After being away from the Shasta County area for 10 years, Cottonwood native, Jeff Hansen, has come back home to start a brewing company with his wife Jenny, in Redding called Wildcard Brewing.
Having graduated from West Valley High School in 2001 and spending two years at Shasta College, Jeff Hansen, 29, wondered down to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to finish his degree in recreation, he said. It was there that he met his wife, Jenny Hansen, 28, an agricultural business major.
So how did these two end up owning a brewing company? Well, it all started when they began brewing beer at Central Coast Brewing in San Luis Obispo to give as wedding favors to their guests at their wedding, they said. They really enjoyed the experience and were really excited when they received a home brewing kit as a gift from their wedding.
The two have always been beer lovers and Jenny Hansen even made a business plan proposal idea for her senior project for an organic brewing company in Tahoe, she said.
“We both went and got real jobs after we graduated. One day I decided I didn’t really want to do it anymore,” Jeff Hansen said. “I put my notice in and then came home and told Jenny I put it in. That’s kind of where the name ‘Wildcard’ came from.”
Jeff Hansen then found out he had been accepted to a brewing school in England, “Brew Land” at the University of Sunderland, he said. Packing up their things they left on an adventure not knowing what to expect for their futures.
Upon graduation the Hansen’s moved to Ellensburg Wash. where Jeff Hansen began working as the main brew master at the Iron Horse Brewery, they said. However, even then the couple knew that they wanted to start up their own business.
“We were slowly getting ready,” Jenny Hansen said. “It took about three years planning.”
The two decided on Redding as their location partly because of Jeff Hansen’s familiarity with the location.
“Being from Cottonwood I always wanted to move back here,” Jeff Hansen said. “Also, once we saw that Redding was one of the biggest cities in Northern California with out a brewery, we thought it was perfect.”
The two agreed that there were many obstacles along the way however, they stuck to what they envisioned and didn’t let negativity deter them.
“People told us they weren’t sure if Redding would drink craft beer,” Jeff Hansen said. “Redding wants to support local beer but they just didn’t have anything local to support. Now they do.”
Wildcard’s beer is featured in both Mary’s Pizza Shack locations along with the following Redding locations; Maxwell’s, View 202 and The Alehouse.
Mary’s Pizza Shack in Anderson just put in Wildcard’s Suicide Jack cream ale on November 27, Owner Charles Byerly said.
“We are really pushing towards using local products,” Byerly said. “You can’t get more local than that.”
Byerly discovered the brewing company after getting a phone call from friends saying he had to come down and try a brew for himself in their tasting room, he said.
“As soon as I had it I fell in love with the Suicide Jack,” Byerly said. “It was a breath of fresh air. I told them I would definitely make room for them in my restaurant.”
The Hansen’s try to make their beers different from others by adding their own “twists,” Jeff said. They also use organic hops and ingredients deriving from local farms.
“There are so many great craft beers that someone can select on a shelf right now,” Jeff Hansen said. “But we can provide a story and make a community connection. We are the face of the brand and represent it.”
The Hansen’s plan to stay local and have no intentions of ever selling over 500 miles outside of Shasta County, they said.
“We are hoping to have penetrated the surrounding counties with in a year,” Jeff Hansen said. “We have had so much demand from other cities but we are going to start with Redding first. If Redding wants the beer we are going to start local and spread from there.”
For right now Wildcard beer will only be offered at the companies tasting room and the participating restaurants. The couple hopes to begin bottling in spring, however their main focus is the distribution of their draft beer to local bars and restaurants, they said. “You always know its fresh that’s the beauty of draft beer,” Jeff Hansen said.
Once a week Jeff travels down to Santa Cruz to fill up kegs from a production system they rent from down there. Since they are feeling out how their company is going to do they are waiting to put in their own production on location.
“This way we are able to piece together a brewery one step at a time,” Jenny Hansen said. “Customers are going to be apart of this from the very beginning…They are going to be witnessing a huge expansion progress.”
As of right now the brewery features a cream ale called Suicide Jack, a red ale called Double Down, an IPA called Liars Dice and a porter called Shot in the Dark. All of the beer names tie in with the name of their brewing company, they said.
“To us a ‘Wildcard’ is that person that is crazy and out there and adventurous and not afraid of anything,” Jenny Hansen said. “That is how Jeff and I saw ourselves when we took off on this adventure.”