By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – Starting a small business is never easy, especially when you already have a full-time job. But that hasn’t stopped Jeff Wimp from following his dream of being among a handful of brewers trying to fill Visalia’s microbrewery district with beers made right here in Tulare County.
That doesn’t mean it’s been an easy process. Wimp, principal at El Capitan Middle School in Fresno, has been home brewing beer as long as he can remember but didn’t attempt to start a commercial brewing operation, Moose Dog Brewing, until 2013.
“We have a great dane named Duke who ran through the house one time and my wife said ‘that’s a moose of a dog,’” Wimp recalled. “So we called it Moose Dog Brewing and made the logo a dog with antlers.”
It took several months to obtain his ABC license to brew commercially, a somewhat arduous process that paled in comparison to finding a permanent home for his operation. He thought he had found a home in a metal building at 9626 W. Nicholas Ave. in Visalia only to find it was not properly zoned. Wimp moved his operation to another location that changed ownership shortly after he moved in. Now, after a zoning change and the City of Visalia’s shift toward attracting new brewers for its special overlay district in eastern downtown, Moose Dog Brewing may finally return to its original home on Nicholas Avenue and begin brewing beers for retail sales.
Jason Huckleberry, assistant community development director for the City of Visalia, said the location went through site plan review on Dec. 27. He said the brewery will be a 120-square foot area where beer will be made but not sold on site. Because the building is already zoned for industrial use, Huckleberry said the project received a “revise and proceed” from the city, which will move forward in the permitting process and will not require approval by the Planning Commission or City Council.
“It’s been a long process but the Site Plan Review process has been really helpful,” he said.
Wimp said Moose Dog Brewing will focus on American and English ales with styles including brown ales, porters, pale ales, IPAs, and stouts and won’t be spending much time on sours or Belgian style ales. His operation will be able to brew about 16 barrels at a time and store about 16 barrels of beer.
“I’d rather focus on making great tasting beers than on some of the fads we’re seeing right now,” he said.
He plans to begin bottling and selling his beer sometime this year at both retailers, such as convenience stores and supermarkets, as well as restaurants. His ultimate goal is to open a tap room in the micro brewery district in downtown Visalia once his beer has a following locally. The Visalia Planning Commission approved a “Micro-Brewery, Micro-Winery Overlay District” on July 11, 2016 which allows taprooms and tasting rooms in the district to operate without serving food. The special zoning district encompasses approximately 220 acres surrounding Main Street from Murray Avenue to the north, Ben Maddox Way to the east, Mineral King to the south, and Santa Fe Street to the west.
“I really like the idea of the district and I think it’s great for all of the brewers here in Tulare County,” Wimp said. “I think it will create a destination for people who live here and those that are visiting.”
Moose Dog Brewing was part of another busy month of development for the City of Visalia in December. Other notable projects processing through Site Plan Review were:
- Local ag tech company Valley Ag Software (VAS) will be moving to a new 31,000 SF office space in the Square at Plaza Drive development, in our Business Research Park. VAS will be a much-welcomed addition to our Business Research Park zone as we have hoped to attract and grow tech companies just like VAS in this area found off of Plaza Drive and 198.
- Breck’s Electric Motors will be occupying a new 8,850 SF building in the American Industrial Park at American St. and Grove Ct. There has been considerable activity in this portion of Visalia’s Industrial Park area.
- Ripped by Rivas Training Center will be a new use at the existing space at 1936 N. Dinuba Blvd. near the Northside Shopping Center.