Turlock-area dairy farmer looks to add microbrewery

Stanislaus County dairy farmer Tom Lucas is looking to turn his passion into a new profession.
Watch reports: Turlock dairy wants to add beer operations | Boutique beer city? It’s possible in Turlock
“We’ve been brewing home-brews for about four years now, so it’s a new adventure,” he said Thursday.
Lucas is using hops and wheat grown at Lucas Dairy, west of Turlock, to launch a new microbrewery in an old milk barn on the property that hasn’t been used since 1978.
“We consider this an up-cycle of the building, not really a recycle,” he said. “We’re going to turn this into a better project then we feel it ever was.”
If approved by the Stanislaus County Planning Commission on Thursday night, Lucas will use the more than 1,900-square-foot space to produce about 20 gallons of beer a week for commercial sale.
“The sense I got from them is they have an aggressive plan to market their beer, to ultimately have a taproom, to have a retail venue,” Planning Director Angela Freitas said.
The new operation would take place just yards away from where Lucas currently corrals his cattle.
“We have all sorts of varieties,” he said. “We make about 10 to 12 quite often. IPAs are kind of a standard that a lot of guys are making. We also have a vinyl lager that’s good, and (a) blonde ale and I make a really good vanilla bean milk stout.”
The beers, he said, would all show the brand “Blaker 40.”
The name pays homage to his grandfather, who purchased his first piece of property for Lucas Dairy decades ago on Blaker Road.
“That’s one of our best pieces of land right there,” Lucas said. “It really produces well, and the name is kind of catchy.”
Lucas already has planted a test plot of hops of about 30 plants on the farm.
“We’re just chipping away at it,” he said. “In two to three years, we’ll have an acre of hops here.”
He said the main focus is still going to be on milk, but he hopes to get his Alcohol Beverage Control license to start brewing beer in the next six months.
“It’s all about sustainability, and making ag work in different ways for us,” he said.
Turlock already has two beer producers; Sandude Brewing Company near the freeway on the south end of the city, and Dust Bowl Brewing Company, which is breaking ground on a new site next week just west of Highway 99.
Dust Bowl owner Brett Tate said he doesn’t view the addition of Blaker 40 Brewery near Turlock as competition, but he welcomes it because he believes it will attract young professionals and beer drinkers to the area.
“I absolutely love it,” Tate said. “It just helps craft beer in general. There’s plenty of room out there for good beer, and it creates just a good vibe — a good atmosphere almost like Napa, but beer.”
Stanislaus Business Alliance CEO David White agreed.
White said adding the brewery to the dairy is a smart business model because the farm can use the crops it grows for feed for the cattle and also use them to produce ingredients for beer — maximizing the efficiency of the entire operation.
“I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s creative. It reminds me of some other creative uses of space around the country,” White said. “I came from Colorado Springs, and there was an old school that went dark. There was no use for it, so they turned it into a microbrewery.”
He’s hoping the new business will spark others to pop up in the area, creating what some are calling a boutique beer city.
“We have Dust Bowl and Sandude in Turlock and Commonwealth here in Modesto, and now we have this dairy, so yeah, we’re going to be at a point where like in Colorado Springs, we had a map that showed all the microbreweries,” White said. “There were 16 of them, and hopefully, we’ll get to the point where we have a map that shows all the microbreweries in Stanislaus County.”
The Planning Department staff recommends approval of the brewery, which it said would not detract from the agricultural character of the area.
The commission’s decision would be final unless it is appealed to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. 

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