Crafted with Love in Sedona

Sedona Beer Company opens new Basecamp location in West Sedona 

In the heart of Sedona, we sat down with Kali Gajewski, co-founder of Sedona Beer Co., to discover how she and her partner, co-founder and brewer Mac, crafted a unique hospitality experience, balancing the demands of a highly tourist-driven market with a strong commitment to sustainability and community.  

The new Basecamp location in West Sedona has been designed to cater more to the local market, offering a relaxed beer garden atmosphere. This new location not only expands Sedona Beer Co.’s footprint, from their original Uptown taproom and brewery, but also strengthens its connection with the local community, providing a welcoming space for residents and visitors alike to enjoy their craft beers.

Navigating a Unique Market

Sedona Beer Co. stands out with its location in a town that sees about 9,000 residents but welcomes nearly 4 million tourists annually. Kali notes the challenges and benefits of this setup, from stringent city codes to the rich influx of diverse visitors. “Our market is very different,” Kali explains. “It’s a delicate balance catering to both locals and a massive number of tourists. We’ve had to be very strategic in our approach.”

Sustainability at Its Core

One of the brewery’s unique selling points is its sustainable practices. Sedona Beer Co. sources nearly all its base malt from Sinagua Malt, an initiative that saves significant water resources in the Verde Valley. “If you’re in the water business and you’re not paying attention to water usage, especially in the Southwest, you’re making a mistake,” says Kali. This commitment extends to their goal of hyperlocal ingredient sourcing, minimizing their environmental footprint. “We strive to be as regional as possible,” she adds. “Our barley is grown and malted locally, which significantly reduces our water usage and supports local farmers.”

Team First Philosophy

Kali’s background in social work informs her management style, focusing on employee well-being. The brewery offers full health benefits, including optical and dental, as well as a matching 401(k), ensuring that staff feel valued and secure. “Taking care of our employees is a top priority,” she says. “We offer comprehensive benefits and foster a positive work environment. Our goal is to retain happy and healthy staff, which translates to a better experience for our customers.”

Growth and Challenges in Craft Beverages

Opening a second location, Basecamp, in West Sedona, Kali emphasizes the importance of owning their property to have more control. Despite development challenges, including a lengthy power upgrade process, the new site offers a distinct beer garden experience and supports the brewery’s vision for regional expansion. “We wanted to create a space that feels different from our original location,” Kali explains. “Basecamp is more relaxed, with a focus on outdoor seating and a food truck. It’s been a challenge, but owning the property gives us stability and allows us to invest in long-term sustainability.”

Community Engagement an Essential Ingredient

Sedona Beer Co. runs a membership program offering exclusive perks like special seating and discounted beers, fostering a strong local following. “Our membership program is designed to give back to our most loyal customers,” says Kali. Members enjoy benefits like 20-ounce pours for the price of 16 ounces, exclusive glassware, and priority seating at the bar. The program also includes member-only events and early access to new releases. “We want our members to feel like they are a part of our family,” Kali adds. “It’s a way to engage our local community and ensure they know how much we appreciate their support.”

The membership program has evolved over time. “We’ve found that our members value the personal touches we offer,” Kali says. “They love the hand-blown glassware, which is unique and can’t be bought anywhere else. We also hold special events just for members, like exclusive tastings and early access to new brews.” This level of engagement keeps locals coming back and feeling valued, even during the off-season.

All in this Together – Supporting other Brewers

Kali and her team are always willing to help other breweries. “The craft brewing industry is incredibly collaborative,” she explains. “I’m always happy to connect with and support other brewers, sharing insights and experiences. It’s important to lift each other up and learn from one another.” This willingness to assist peers highlights Sedona Beer Co.’s commitment to the broader brewing community. “I’ve had the benefit of watching what works and what doesn’t in this town,” she says. “Sharing that knowledge is part of what makes this industry special.”

In the interview, Kali Gajewski also discussed strategies for brewery success, emphasizing the importance of either selling directly to customers or scaling up for wholesale distribution. “I’m very adamant that I will sell it myself,” she said. “Selling it to a wholesale account is literally just a loss.” Kali pointed out that direct sales through their own taproom allow them to maintain higher margins and better control over the customer experience. This approach, according to Kali, ensures profitability and sustainability for their business model.

She elaborated on the challenges of wholesale distribution, noting that it often involves lower margins and increased logistical complexities. “Every time I sell or sell a keg, I cry because I know what I could get for that keg in my taproom,” Kali explained. “Selling to wholesale is rare for us and only done as a favor.” This focus on direct sales allows Sedona Beer Co. to remain agile and responsive to market demands, ensuring a steady stream of revenue and customer engagement.

Looking forward at Sedona Beer Co.

Looking ahead, Sedona Beer Co. aims to develop its new property into a carbon-neutral site, complete with an all-electric brewery and additional employee housing. This ambitious plan underscores their dedication to sustainability and community impact. “Our goal is to be the first carbon-neutral brewery in Northern Arizona,” Kali shares. “We’ve already made significant strides in reducing our water usage and sourcing locally. This next step is about leading by example and showing that sustainability and profitability can go hand in hand.”

Kali’s journey from a hospice social worker to a brewery owner in her hometown reflects a blend of personal passion and professional dedication. The success of Sedona Beer Co. is a testament to her innovative approach and commitment to creating a meaningful impact both environmentally and socially. “I’ve always been driven by a desire to make a positive difference,” she reflects. “Owning Sedona Beer Co. allows me to combine my love for brewing with my commitment to sustainability and community.”

Sedona Beer Co. exemplifies how a small business can thrive by integrating sustainable practices, valuing employees, and staying deeply connected to the community. As they continue to grow, Kali Gajewski’s vision for the future remains rooted in these core principles. “We’re proud of what we’ve built here,” Kali says. “But we’re always looking ahead, finding new ways to improve and give back. The journey is ongoing, and we’re excited for what the future holds.”

Investing in the Future

As a relatively youthful entrepreneur, Kali also recognizes the importance of strategic financial planning and partnerships for growth. They are in this space for the right reasons and the long term. “Finding the right partners who share our vision and values is crucial,” she notes. “It’s about more than just growth capital; it’s about building a sustainable future together.” They have worked with a few angel investors and collaborate with other brewers on events, guest taps and a sort of craft success knowledge collective. 

Kali’s energy and commitment and responsibility to craft and community are crystal clear like the Red Rock glow that forms a halo around both the Basecamp and Uptown locations. Sedona locals and Beer Co. visitors alike are sure to find a local legacy of refreshing beer, delicious fresh food and new friends on their next escape here.

For more updates and stories from Sedona Beer Co., follow them on Instagram or visit their website.

Bret Conkin of Brewfundr had the pleasure of a Nashville Chicken Sandwich and an Unsupervised Children Hazy IPA as Kali shared her craft beverage venture experience in May 2024. For more stories on craft beverage innovators, marketing and finance, subscribe to our blog here.

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Bret Conkin

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