Practice in Patience
Local Brewer Opens Dream Project on Grand Scale
By Daniel Barnes
As both a prolific professional brewer and a “serious backyard BBQer,” Peter Hoey loves to play with unique and exotic ingredients, but his favorite ingredient is time. Whether smoking a brisket for a day or barreling a mixed-fermentation sour beer for an entire year, Hoey makes patience an essential part of his process.
“It’s an ingredient that I think a lot of chefs and brewers take for granted, but it’s always intrigued me,” says Hoey. “All my endeavors are things that take a lot of time.”
The endeavor that took Hoey the longest time has finally come to fruition. After 20 years in the craft beer business as a brewer, business owner and industry consultant, Hoey, along with partner Rob Archie of Pangaea Bier Café, has opened the ambitious Urban Roots Brewery & Smokehouse
in the old Brownie’s building on the corner of 14th and V streets. Located in a 15,600-square-foot facility, with a 15-barrel production brewery, 300-seat restaurant, large outdoor patio, and ample space for barrels and oak foeders, Urban Roots is a dream project made real on a grand scale.
“Rob and I joke that we are picking all our favorite things from all over the world and putting them all into one place,” says Hoey. “That’s not too far off from the truth.”
Beloved elements from his beer-related travels with Archie have made their way into the Urban Roots concept: the homey comfort of English pubs, old-world charm of French and Belgian farmhouses, and laid-back vibe of West Coast craft breweries. Hoey loves German beer gardens, so he insisted that the plans for Urban Roots include a large outdoor drinking space, complete with traditional chestnut trees. Both Hoey and Archie have kids, so a discreetly out-of-the-way children’s play area was also included. “We’re trying to set it up in a way where we can have a little something for everybody,” says Hoey.
There are few people as synonymous with California craft beer as Hoey, yet he comes from a wine background, with family roots in Healdsburg and oenophile parents. “A lot of our vacations as kids were going winetasting with the family, and my brother and I were just tagging along,” says Hoey. “I was already coming up in that culture, and I started cooking a lot.”
Hoey’s budding culinary interests evolved into a fascination with homebrewing, and the wunderkind produced his first batch of beer at the age of 17. He got hired as an assistant brewer at Sacramento Brewing Company in 1998, and he worked there while taking classes with the American Brewers Guild. After completing his education, Hoey found work at Sierra Nevada in Chico, where he absorbed the legendary craft brewery’s obsession with quality control. He spent two years at Sierra Nevada, then became brewmaster at Bison Brewing in Berkeley before moving back to Sacramento Brewing.
After Sacramento Brewing ceased operations in 2009, Hoey made his first attempt to launch his own brewery with Odanata Beer Co. “Instead of building a brewery, we tried to operate a contract model, where we rented space in other breweries to produce our beer,” he says. “While it doesn’t require as much startup capital, it’s a much harder story to tell customers.” When Odanata closed due to cash flow issues, Hoey freelanced as a brewery consultant, helping to launch Sutter Buttes Brewing and Ruhstaller, before accepting a position as regional sales director with Brewers Supply Group.
Archie first broached the idea of partnering with his friend and travel partner Hoey on a project back in 2010, and they talked about launching a nanobrewery in the space where Pangaea’s bottle shop sits. Plans were put on hold when Hoey took the job at BSG, but Archie refused to consider working with anyone else. “I feel like we complement each other because Peter makes beer and I’m essentially a fan and a purveyor of beer,” says Archie. “We’re able to share the passion together, so that made it very easy for us to know that we want to go in as partners.”
Seven years after getting hired at BSG, Hoey was ready to go all-in on his and Archie’s dream project, and it wasn’t long before their real estate broker found the vacant property on V Street. “It’s kind of an odd building, because it’s not on a nightlife strip, but it’s also not in a remote warehouse district,” says Hoey.
Urban Roots is the last step in a decades-long process that began in Hoey’s kitchen, the perfect ending for a man who describes himself as a “process-oriented” brewer. “I’m constantly tweaking and striving for improvement,” he says. “Paying attention to the very small things is what makes the difference between good beer and great beer.”