After implementing “Plan C,” Wild Fields beer can now be purchased throughout California
ATASCADERO — There are few things more challenging to do in a normal year than open up a new successful business. Make that business a restaurant and brewery, and the odds become even a little tougher, toss in a global pandemic. It seems nearly impossible, but that is exactly what Wild Field Brewhouse in Atascadero accomplished in 2020.
Wild Fields Brewhouse opened its doors for its grand opening in 2019, on Dec. 6, but it wasn’t long before they were forced to shut their doors and get very creative with their business plan. They have been forced to continually adapt to the ever-changing rules and regulations that have come with COVID-19 but have rolled with punches hoping to come out stronger on the other side.
“February felt pretty promising. We felt pretty good, and then by Mar. 10, we saw our sales drastically fall,” Co-owner Jacque Fields said. “We closed on Mar. 16. Literally three months into being open. Then we moved strictly into beer, we tried having the kitchen open for two weeks, but it was just too hard with my husband and I doing all of it.”
Faced with no ability to serve food and no end in sight, Wild Fields moved to curbside pick-up, creating fun deals and ways for residents to still get a hold of their fantastic beer. With their numbers dropping drastically, Jacque and Ryan Fields reached out to their landlord, the Madonna Group, who graciously offered their help in such a difficult time.
In May, after a few months operating just on creative beer sales, Wild Fields Brewhouse was once again allowed to open its doors for some indoor dining. Hearing the news, the owners sprang into action, hiring and training new staff but once again, the rug was pulled out from underneath them just a few weeks later.
“We got to the end of May when they said we could reopen with some indoor dining,” Jacque said. “So, we rehired a team and got people back in place. A lot of our team members didn’t come back due to concerns with COVID or family members they had to take care of or those sorts of things.”
For a few weeks, it seemed as operations might go back to as normal as can be during a pandemic but come July, they were once again forced to close their doors and began searching for a new way to get business.
“In July, we decided to focus strictly on distribution,” Jacque said. “It was always our Plan C, but it was forced to become Plan A. It is not the best financially, wholesaling your product, there isn’t a whole lot of money there, but it is something, and it keeps our brand alive.”
Initially, Plan C was nothing more than a distant goal to reach sometime in the future after establishing themselves. Still, it has since become something of a life raft amid the tumultuous waters of the pandemic.
Immediately Wild Fields began looking into canning and distribution. For the past several months, Ryan has been making almost daily trips as far south as Orange County and as far north as the Bay Area distributing their delicious craft beers. However, breaking into the craft beer market is no small task, especially when acquiring refrigerated shelf space.
“Plan A was to make great beer and have some tasty pub food to go with it that was affordable and accessible for folks,” Jacque said. “We make our own beer, my husband has been doing that for 14 years, and I have been working in craft beer for 15 years; it’s what we know and what we love. We also bring in guest ciders and wines and nonalcoholic craft beer, and local craft soda. We wanted it to be a space that everyone felt welcome.”
Plan A was to sell their beer over the bar and support it with a sausage-based menu (with vegan options available). Over the bar was a critical part of the plan because of the great opportunities to tell people about the beer. Challenge them to try new things and find out what flavors resonate most with the community they have become apart of.
When the state reopened outdoor dining, Wild Fields Brewhouse again adapted to the quickly changing landscape and hired a new chef and new team, and added 5,000 additional square feet by moving every table and chair available into the parking lot.
Expanding into the parking lot came with its own set of challenges. A little know fact about Wild Fields Brewhouse is that their tabletops are made of 102-year-old cedar from the tree that used to sit in the Sunken Garden. This meant an additional two hours of set up and tear down each night for their employees. After some time, Wild Fields Brewhouse pulled the plug on their outdoor dining but continued to serve meals for pick-up in a family-style capacity.
Wild Fields Brewhouse is continuing to sell their beer, waiting for their moment to open their doors to the friendly faces of North County residents. With implementing “Plan C,” Wild Fields beer can now be purchased all over the county and throughout California. However, the best place to buy is and always will be from the brewers themselves.
Those interested in following Wild Fields Brewhouse on their crazy journey and find out what beer they will make next should subscribe to their social media pages or visit wildfields.com.
Wild Fields Brewhouse is located at 6907 El Camino Real in Atascadero.
The right to earn a living is the shared sentiment of each of these business owners’ stories that we share.
As a community, it is important to remember that each of these business owners is part of what makes our community and economy thrive. They are your friends, neighbors, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, children, and grandparents. They follow strict sanitation protocols are held to a higher standard of cleanliness by all the California Health Code laws that were already in place before COVID.
Together we can choose to make 2021 great by going the extra mile for each other. If you want people to wear masks, offer to supply places you visit with extras. Or stay home even more often to prevent conflict with personal space in public areas. There is always more we can give so that other people can be more free, safe, and comfortable.