Joe Utschig is from Wisconsin, Martha Getris-Utschig was raised in Salinas. They met at a dive bar on Cannery Row 26 years ago. After their son gifted them a brew kit four years ago, the couple started a home brewery in their garage. With retirement beckoning – Joe from a graphics firm, Martha from teaching at Salinas High School – they have no intention of slowing down. Instead, they plan to ramp up production and even open a taproom for Martha’s Hopyard beers.
Weekly: Your retirement plan is to start a business, isn’t that a bit strange?
Getris-Utschig: It’s a lot less work than teaching 120 kids a day. One day Joe said he wanted to expand the operation. I looked at him, his ’57 Chevy and the brewing equipment in the garage and I said “You want more beer stuff? Sell the car.” So he did. It’s a completely different adventure.
I see that you don’t make an IPA.
Utschig: Every time we go somewhere, there’s a very loud minority saying, “Oh you don’t have an IPA? Oh thank God!” Young people like high-alcohol beers. I brew some wicked high-alcohol stuff, but I don’t kill everything with hops like an IPA.
Any big accidents?
Utschig: Our most popular beer right now is a saison that was actually a big screw-up. I put the sugar in the wrong batch. Everybody loves that one.
Do you ever just want a Bud Light?
Utschig: The most popular beer among brewers when nobody’s looking is Coors Light. I’m not ashamed. Light beers are the hardest to make; you can’t hide behind hops or a bad process. Hops is like cooking with bacon: put enough in and anything tastes good.