Seven Stills Brewery began as a bootstrapped business in a garage, making whiskeys from craft beers. Tim Obert and Clint Potter, who became friends at UC Santa Cruz, started brewing and distilling for fun at Clint’s parents’ house in Novato.
“Moonshining,” Tim told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We did that for a year, and it got to this point where this bookshelf had like 50 different whiskeys we’d made. I was just looking at them thinking, ‘this is really cool.’” Tim convinced Clint to forgo graduate school and together they started a company.
Securing a location for their business was not an easy task, because the city was not used to allowing breweries and distilleries to operate together. “There’s explosive high-proof alcohol and it’s not that far removed from brewing,” said Tim. “So they said we can operate in a manufacturing district and that’s it.”
The pair soldiered on, and Seven Stills’ Bayview location became the first modern distillery to be open to the public. Through collaborations with beloved California breweries, Tim and Clint quickly grew a fanbase and even made Zagat’s 30-Under-30 list of “Rock Stars Redefining the Industry,” as well as winning the 2014 Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for their Chocasmoke Whiskey.
But because Seven Stills was considered a newbie small business, securing capital through a traditional lender wasn’t an option. That’s when they turned to Pacific Community Ventures for a loan to purchase a new still. Thanks to that new growth, Seven Stills has been able to hire more staff and branch out. They now have two taprooms in the Mission and Outer Sunset where they serve beer and food, while their Mission Bay flagship space undergoes construction – it’s set to open in early September.
With a staff of 39 people and huge new facilities on the works, Tim and Clint are proud of what they’ve achieved in such a short time. “We’re not two people anymore, so we’re very, very lucky.”