The Story of Lost Winds and Bear Coast
Ever since his parents allowed he and his brother to try beer brewing when he was 17, Tim Thralls has been passionate about it. Growing up in rural Temecula in the 1980’s, Tim says his family was big on building things with their own two hands. This enterprising spirit, combined with his love for brewing beer led him on a 15-year journey to opening a commercial brewery. Just shy of a year ago, Tim and co-founders, Andrew Mack and Tim Burke opened Lost Winds Brewing Company in San Clemente.
After successfully brewing that first batch of beer when he was 17, and liking it, Tim started learning how to brew different styles. He took a break during college but then got right back into it, with a focus on developing brews that would be good in a brewery. He started visiting breweries in San Diego to see how it was being done on a grand scale. He fell in love with the atmosphere of certain breweries, as well as the camaraderie.
Reflecting on that time of learning, Tim says, “I thought, if ever there is a way to make this happen and to be part of this community, I’m going to make it happen.”
Over the next 15 years, he figured out a way to make it happen. Tim fell in love with the beach when he was just nine years old. His father taught him and his brother how to surf, and the family spent a lot of time visiting San Onofre. He loved the beach so much that he made a personal vow to live there. While still living in Encinitas, Tim met his wife, Erica, from Dana Point, and the couple decided to make San Clemente their home. He says he couldn’t have done any of this without her.
In 2014, about 13 years after relocating to San Clemente, Tim and Erica spent time trying to think of a name for the brewery that would pay homage to San Clemente. They had been playing with various names, but nothing seemed like a good fit. One day, they were with their kids at T-Street, enjoying the beach. As their kids surfed and bodyboarded, they were on the beach looking around and thinking of names. When they looked south, all of a sudden, a light went on. Lost Winds Brewing Company was the perfect name.
Locals knew the beach, Lost Winds, and there was a mystical element to the name for those visiting. Tim appreciated the history behind the name. Lost Winds is a morphed version of the street name, Calle Lasuen in south San Clemente. Calle Lasuen was named after Basque Franciscan missionary, Fermin de Francisco Lasuen de Arasqueta, who was responsible for founding nine Spanish missions in California.
Along the way, Erica became friends with Andrew Mack’s wife, Darcy, which is how the two men met. Tim says he and Andrew, who was an entrepreneur and business developer, became fast friends. Andrew was interested in Tim’s idea to open a brewery and would ask questions about it. Tim thought he was just curious, but Andrew eventually helped him with the plan. Andrew’s longtime friend, Burke also came on board and the three of them ironed out the business plan together.
At that point, Tim decided nothing was going to stand in his way. With a name and business plan in place, the Lost Winds team finally secured a building for the brewery in October 2015. They then went through licensing to brew beer, broke ground with construction May 2016 and opened on October 27, 2016. Just before opening, they were also able to find another key member of the team: their Head Brewer, Brandon Winneker.
Winneker started home-brewing in college, alongside his microbiology studies. He later went through the Master Brewers Program at UC Davis and completed an internship in Oregon. He got a job working for Stone Brewery in Escondido and learned a lot about operations and best practices. He worked his way up and enjoyed his time at Stone, but when he met with Lost Winds, he knew it was a good fit.
Tim says Winneker was meant to be part of team. After he, Andrew and Burke had all heard about Winneker, separately, they knew they needed to invite him to interview. The day of the interview, as Winneker walked towards them wearing a t-shirt that read “Hops: the new sexy”, Tim knew he had to be their guy. The four of them hit it off and Winneker visited the building on the same day the team received their brewhouse, a day early. They were all excited, and Tim says it was like a sign from God.
Erica is another member of the Lost Winds team. She helps out with both front of house and back of house operations. She helps pour beer in the tap room, alongside tap room manager, Rachel Cosmakos. She also oversees all of the tap room operations, scheduling, housekeeping, supplies, payroll, etc. Tim says she is one of the most crucial members of the brewery team.
Since Lost Winds Brewing Company opened, Tim says things have been amazing. He says it’s been hard work, more than they ever could have imagined, but they’re making it happen and fulfilling a dream. He says the team is accomplishing three goals: they are brewing killer beer, customers get to experience the taproom, and the space is reminiscent of a Cheers bar where people can go and be known. Tim says it is satisfying to offer a space to people where they are always welcome to hang out, whether they are having a hard time or celebrating.
“If you’re stressed, come hang out and we’ll chat,” he says. “If you’re elated, come share with us!”
The team is also excited to collaborate with others in town. Recently, they started working with Bear Coast Coffee. Thralls says for a coffee beer collaboration, there’s no other choice besides Bear Coast because it’s a local San Clemente business, they care about their coffee beans and they share the same values as Lost Winds.
After almost a decade in the coffee industry, Jeff Clinard opened Bear Coast Coffee a little more than a year ago. Before his start in the coffee industry, he was a writer and comedian in Los Angeles. He says he always went to meetings at coffee shops and ended up falling in love with what was happening behind the counter, rather than on the other side of it. He loved the interactions between baristas and customers and the relationships that could be built on those. He got a part-time job as a barista for Peet’s Coffee & Tea in Talega and fell even more in love.
When he and his wife Jaime got engaged, his future father-in-law challenged him to make a five-year plan in order to prove he was ready to be a partner in marriage. Clinard says his dream and plan for the coffee industry, and eventually Bear Coast, was at the tail end of that five-year plan. He says it was fun to have a goal like that set at the beginning of his relationship with his wife.
After his time at Peet’s, Clinard helped start a company in Costa Mesa called Portola Coffee Lab. He was the General Manager for three and a half years and learned a lot about making a new concept grow. When he and his wife had their daughter, he decided he no longer wanted to travel. He took some time off to help his wife with her business and spend time with their daughter. He says after a while, he missed the work and started thinking about how he could open his own shop in San Clemente.
He connected with the people at The Cellar and was able to start a pop-up coffee shop there. Little by little, he adjusted The Cellar’s coffee and started to add different elements, such as cold brew, chai and an espresso machine. Clinard says it was an experiment. Everything was made in-house, and it was all based on customer requests. It was based on giving the people of San Clemente something unique and world-class. He used organic milks and had direct trade relationships with farmers.
Clinard says people liked the story. People started supporting the pop-up coffee shop from the ground up, and eventually he outgrew his space at The Cellar. He started to look around San Clemente to see what would match the Bear Coast brand well. At that time, a space opened up by the pier. Clinard says he feels sad the family from Beach Garden is no longer in the space, but he’s happy his family now owns it.
Things have been going well for Bear Coast since they opened. Clinard says local and professional surfers have adopted the company. After a year and three months of operation, he says Bear Coast has been more successful than he could have imagined. He says it’s the perfect example of one person’s concept being outgrown into something better.
“It’s far cooler and bigger than when it was just me,” he says.
He says people might not realize how dorky he is in comparison to how cool they perceive Bear Coast to be. For example, one of his favorite jokes goes like this: “How do you make a tissue dance? Put a boogie in it.” But he says it’s a fun separation, and that’s how he wanted it. The coffee shop also embodies the element he first fell in love with back in Los Angeles. He says the friendships that have developed at Bear Coast have made it what it is today.
With the name Bear Coast, Clinard says he wanted something that reflected San Clemente and that was easy to digest. He says he wanted it to be something that was easy to remember, that his coffee friends could say without cringing, and his mother-in-law could share with her friends easily. Plus, it gives a nod to the bear on the California flag.
Currently, Bear Coast is partnering with Lost Winds Brewery on a coffee beer. Clinard says there are certain styles of beers that already lean toward the flavor profiles you get with coffee. He says coffee is used as an accent and that when cooking with coffee is done properly, it adds a depth of sweetness. Lost Winds and Bear Coast have been working on a coffee beer involving a porter paired with a Central American coffee to accent the raspberry and chocolate notes in the beer.
The Bear Coast team is also looking for a second location because they are outgrowing their single space in the pier bowl. They have also started partnering with local organizations like Small Steps for Compassion, to bring the community together around certain issues. Recently, Bear Coast hosted an event with Small Steps for Compassion to raise awareness about orphaned and abandoned children in Tanzania.