Years in the Making, the New Fort Bragg Micro-Brewery is Now Open for Business
by Esther Liner
A labor of love twenty years in the dreaming and ten years in development, on Friday June 1st of 2018, three years to the day after signing the lease, Overtime Brewery opened its doors to a public of eager patrons who were deeply invested in its success. Overtime Brewery is the name owners David Simons and Daniel Justice gave their operation when it was still just a passion project in Simons’ garage.
David and Daniel, who are now 38 years old and have been best friends since middle school, started home brewing just for fun as young bucks. Somewhere in their late 20s, it grew from a hobby into a full-blown obsession. For over ten years Simons, a full time machinist and part time bartender, and Justice, a full time EMT at Mendocino Coast District Hospital, religiously spent their weekends in Simons' garage experimenting, refining and improving upon their craft. Though no one was paying them, they treated brewing as their second and third jobs. Then, true to their generous natures, they gave the fruits of their labor away: friends, family, neighbors all became willing, frequent tasters.
Over time, they amassed a cult following. Their delicious concoctions like Jasmine Green Tea Ale and D&D’s Drinkin’ Beer (a session pilsner Simons had made to sip on while making higher ABV% brews like Amarillo IPA) started showing up at backyard barbecues, community fundraisers, and small weddings. Simons and Justice each come from working class backgrounds in a town whose workers have faced many challenges in the past twenty years, such as the closure of the lumber mill and the decline of fishing. They are part of a generation of local kids who are looking to the future of Fort Bragg, figuring out how to provide jobs and sustainable business practices for themselves, their friends and generations to come.
“We started brewing for our friends, family and community. That’s the drive behind this whole thing, and it’s what’s kept us going. We had too many people believing in us, pushing us forward, to give up,” says Justice of the logistical challenges they’ve faced going into professional production. Without deep pockets, it took a series of small business loans, local partners, and investors to get this dream machine running. Overtime Brewery’s supporters have twice filled Town Hall past capacity, spilling out onto Main Street, when issues of permitting and water usage came up before Fort Bragg City Council. They have invested funds, volunteered labor, and asked, helpfully, “You open yet?” since 2015, when the project was first announced.
Stephen Duerr, owner of Piaci Pub and Pizzeria, believes in Simons' and Justice’s work ethic, vision and talent enough to partially back them as a partner. “I know these guys, I trust them, and I share their love of craft brewing. I also believe in building the sort of place you’d want to spend time in, serving the kind of food you’d want to eat. Because the reality is, when starting a new business, you spend more time there than you do at home.” Partner Greg Zeimer, a retired RN and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, has designed a simple, soulful food menu that emphasizes the integrity of the ingredients. Overtime’s kitchen sources produce from Fort Bragg’s Nye Ranch, buns and bread for their pulled pork sandwiches and Panini from Fort Bragg Bakery, beef for their burgers and “Portuguese Lollipop” (tender flank steak, wrapped and grilled around linguisa) from Willits’ John Ford Ranch.
With a decidedly proletariat, minimalist aesthetic, set in a converted warehouse with an ocean view and a beer patio, Overtime is a place where locals and visitors can come to gather, drink high quality brews, and eat locally sourced, satisfying food, affordably. The satisfyingly salty grilled shishito peppers with miso are a match made in heaven with the balanced, floral Jasmine Green Tea Pale. The wilted kale salad with bacon, egg and caramelized onion hits that perfect note between decadence and healthy sustenance, and the light mineral finish of the seasonal Benedict Cucumberbatch Ale (featuring Nye Ranch cucumbers) serves as a perfect palate refresher between bites.
The approachably crisp and lightly bitter Fancypants Dry Hopped IPA is Simons’ nod to bartenders Johnny “Pants” Peterson and John “Fancy” Krebs. “Those two didn’t know each other before working together, but man, did they take to each other like brothers,” says Simons. Peterson moved back to Fort Bragg a year ago to help with the opening of the brewery, painting and helping to seal the floors on his rare days off between bartending and house painting. Krebs also helped pitch in with the construction and painting whenever he had a moment between jobs. Kerry Hagan, Simons' longtime romantic partner, takes serving shifts when she's not at her consignment shop, If the Shoe Fits. Dave Hill moved back from Brooklyn a couple of years ago and is happily working with friends old and new at Overtime.
Working with a side-by-side nano brewer, Overtime brews at least two days a week. They have a crowler (32 oz) and growler (64 oz) jug program, where patrons can take their favorite freshly-tapped brews home to enjoy. Their spent grain is available on a first come, first served basis as compost and animal feed. An orphaned baby boar by the name of “Sal,” who is being fostered by a local, has become Overtime’s unofficial “Mashcott,” happily munching on spent grain after brew days.
The aptly named Overtime Brewing is a testament to the power of hard work, blind faith and loyal friendship to overcome just about any obstacle. It is a living breathing example of what makes the town of Fort Bragg, California so damned special: the loyalty, generosity and perseverance of its people.
190 E Elm St, Fort Bragg, CA 95437 | (707) 962-3040
Esther Liner is a freelance writer and photographer who splits her time between the Mendocino Coast and the East Bay. She writes about: slow food, fast times, rad art, and the Captains who make it happen. Instagram: greetingsfromnorthwestnowhere