Against the grain
Roger Preecs makes no apology for the pun when he says he does things “against the grain.” He’s been brewing German-style beers for 30 years, the last 14 at his company, Feather River Brewing in Magalia. His various work experiences gave him the skills to build most of the brewery himself, and he still continues to run it as a one-man operation. Preecs chuckled recently when someone called to ask if he had any events planned for Chico Beer Week. “I have no money, no employees. I’m just one guy. I have no events. I have one distributor who takes my beers from Yuba City to Mount Shasta, and I distribute it in Paradise and Magalia. That’s about it.” Preecs, 59, is the brewmaster—and almost everything else—at the award-winning microbrewery. He will be on hand to chat about his beers at a beer-tasting party from 4-8 p.m. Oct. 10 at Shenanigan’s, 3312 Esplanade in Chico (as part of Beer Week). Among the many awards he’s won over the years, the most recent laurels, from this year’s Los Angeles International Beer Competition, are a gold for his Honey Ale and a bronze for the Dark Canyon beers. For more info, log onto www.featherriverbrewing.com or call 873-0734.
How did your background lead you into beer-making?
I grew up and spent my whole life on the Central Coast, Atascadero, doing different jobs. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Somewhere back in the ’80s, my friend’s uncle sent us five beers he’d brewed … and we just said, “Oh, my God, those are so good.” He was living outside of Manton at the time. So we would go up and drink his beer. We didn’t think anything about driving nine hours, or whatever, to taste his beers. The smells and everything about it just blew me away. It was just so cool … I started brewing my own beers, and moved to Magalia and built a microbrewery.
How has it been difficult, and how has it been rewarding?
For the first six years, I worked 100 percent of the time—after my daytime job, to at least 11 p.m. every night. I would work until I was so tired I couldn’t lift a screwdriver off the countertop. It’s damaged my body. It’s not good to put your body through so much stress. I lost a couple of wives because of it. That’s what they told me in my entrepreneurship class—that 95 percent of entrepreneurs are either divorced or single—and if we didn’t like it, to get up and get out now. But it’s been a good, fun trip.
What else have you done “against the grain”?
I don’t follow in anyone’s footsteps. I go against the group by going against the grain. When I was in junior high, they changed the dress code at my school, so people could wear jeans. So everyone started wearing Levi’s. That’s why I kept wearing cords. I also think I’ve been successful because my karma is so good. I’ve always been good to people—bent over backward to help them if I could. You know those kids who are picked on, the outcasts in school? I was tall, so nobody messed with me. I went straight to those kids getting picked on [to befriend them].
Where can people find your beers?
They’re on tap at Scotty’s Landing [12609 River Road in Chico], and in 22-ounce bottles at Safeway, and a few liquor stores.