Like to Try Some Home Style Beer with Class and Kick? Then This Rixford's for You
Rixford says that his gourmet suds are made in the first and only U.S. commercial home brewery, a claim to history he didn't set out to achieve. Never a beer connoisseur, he worked 10 years as an environmental planner with a worldwide construction firm, the Bechtel corporation, and spent two more with the California Public Utilities Commission. "I was ready to shift gears," he says, and since he had studied fermentation as a botanist, beer seemed a natural. His wife and three children took part in the decision. "We made it clear that everyone had to help out." After a $30,000 start-up investment and nine months of tussles with the zoning board, health department and licensing agencies, Rixford was finally allowed to set up shop.
Limited by law to producing no more than 1,000 gallons per month, Rixford employs sons Allan, 19, and Steven, 20, to mash grains in 1452-gallon tanks. Daughter Christie, 22, designed the bottle labels (which show the view of San Francisco from their living room), and wife Diana, 44, handles sales and promotion. The brews sell for a pricey $1 or more per bottle but have a deeper, richer flavor and slightly higher alcohol content than brand name beers. "Three of these on a hot day will knock you out completely," warns Rixford, adding that the operation, if not the taste, is "Prohibition-style." But that's a boast, not an apology. "This," Rixford says proudly, "is the ultimate in low-tech."