pains.

Vintners must find niche distribution channels after a huge uptick in the number of worldwide wineries led to increased competition and merger and acquisition activity. Craft beer already has a cult following, but good microbrews are also now in demand at higher-end brew houses, restaurants and retailers.

Sean Venus, a Santa Cruz resident and 15-year veteran of the food and beverage industry, is hoping to get ahead of a new alcohol trend in Silicon Valley: Craft distilling.

While most of Silicon Valley was buzzing about the advent of the Internet in the late 1990s, Venus was honing his beer chops as a production manager at the Gordon Biersch brewery. He has since pivoted; Venus has spent the last year — and about half a million dollars — building a 3,800 square-foot Santa Cruz distillery and tasting room.

Venus plans to augment revenue from on-site tastings of three house spirit brands — Wayward Whiskey, Venus Gin and El Ladrón blue agave spirits (an American version of Tequila) — with retail, restaurant and bar contracts.

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