Tilted Mash: Small Brewery with Big Plans
It’s the little brewery with the big plans. Tilted Mash is among the newer of the Sacramento region’s breweries and maybe the smallest. The Elk Grove tasting room is no more than about 900 square feet. That’s barely room enough for a 3-barrel brewing system, a small walk-in cooler, a bar and a handful of tables. That lack of room has not gone unnoticed by the two men behind the brew.
“We’re pretty much tapped out on our tanks right now. We can’t really grow from here on,” says co-owner Jonathan Martinez.
“The capacity is not with how much we can brew, but how much we can store when we’re brewing,” adds co-owner Derrick Prasad. “We just need space.”
So less than a year after opening at their current location, Martinez and Prasad are getting ready to make a big move to a new location. Actually, move itself is small. It’s just around the corner from where they are now. But it’s the new location that’s big; huge in fact. More than 7,000 square feet. And for the Tilted Mash duo, they are literally building off the success they’ve already had.
“Everything we’re doing with our move is all financed through the taproom. It’s financed with us; we’re not putting any additional money in it. Everything we’re doing is either our labor or friends and family or ‘will work for beer,’” says Prasad with a laugh.
Martinez says the new facility was a former motorcycle showroom and that’s about how it looks for now. He says the huge space will be divided into four areas: the main tasting room, a secondary seating area and barrel room, the brewing location and a room just for the kids.
“We’re trying to make an experience. We’re trying to make our brewery a destination,” says Martinez.
“We want to make it a comfortable, neighborhood environment where people can just come hang out have a pint or two,” Prasad says.
The new space will also address the biggest issue for Tilted Mash, its overall lack of storage space. And it will also allow Prasad and Martinez to set up a canning line with the hope of being in regional stores soon.
“We’re not trying to push every beer,” says Prasad.
Martinez adds, “Overall goal is to bring people in, ‘Oh wow this is great, I wonder what else they have at the brewery?’”
The pair hopes to open the new brewery by their first anniversary in April.
It all Started in Preschool
This history of Tilted Mash goes back to preschool. No, Martinez and Prasad were not plotting to open a brewery between snack and nap time. Instead, they met while chaperoning a field trip for their daughters more than a decade ago.
“Derrick was just dabbling in the craft beer stuff, brewing at home and I was very interested so I wanted to just go and check it out,” Martinez says.
“And stand there and drink beer while I was brewing,” laughs Prasad.
They quickly became brewing buddies, using an old homemade 3-tier brewing system. In fact, Prasad says they used it so much, their mash tun started to tilt (hence the name: Tilted Mash). “Toward the end, one of us had an old grandma style heating pad with flowers and would have to hold it during the entire hour-long mash because we couldn’t wedge it to keep it stable enough with the liquid in there.”
Eventually, their beer-drinking beer-making hobby became serious business.
“We started researching early on what it takes to actually make it a business. So we’ve taken business classes, we went to Siebel in Chicago just to learn about the business side of brewing,” says Prasad. “Learned all that information and then promptly broke every one of those rules by moving into the spot we’re in right now, which is why we’re getting ready to move to a larger location.”
Things really took off when they came across an online ad from a brewery in Paso Robles which was selling a 3-barrel electric brewing system.
“The tanks looked brand new, looked like he maybe brewed on it once or twice,” says Martinez. “It was still spanking brand new!”
And Prasad says just like that they were brewery equipment owners. “Once we had it sitting in storage, it was like, ‘OK, it’s real now. We own a brew system. Let’s figure out how to do this.’”
Who Needs Sleep When you Have Beer?
It was the winter of 2012 when the Titled Mash duo bought their brewery system. It wouldn’t be until the spring of 2016 that Tilted Mash opened its doors. Why did it take so long?
For starters, Martinez and Prasad are doing it on their own. They didn’t take out loans or take on investors.
“We wanted to make sure we would be able to do whatever we wanted without worry about paying the bills,” Prasad laments. “We buy tanks and we buy stuff as we can afford it based on taproom sales. It’s a self-sustaining entity now.”
They both also have full-time jobs, Prasad owns a printing company, Martinez sells real estate. They also have families. So when you’re juggling that much, something has to give.
“Our brew days start like 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning and probably finish around 3ish,” Martinez says.
“You don’t sleep. We both have small kids too. We’re both involved parents, so one sacrifice is sleep,” Prasad adds. “We don’t miss events with our kids, we miss sleep.”
Barrels of Fun… and Beer
At Tilted Mash you aren’t going to find some off-the-wall craft beer. That’s not their style. What you will find is solidly crafted beers meant for everyone to enjoy.
“We want it to be comfortable. We want you to come in and not have to be a craft beer junky to sit and enjoy our beers,” says Prasad.
The taproom features 8 different beers at a time including cream ales, IPAs, lager and a red. That’s not to say they don’t experiment. In fact, Titled Mash is already gaining a reputation for its barrel-aged beers, specifically rum barrels from Saint Croix. They also use Wild Turkey barrels and in fact, the pair is about to embark on an experiment using both.
“We have a 12% Belgium dark strong, brewed in conjunction with a home-brew winner,” Prasad explains. “We’re going to release a non-barrel-aged version, but then put 1/3 in rum barrels and 1/3 in Wild Turkey barrels. And sometime next fall see what it turned into. Really differentiate what barrels do.”
Even though their previous barrel-age beers have sold out quickly, the pair admits it’s not exactly the most fiscally responsible brewing model.
“It’s something that when it’s done it’s very fulfilling, but financially it makes the business finance side of me cry,” Prasad says. “Of course, (we have) no investors so we can do what we like.”
And so far, doing what they like is paying off for the little brewery with big plans.