Alum of Beer: Harmonic Brewing
“We’re not in this to make a million dollars. We’re in this because we want to brew everyday, to share beer with people, to make something and use our skills to keep working on making a product more perfect. Our day-to-day is the end goal.”
From the start, friends Eddie Gobbo and Jon Verna wanted to start a business where community was king, plain and simple. So when it was time to get Harmonic Brewing off the ground, Eddie enrolled in Food Craft Institute’s Business of Beer where he quickly become part of the blossoming Bay Area craft beer scene alongside new and veteran players alike. But becoming a full-time brewery owner was a long time in the making. Eddie grew up in a Croatian-American household where, thanks to homemade prosciuttos and cheeses being a staple, his passion for the process of making things was cemented early on. This led him to a career in chemical engineering, allowing him to truly see products from start to finish. As a chemical engineer, Eddie was not only able to see raw ingredients through to an end result, but he was also tasked with building the equipment from scratch.
All these skills came into play for the long lead up to Harmonic Brewing’s summer 2015 opening. Just a couple years after whetting his entrepreneurial expertise with FCI, we visited Eddie at his very own taproom to have him teach us a thing or two about the Business of Beer.
When did you first decide to start a food business?
My birthday three years ago. I remember exactly. I told everyone that day that I was quitting my job. At that point, it was still a pipe dream. I started working as a part-time consultant, which gave me more time to understand the vision of what we were trying to do, to come up with a logo, apply for an LLC and a trademark. That was all the groundwork. Once we signed the lease, it was go time.
How did Food Craft Institute’s Business of Beer help you grow your business?
It was critical to starting the business and eliminated a lot of the unknowns. It gave us exposure to a lot of breweries who were really helpful and made it seem like this was doable. More than anything, it introduced us to a community that I’ve never seen in any other business – everyone was open and willing to help. I have camaraderie with other classmates like Sam Gilbert (of New Normal Brewing in Oakland). It allowed us to meet every week and discuss problems. This is not a business you can do alone. You have to know people in the community and get a little help. For the money, it was the best that I could have imagined.
Who is your biggest food inspiration?
Ryan from 4505 was a huge inspiration. I got introduced to him early on, heard his story, and then saw his butcher shop. It was great to see his whole business grow right in front of my eyes. He was doing the farmers market and then he opened up on Mission, now his BBQ place is killing it. It’s great to see.
What do you envision the upcoming years will bring for Harmonic Brewing?
We don’t have any expectations. We want this to grow organically, so it’s difficult to foresee where we’ll be in five years. I’ve heard other breweries say “our goal is to be the next Sierra Nevada.” That is not our goal. We want to be a neighborhood brewery. We may grow, but we can’t sacrifice any quality or soul in doing it.
What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve encountered?
I think not knowing what you don’t know is the biggest obstacle. Coming from an engineering background, if you tell me what I need to know, I’ll learn it, but there’s no book with a checklist that has all the things that you need to do. So if you don’t know what the checklist is, that’s the scariest thing. Was I supposed to call somebody? Was I supposed to check this? Oh, was I supposed to do this before that? The City is tough to navigate through. San Francisco is just not used to breweries. Now they’re getting used to it, but they aren’t changing fast enough, so all the breweries are jumping through the same hoops.
What advice do you have for new food entrepreneurs starting out?
Don’t get scared. It’s a lot of smaller, doable steps that equal a larger outcome. It seems unreachable but it’s like anything else if you break it down and follow the steps. There are days that I woke up and thought this will never come to fruition and others that I was ecstatic that we got approval for something. You have to be able to weather the highs and lows.
Visit the Business of Beer course page on our website to learn how you can get your own behind-the-scenes look at Bay Area craft breweries like Eddie’s.
Head over to the Harmonic Brewing taproom Thursdays through Sundays. If you can’t wait for the weekend, Harmonic Brewing is on draft at 15 bars and restaurants around the Bay Area, including Dogpatch Saloon, Thee Parkside, the Alembic, Hogwash, Pi Bar, Crafty Fox, Long Bridge Pizza, Jamber, Old Bus Tavern, Beer Hall, Union Larder, Liquid Gold, the Tempest, Hoi Polloi, & Telegraph Beer Garden. See you there!