I spoke to Steve Altimari, former brewer with Valley Brewing in Stockton, who’s vacationing in his home town near Ithaca, New York, with his family. Naturally, I asked about what went down at the brewery and why he was out of a job. Having known Steve for a number of years, I was well aware that the family-owned company had its share of drama and that they hardly knew what a talented brewer they had in Steve. Here’s what he was able to tell me.
About a month ago, he heard from the owner, Kelly Jacobs, that she wanted to sell the brewery and gave Steve a price if he was interested. So Steve went to work, found partners and investors in short order and made an offer based on his earlier conversation with Jacobs. No dice. The price was now inexplicably higher. They tried again with higher offers, but each time the owners kept raising the price. Then they fired John, their only salesman. Last Thursday, they tried one last offer, which met with the same frustrating negative response. On Friday, the day before Steve was scheduled to take a family vacation, he asked for explanation. He was told they “decided on another offer, and they don’t need you. Thanks, but get out.” In less than two hours he was locked out of the brewery that he helped build for the past fourteen years.
I never expected that the owners were warm and fuzzy people, but that takes ingratitude to a whole new level. None of the family members know the slightest thing about brewing and if not for the Herculean efforts of Steve, no one would have ever heard of their brewery. I realize it’s unfair to place any of the blame on the new owners — whoever they may be — but it’s going to be difficult for anybody to come in and fill his shoes.
On the plus side, the partners and investors are sticking with Steve and the plans now have shifted to acquiring or building a brewery somewhere in the Bay Area. Apparently, the financing is already in place, so we may not be without beer brewed by Steve Altimari for long.
Steve will be hard at it when he returns from vacation next week, and the first order of business is coming up with a new brewery name. I suggested something that’s the opposite of a valley, like a mountain peak, which is why the icon above is of Mt. Everest. Then perhaps Altimari Brewery could work; it means “high water.” Let’s wish him the best of luck. What brewery name suggestions do you have for Steve’s new venture?
A very happy Steve at the Falling Rock Taphouse in Denver, after winning two medals at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival.