Radiant Beer Co | A New Brewery Heating Things Up
It takes more than just a belief in concept to open a brewery during a pandemic. The forces behind Radiant Beer Co. are neither new to beer nor how to connect to their core audience.
The guiding energies behind Radiant developed a friendship and respect while all working at The Bruery. They all bring their own unique strengths to the company and that was clearly evident on day one.
Even before they opened their doors, they had created a buzz. Through Instagram, they teased and taunted with photos of light bulbs, walls and a vacant brewery. From the first post on October 28, 2020, to their first beer release in early January 2021, the anticipation grew and fans were rewarded with outstanding beer. A few of their first beers that hit the market included a Witbier, Hazy and West Coast IPAs.
Jonas Nemura, Andrew Bell and Cambria Griffith are all respected veterans, albeit young ones, in the brewing industry. They were kind enough during their brewery launch to take the time to answer a few questions about how Radiant became, and where they are headed.
Was it difficult to decide to start the brewery during these uncertain times?
Jonas: Yes, 100%. And it’s still something I question the intelligence of on a frequent basis. There are so many elements of increased complexity and risk associated with opening a business during a pandemic, both in a commercial and a personal sense. But the opportunity presented itself, the right team was available, and it seems that opening a business is a bit like having children; there’s never actually a “right time,” you just learn and adjust as it’s going, accept all the help you can, try your best and hope you don’t screw it up.
COVID presents its own challenges to businesses, but as we (hopefully soon) put restrictions in the past, what do you think Radiant’s challenges are going to be?
Jonas: Finding the right business model for us. We have our business plans and expectations, but of course, they’re already changing based on information coming in. There are so many breweries today, including a bunch of world-class ones right down the street, that everyone needs to work to find their niche(s). We’re ultimately hoping to dial that in on the beer side and then work to diversify into some other fun projects like a kitchen, wine production and hopefully spirits one day. This brings us to other challenges of putting too much on our plates. But our team is amazing and I’m looking forward to seeing all that we can accomplish.
Cambria: The whole industry is jam-packed with incredible beer, and as the entire industry has grown, there are talented competitors out there garnering greater budgets to continue to sharpen their business and brand. I never stop thinking about how we can be stronger, no matter the resources. At the same time, this whole industry is not just about us. We have longtime friends and family that make up these “competitors,” and so it is truly about forming our unique identity that sets us apart, not just steamrolling over others. Lots of the brand tenets brewers rely on have become so similar, and include buzzwords that have become repetitive, but how we articulate our story, how we introduce ourselves, how we communicate what’s different about us, are constant challenges that require real humans and hard thought that does not let up. That’s part of the joy and challenge of building a new beer brand, and the answers to those questions come from all over the place, so it’s never boring, nor predictable.
Was there an attraction to staying in Orange County? Or was it more “right place, right time?”
Jonas: As alluded above there was certainly an element of “right place, right time” in terms of the space being available, but everyone involved has roots in OC/SoCal and we had been looking to make something work in OC for a bit. There’s an amazing beer scene here that’s only growing and improving.
The website talks about the ownership being made up of craft beer lovers and industry veterans. Other than the face of the brewery, can you elaborate on the ownership team?
Jonas: We’re fortunate to have a group of enthusiastic investors who, like the primary operating partners, have a long history of working together in an industry serving a passionate fan base (gaming). A desire for all of us is to use our experiences to build a culture, brand and ultimately experience focused around togetherness and community.
How would you describe Radiant’s approach to beer and styles?
Andrew: I think the most straightforward answer would be that we are shooting for brightness with all of our beers — specifically a brightness of flavors. The beers are also designed with balance and drinkability in mind. Stylistically, I’d say we are brewing, and plan to continue brewing, almost hedonistically — in that we are selecting styles, and approaches within those styles, that we enjoy drinking. Now that we are open for on-premise, our fans can expect to see some slightly more esoteric and whimsical small-batch releases coming out as well.
Cambria: The great thing about starting from a blank canvas is that we all brought our own experience to the table to inform our company’s ethos. The brand itself is an amalgamation of our backgrounds, and so Andrew’s brewing expertise and approach are genuine to the brand name of “Radiant,” rather than him being forced to follow a brand system that is disingenuous to, or underutilizing, his creativity. Andrew is a rare brewer in that he is a swiss army knife when it comes to reverse engineering a way-far-out-there beer concept, but can also flat-out nail a simple style that has no room for error. With this brand, we explore the freedom to pursue beers we want to drink. We’ve all been, at one point, extremely geeky in our beer enjoyment, and enjoyed the simple “pool beer.” Our lineup embraces that. We’ll include beers as simple as an American Lager, or absurdly complex and cerebral. Seeing Andrew run with this freedom unlocked is an amazing evolution to witness. He has made bright, crushable beers of a quality that a beer expert can respect, but also that a local fan new to enjoying craft beer will note as exceptional. Our beer releases have been alive with flavor expertly and intentionally derived from four simple ingredients. As we introduce more beers using special ingredients, Andrew’s expertise will only shine brighter.
Is there a plan to start a barrel program (wild or spirit)?
Andrew: This answer is easy: There already is a barrel program. Two of our first eight batches went into whiskey barrels, and we have another batch going into Bourbon barrels this month. Anything mixed culture will come when we start making wine and have equipment that we can dedicate to wine and mixed culture products.
Is there anything you would like to discuss what we can expect to see from the brewery in the coming months?
Cambria: Absolutely. On the checklist, we have several initiatives. One is what I am calling our “iterative” opening. As of now, our expanded patio is open for limited hours, but we have an interior and all the usual production site bells and whistles we have yet to unleash — a private event space, brewery tours, retail programs, etc. We have a space that will become an onsite kitchen, so we can get creative on food to enjoy with your beer. Letting Andrew run free with pairing and food recipe ideas will be a wonderful thread to continue through our operation. Our tasting room interior has several art installations in progress that I have designed. Each plays with light in a different way and is intended to give our visitors a piece of one-of-a-kind beauty as they enjoy the tasting room experience. For our exterior, custom seating designs that will allow for additional seats while maintaining social distancing are being built as we speak. We have one mural completed by Long Beach artist Jack Kelly, and more to come on for our expansive exterior blank spaces. Anaheim artists Sarah Lyons and Josh Grelock, who are based just steps from our location, are kicking off our largest collaborative mural project which will last well into 2022 and support local artists. There is a whole web of creatives that will be weaving together our brand identity, and they will be showcased across our tasting room, our packaging, our marketing content and our onsite experiences. We are not going to let up with fresh can releases coming out. As we get more of our equipment recommissioned, we’ll only improve that cadence, and open the door for a subscription model I am working on. As the pandemic shifts and possibly allows us to open more parts of our operation to the public, there is a long list of engaging activities we are eager to introduce. Offering a tasting room experience that is a place of joy, and even solace is the goal. The more we can grow the business, the more we can invest in this vision and more advanced projects across the board — whether it’s our spirits, wine, mixed-culture, educational events — I’m taking stuff that gets a little out there, but that delights us, helps us grow and invites our fans into a shared experience with us. I am a huge fan of learning and culture, and when our brand can provide delight and enlightenment, we have marked success.
Jeez, that was a lot more than in the coming months! But as you can see, we have a lot to look forward to (and to accomplish!).
It’s evident from the responses, that Radiant Beer Co. is a well-thought-out business with a solid core of leaders. They hit the ground on point. By the reactions, they are doing it right. There is no doubt these three individuals will continue to positively impact the beer culture in both their local market and industry-wide.
All photos courtesy of Radiant Beer Co.