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Wolf Creek readies for expansion

Brewery, restaurant looks forward to operations in new 6,000-square-foot Mann Biomedical Park spot

Posted: June 17, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: June 17, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Partners Darren Utley, left, and Rob McFerren pose in the future site of Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Co.’s new brewery in the Mann Biomedical Park in Valencia on Thursday.

Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Company’s success with its boutique line of specially crafted, brewed beers has resulted in a big expansion of its operations into a 6,000-square-foot building in the Mann Biomedical Park in Valencia, according to the business owners.

The Santa Clarita restaurant, which celebrated its 15-year anniversary in April, will shift all of its brewing to the new facility when it opens in September.

Currently, the brewing takes place at its local restaurant, but the owners are restricted to only 900 square feet of space.

“We’ll be moving into 5,000 square feet of space with a 1,000-square-foot drive-in cooler adjacent to it,” said Darren Utley, a partner in the Wolf Creek company, along with Rob and Laina McFerren, who first opened the local restaurant in 1997.

Wolf Creek, which opened a second restaurant in Calabasas in November 2010, has also begun selling its specially crafted brews to a local restaurant and wine retailers.

The new brewery will allow Wolf Creek to keep up with customer demand at its restaurants and as a supplier to its customers, Utley said.

“Our volumes continue to increase. For years we’ve been getting a number of requests to actually serve our beer at other locations,” he said. “But the worst thing you can do is over-promise and under-deliver.”

Brewed beginnings
Years ago, the McFerrens bought a home brewing kit, which inspired them to launch their own brew pub and restaurant, Utley said. The couple met in the restaurant business.

Armed with aerospace engineering degrees, Rob McFerren changed course and attended the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, which is the oldest brewing institute in the United States.

The couple noted that many pub owners were passionate about brewing, but not about the food, he said. The two decided that both the brews and the food would be good at Wolf Creek.

“With family and friends, they put together a limited partnership and put every dime they had into opening Wolf Creek,” Utley said.

In 2008, Utley joined the pair as a partner, after he’d been going there for years as a customer. Utley thought he could help the restaurant grow, based on his multiunit restaurant experience as an owner/operator of nine Baja Fresh restaurants and a number of Domino’s Pizza outlets.

“We basically joined forces,” Utley said.

Moving the brewery out of the Valencia restaurant will also allow the restaurant to expand seating and increase its brewing capacity.

New brewery
“In the new facility, we can brew every day,” Utley said. “Right now, we can’t make enough beer.”

Wolf Creek currently makes 700 barrels of handcrafted beer per year. At the new brewery, the restaurant will be able to make 7,000 barrels per year and enhance its ability to serve as a wholesaler, as well.

“The brews have to sit in fermentation tanks for four to six weeks,” Utley said. “When the fermentation tanks are full, we can’t brew anymore. Now, we’ll have plenty of space to make, store and sell the brews.”

Wolf Creek has several types of beer, but because of limited storage, it can only produce six or seven beers at one time, he said. The company expects to have 12 to 15 of its specialty brews available at any given time once it expands.

“My all-time favorite brew won a gold medal. It’s classic California brown ale,” Utley said. “But, we haven’t had the space to make it for the past two years.”

The expansion is exciting, but scary, too, he said. The partners are busy studying the model of being a supplier so they ensure they have enough beer to fill orders as they come in.

Wolf Creek recently began supplying its beers to Salt Creek Grille, said owner Greg Amsler. And Utley said Wolf Creek is also supplying a couple of  wine bars.

“We just introduced our beer in a few places,” Utley said. “But, we’re not used to being a seller and dealing with the whole delivery and customer-service aspect. We’re not taking on any more customers until we’re ready.”


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