The Birth of Black Plague, The First Skater-Owned/Skater-Built Brewery

There's a new craft beer in town, maybe you've heard of it, Black Plague. It's owned by a bevy of familiar names (Tony Hawk, Nyjah Huston, Ishod Wair, Brian Schaefer, Matt Hensley, just to name a few) and its taproom in Oceanside, California is now open. So I set out to get some insight from the various investors as to what makes Black Plague a little more craftier than the rest. Join us, as we embark on a journey brewing the illest beer in history.—Blair Alley

Jordan Hoffart, 360 flip mid-build. Photo / @blair.alley

So, to start things off, you ought to know that the taproom was hand-built by co-founder Jordan Hoffart and investor Jared Lucas (pro skater and professional filmer/team manager respectively):

JORDAN HOFFART Interview
What made you want to start a beer company?
I love beer, and I’m getting older. I had friends/skaters in a similar position and we're all looking for something sustainable to transition into for the long-term that we enjoyed doing. Nothing will beat skateboarding, but beer is a close second.

How'd the name Black Plague come up?
Well the name Dark Ages was taken. We loved the Plague Doctor logo that my partner Jarred Doss created. It's creepy, but intriguing. It's really tough to find a name that isn’t trademarked already these days. Luckily Black Plague put us in the same time period and had a free reign for use.
What a lot of people don’t know is that there's a substantial brewing history surrounding the black plague. It pretty much boiled down to people having to put alcohol in their water to kill the bacteria that was responsible for spreading the plague. Because of this, pubs started popping up serving beer to keep people disease free. Which also became a place for people to gather to mourn their lost, loved ones. The whole concept happened to line up perfectly. The name gets people talking.

Did you set out to have it basically all skater-owned?
Not necessarily, but it happened to be our main demographic. I wanted it to be grass roots and the people involved to get really behind the brand; not just throw money at it. So far everyone involved has been repping it in a major way. Couldn’t be more grateful for the support. I couldn’t live with letting people down. Not my style.

I know the taproom was literally skater-built, mainly by you and Jared. What fabricating, crafting, etc. was done by you two and the other owners?
Almost everything aside from the process piping (steam and glycol plumbing). We built the cold box, tables, set tanks, landscaped, poured and troweled all the concrete slab work, bar top fabricating, painting, taproom design and underground plumbing (with help from Jared's brothers Adam and Phil), we also had our bud Rene Pecheco of Blunt Steel come and fab the medieval-esque steel panels in front of the bar and stand up bars. Our other two partners Terry Little and Jarred Doss had huge roles on the beer design/brand design/licensing/technology side of things as well. A great company takes a great core group. I feel like everyone involved nails it super hard on the daily. Unless you have endless duckets, it takes an incredible team to pull off the vision correctly.

How is Black Plague gonna stand out in the sea of craft beers?
It starts with amazing beer. And I believe our product is the best beer I've ever had. We have an incredible brewer, Terry Little who also owns a nano brewery in Vista called Bear Roots. The reviews speak for themselves. Look him up. He’s a legend. We also have great people driving the brand with a relentless passion for success. We have a substantial social media reach from our ambassadors. Most of us have been hustlers our whole lives, being involved with brands that started in the garage and grew to become successful, thriving companies.

Why is San Diego county the ideal place to have the brewery and tap room?
San Diego prides itself in craft beer. It's a global hub. The audience is educated and eager to try new places. If you cross your Ts and dot your Is you shouldn’t have anything to worry about coming to market. I know we did it right and didn’t try to rush or cut corners. People are loving the brand as a whole and it's just the beginning.

What do you see as the future of Black Plague?
I'm excited to see it grow and participate in all the rad events in the skateboard world and beyond. Our goal is to remind people that you are creating a memory over a pint, an experience that you take with you moving forward. With the way modern day society lives, it's common to get overwhelmed by obligations and responsibilities. We understand people don’t have a lot of time to relax, but when they do they want to have a great experience, and that's what we're dedicated to.

Plaguer Nyjah Huston.

JARED LUCAS Interview
What made you want to be part of Black Plague?
The craft beer world is very similar to the skateboard community in the sense of the anti-corporate vibe. That and I love beer. When I was approached about being a part of this start-up in late 2015, I saw an opportunity to unite my friends in a different market, which was very appealing and it’s all been made possible by skateboarding.

What's the importance of a skater-owned beer company with the explosion of craft beer out there?
With the marketing infrastructure that skateboarders have created organically, we essentially are our own business. In comparison to your average Joe, we (skateboarders) are definitely in a unique scenario in today’s day and age with the social media and professional grade video content. Luckily for me, I’ve been exposed to some of the most influential skateboarders and have been fortunate enough to develop strong enough relationships with them and I am grateful to have their trust in what we're doing at Black Plague.

I know the taproom was literally skater-built, mainly by you and Jordan. What fabricating, crafting, etc. was done by you two and the other owners?
You name it, we had our hands on it. From saw cutting the concrete, excavating and grading the trench for the underground utilities, to chopping up the carts that the brewing equipment was shipped in on and repurposing/welding them together for our tasting room tables. Literally we were a part of the entire process. We saved 30,000 dollars alone on assembling our own 1,500 square foot cold box. Taylor Bingaman, Paul Hart and Matt Berger even helped out.


How is Black Plague gonna stand out in the sea of craft beers?
With over 8 million collectively on our social network, mixed with a beautiful 13,000 square foot tasting room and production facility, we are confident we will bring people in those doors. You add three talented brewers to that list with numerous awards collectively (one of which is ranked #2 on the planet) and add a Karl Strauss distribution deal and you have a pretty solid start.

What makes San Diego county the ideal place to have the brewery and tap room?
San Diego battles with Portland for the largest craft beer scene and I love me some dry days for skateboarding so hands down, San Diego is ideal!

Sold out beer release one-off night back in May.

“Skateboarding’s way better than anything including craft beer, but a skater owned craft beer company is the shit!”—Brian Schaefer

“You know when you're sipping that tasty goodness, it’s made by a skateboarder and overall hard working person.”—Aaron Jaws Homoki

2550 Jason Court, Oceanside, California.

“We definitely have a bolder approach in the craft beer world. Having a crew of some the most reputable skaters in the world helps too.”—Matt Berger

“Skateboarders understand the importance of having fun and not taking things too seriously. I think beer is the perfect fit for that attitude.”—Jimmy Wilkins

Plaguer Taylor Bingaman.

“The beer speaks for itself. Try a pint and you’ll know.”—Dakota Servold

Black Plague’s Grand Opening is tomorrow, Saturday June 10. Get your ticket here.