We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Beyer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, how do you define success?
For me, success is often a moving target, and I’ll probably never feel like I’ve achieved something to the point that I can stop building – I think there are milestones for success. Among them is taking the extraordinary first step to pursue something on my own. Down the road, other milestones include finding joy, satisfaction, and gratitude for what I’m doing on a day to day basis, as well as building something that has a positive impact on peoples lives. From there, it’s just about growing that impact. That may sound odd coming from someone who started an alcohol company, but ultimately, I want to inspire people to do meaningful things and enjoy the people they are around, and we, at Veso, are starting by inspiring that within the drinking culture in America.
What should our readers know about your business?
We, at Veso, make alcoholic aperitifs out of all-natural ingredients. A few years ago, I was unhappy with what I was drinking and the culture that surrounded my drinking experiences. I wasn’t a huge fan of beer, bars were often making bad drinks, and I loved wine but there was a specific time and place to drink it. I found myself cringing at what I was drinking and putting in my body, and I often didn’t really create positive memories while I was drinking – so many mornings I was hungover and felt like the night before didn’t have any purpose. But I increasingly found myself pursuing and creating experiences that left me feeling fulfilled – meaningful trips with friends, long dinners filled with conversation, being outside during sunset. These often included alcohol, but the relationship with alcohol was different than I had had in bars – the drinks weren’t the sole focus, it was more about connecting with those around us.
I wanted to create a new type of alcoholic drink that tried to inspire more of those types of connections, and was created in such a way that I felt good about drinking it – a real, craft process (like winemaking), natural ingredients, and something that was entirely delicious and didn’t sacrifice taste. What I was going for was inspired by the drinking culture of Europe and the drinks that often fueled it, aperitifs. But I wanted to tweak them for the modern American drinker so that they were all-natural, less bitter, less sweet, and easy and delicious enough to drink on their own.
Instead of going out and outsourcing flavor development and production to a factory like most (if not all) other new alcohol brands do, I wanted to own the supply chain, so I developed the recipes in my kitchen, created the extraction techniques that I would use in the winery, source the fruit directly from farmers all over California, and ultimately, I did all the production myself, with the help of friends and family for some of our fruit processing. It was an incredibly arduous task (with many 20 hour days in the winery), but it led to a fantastic product that I am proud of, and that I know has the highest quality it could have.
Owning production myself meant I couldn’t lean on some of the manufacturing expertise of large factories. Aperitifs are relatively new in the US, and there isn’t a lot of public information on how to make them. One of the hardest parts of production was figuring out how to properly infuse thousands of pounds of different types of fruit – I had to teach myself a lot of food science, manufacturing techniques, and just do a lot of trial and error. There were a few nights where I was in the winery at 2am with hundreds of gallons of wine and thousands of pounds of fruit that was not extracting properly, and I was about ready to give up. I just had to persevere, take a step back, and think through the solution (and the prospect of giving up meant I still had to clean up thousands of pounds of fruit, which was an arduous task in and of itself).
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If a friend was visiting San Francisco for the week, I’d take them for a tour of the Bay Area – there’s so much to do just outside of the city that makes it such a magical place. First, I’d spend one day in San Francisco, exploring the food and cocktail bar scene. I would probably start off with a dim sum lunch at one of the amazing dim sum spots in the Richmond (I can’t just pick one, they are all too good), followed by a day walking along the water in the Marina, a dinner at Rich Table in Hayes Valley, and then post-dinner drinks at one of the numerous cocktail bars – Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and the Mission have some of the best.
The next few days, I’d spend in the North Bay:
One day – brunch at Bar Bocce in Sausalito, taking a hike through Muir Woods, getting oysters in Tomales Bay (both fresh and grilled).
A day of all Sonoma with a stop or two at a winery (Scribe is one of my favorites and an inspiration for Veso), followed by lunch in Healdsburg.
Then over to Napa Valley for a day, with another winery stop or two, and lunch or dinner in Yountville (I’m a big proponent of only doing 1, maybe 2 wineries max per day. More than that and you just end up having too much wine and don’t enjoy the experience).
After that, I’d head south of the city to Carmel and Big Sur. and ideally, stay overnight in the area. It’s not a secret, but still, Big Sur is one of the most magical places in California, and should be on everyone’s bucket list. While in that area, 17 mile drive is one of the most scenic drives, with some of the most striking views you’ll see anywhere in the US.
I may get some flak for not mentioning the East Bay and Oakland on this list, but the truth is, I’m still exploring that area, even after living here for years! Oakland has some amazing wine bars, cocktail bars, restaurants, and a vibrant arts scene. Though I will say – one restaurant I could go to every time I’m out there is Ippuku, for some of the most amazing Japanese yakitori in the bay – it feels like it could compete with the yakitori spots in Japan.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My family definitely deserves a ton of credit for everything that I am doing. I am incredibly close to my family, and it would be hard to do something without their support and guidance. They have been incredibly supportive along the way. My parents have pushed me to be rigorous in my pursuits of anything, but have also supported me when I took the massive leap to leave a stable job and pursue my own thing. My sister also has been my best friend and my rock since I was born, and I wouldn’t have been able to persevere without the endless chats with her and emotional support she has given me along the way. There are also tons of other people who have helped bring Veso to life, friends, colleagues, loved ones. It would be impossible to shout them all out, but you know who you are. To everyone who has been a part of the Veso journey – thank you.
Jade Hang Jessica Fix Jason Spielman