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A cream come true

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Sometimes the stars align and the universe provides certain signs that are impossible to ignore. For surfer and family man Joel Pace, all signs pointed to Chai Cream Ale.

In college, Pace worked odd jobs at cafés and coffee houses, where he gathered experience brewing tea and the ability to discern quality ingredients. He also brewed beer as a hobby, but saw little connection between the two drinks.

- ODD COUPLE :  The flavor of chai might seem like it would be overwhelming in a beer, but Joel Pace, owner of Soel24 Beer Company, developed a recipe that’s surprisingly tasty, refreshingly smooth, and utterly unique. -  - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • ODD COUPLE : The flavor of chai might seem like it would be overwhelming in a beer, but Joel Pace, owner of Soel24 Beer Company, developed a recipe that’s surprisingly tasty, refreshingly smooth, and utterly unique.

A pilgrimage with college friends to the Himalayas let Pace witness firsthand what he says is the virtually stress free, vivacious lifestyle associated with drinking chai tea. It was a memory he couldn’t shake, especially when he was worn out from the stress of developing a new curriculum and teaching impoverished youth in the Bay Area.

“After five years of teaching, I was drained,” Pace said. “The motivation to start my own business was to be able to enjoy life, to spend time with my family and surf and write.”

The result was SLO Chai, an organic tea product that quickly became a county favorite. But on the very first day of planning the business, a lucky coincidence showed Pace that chai spices have potential for more than just tea and coffee.

“My wife and I were at lunch talking shop when this guy overhears us and joins in,” Pace said. “He happened to be a beer maker, and he was interested in using chai.”

Pace provided the spice, and the brewer made a chai pale ale. Pace said it made for a delicious holiday beer, but it was way too hoppy to be marketable. He worked out the kinks on his own recipe and served the first pour at the second anniversary party for SLO Chai.

“It was glory,” Pace said. “I didn’t want the chai flavor to be over the top, but it’s in there. It’s refreshing and familiar, but with something a little more exciting.”

The trick to Pace’s success was his double-brewing technique, he said. He cooked the beer and the chai separately, but combined them before the fermentation process. Pace’s method fused the flavors for a polished result that goes great with a variety of food, especially Indian and Thai.

Although Pace had developed a delicious new drink and sold it countywide through Central Coast Brewing, his business remained focused on tea. He expanded quickly, but found himself caught in a nasty cycle of debt when the economy sank.

Then he received another sign: Sunset magazine had somehow heard of his beer. They put a clear picture of it in an article on Central Coast dining and drinks. Pace knew then that he had something special.

He sold the tea business, got the proper licensing from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and started Soel24 Beer Company, which contracts the brewing and bottling with a business in San Jose and markets Chai Cream Ale to distributors statewide.

The beer is available locally wherever craft beers are sold, and it’s featured at Big Sky Café and Novo. For investment opportunities or sale inquiries, contact Joel Pace at 995-2400.

Fast fact

The Second Annual Central Coast Cancer Challenge takes place Aug. 7 at Laguna Lake Park. Registration fees range from $20 for the one-mile run to $85 for the 100-kilometer cycling challenge. Proceeds will benefit the Cancer Well-fit Program and children’s charity Jack’s Helping Hand. A barbecue, wellness expo, and concert will await participants at the finish line. Visit centralcoastcancerchallenge.com for details. 

Contributing writer Nick Powell compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Send your nonprofit and business news to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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