WATSONVILLE—Watsonville Presbyterian minister Robby Olson came to Watsonville with his wife a decade ago and has since built his life and career out of building a coterie of friends and cultivating the community he has grown to love.
He also has an affinity for brewing his own beer, and has over the years honed his craft to one of quality and consistency.
Now, he is combining the two with the creation of Watsonville Public House, a brewpub in downtown Watsonville that he hopes to open in early 2023.
“A brewery is really the confluence of two passions of mine,” he said. “It really has become a way to build community, to bring different groups together, and I love the idea of doing that on a larger scale.”
His penchant for bringing friends together over mugs of his craft beer—combined with deep conversations that flowed from them—resulted in what one friend dubbed the “Beer Church.” That name for a while became the unofficial name for his brew.
And it was that sense of community-building, he says, that formed the backbone of his plans for the place, which include events such as speakers book groups and storytelling nights.
“One of my favorite parts of pastoring is helping people to tell their story well,” Olson said. “There is something that is deeply meaningful and really special about being able to both tell and receive those stories.”
To prepare for opening day, Olson says he has tapped local knowledge by learning from Watsonville mainstays Fruition Brewing, Slough Brewing Collective and Santa Cruz Cider Co., as well as with a friend who has a brewery in Seattle.
The 6,748-square-foot building at 625 Main St. formerly held Stevie G’s Meats, a fact evidenced by the large smoker room that still occupies a corner of the place. It also held an audio equipment manufacturing company.
“The idea of being a part of a longer history of Watsonville is really cool,” Olson said.
Once completed, the business will include a taproom, an indoor gathering space and a small Biergarten in the back. It will also offer indoor bike storage, a nod to Olson’s passion for two-wheeled commuting.
Olson plans to partner with the Tamal Factory across the street, and with local food trucks and pop-up food vendors. He also plans on serving small-bite snacks such as paninis and grilled cheese sandwiches from a small kitchen.
The menu—still in its early stages—is a way to engage with and support local businesses, Olson says.
Olson added that he created the brewery to be a nonprofit organization, run by a seven-member board. A percentage of each day’s taproom sales, he says, will be donated to a rotating group of local nonprofits.
“We wanted a way to keep the money from our investments in town,” he said. “What makes a nonprofit is what you do with the profits at the end of the day.”