Business Matters

Bittersweet, Balancing Business and Beer

It may be surprising to you that there is a new microbrewery in Grover Beach, but probably not as much as a surprise as it was to the owners. Father and son team John and David “DJ” Johnson submitted an offer to buy an already existing brewery located at 191 S Oak Park Blvd Suite 3, Grover Beach. To their amazement, the offer was accepted and the Bittersweet Brewing Company was born. Even more startling, the process and the paperwork to get the business started that normally takes 6-9 months did not even take 5 weeks.
“It was like 31 days later that we get our brewers notice,” said DJ. “We were holy-wow! It was a little unexpected. We need to get going and get something on tap soon.”
Bittersweet celebrated its grand opening on Dec. 9, displaying the very first three beers the new microsystem produced for public review, which consists of an amber ale, a saison and an IPA. The beers contain local ingredients, such as home-grown hops and honey. During the writing of this article, John and DJ were working on a coffee stout beer utilizing Coastal Peeks coffee. DJ said that they strive to incorporate local ingredients whenever possible.
The small brewing company has already attracted the attention of fellow brewers, beer tasters and judges who have sampled, advised and enjoyed Bittersweet’s beer.
“That’s the great thing about being new and so small, we can ask everybody when they come in and try the beers, ‘What do you think of each beer?’” said DJ. “It’s been awesome so far, we’ve gotten some great feedback.”
Like most brewers, the love of making beer began at home. Studying biology in college, DJ’s interest was piqued and he started experimenting with techniques and learning the processes of concoction creation about a decade ago. His father, who beams with pride for his son, was “dragged” into his DJ’s experiments only a few years ago. John labels himself as a “helper” and not a brewer though he is closly involved in the process and is enjoying learning the craft.
“For us, it’s been great from the father-son aspect,” said John, “just being together and doing this. We’ve always been tight as a family and this has even brought us closer together. We’re blessed with that.”
“It’s truly a family business,” said DJ. “My mom helps out whenever she can. My wife is always down here pouring beer and doing administrative stuff. It’s pretty cool having the whole family involved.”
The logo comprised of barley and hops was designed to reflect the beer they make and the general outlook of the family. The crafters strive to balance the bitterness of the hops and the sweetness of the barley malt.
“It’s not only balance with the beer, but balance with everything we do,” said John, “…so it just seemed to fit.”
When not brewing, DJ continues to work at the Diablo Nuclear Power plant. Not only a way to pursue his loves for brewing, he hopes the business will be profitable enough to provide a sustainable income with the plant closes in the coming years.
Beer brewing is a community effort. DJ admitted that he gleaned a vast amount of information and experience from communicating with brewers from all over. One instance, they ran out of yeast and a local brewer gave them some of their yeast to finish the batch. In that light, the family at Bittersweet looks forward to being able, in turn, and in time, to help local charities, non-profits and the community.
“We would like to give back to the community that I was raised in,” said DJ.
For more information, visit
By Mark A. Diaz

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