After Devastation, Couple to Open New Brewery in Orange, Calif.

ORANGE, Calif. — Orange’s newest microbrewery has its roots in a Mr. Beer homebrewing kit. Before Brian Schroepfer received one as a Christmas gift, he never drank beer—and his wife Kelly didn’t even like the smell of the stuff. Now, eight years later, the couple is opening Valiant Brewing Company.

“It’s crazy to think about how far it’s come,” says Kelly Schroepfer, 32.

The couple, who met as students at Saddleback College before transferring to CSU Long Beach to earn degrees in mechanical engineering, are the parents of two—Grace, 4, and Sarah, 1. Married for eight years, they had long planned on opening their own business—but for a long time, the plan was for Brian to pursue his passion for racecars. The devastating fire of 2007 changed all that. The Schroepfers’ house in Silverado Canyon was spared—but the garage was destroyed, as well as all of Brian’s tools, three hotrods, and his custom brewing system. When the couple was allowed back on the property to check out the damage, they discovered that water from fighting the fire had combined with the heat of the fires—and their entire house was contaminated with mold.

Recovering from that disaster was a long, drawn-out, and depressing process—made more difficult for Brian because he had no hobbies to distract him. It was so bad that Kelly decided the first thing they would get for themselves would be a new brewing system so Brian could have something fun to do. That was right around the time that their idea for a business shifted from racecars to beer.

“I sat down with him and said, ‘Do you want to be a brewer who races as a hobby, or a racer who brews as a hobby?’” Kelly recalls.

The answer was clear—and so was their next move.The Schroepfers dove into the hunt for a property where they could open their brewery, at last discovering a unit big enough in an industrial corner of Orange adjoining the Santa Ana River bed. Brianbegan the plans for the brewery and focused on his recipes. He became a certified beer judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and started judging competitions, then completed American Brewers Guild courses as a Master Brewer in 2010. And the Schroepfers connected with Premier Stainless Systems in Escondido to craft the kind of equipment required for the high-quality craft brewery they planned to open.

Their two-vessel brewhouse is a great fit for their method of brewing, Brian says. Two 40-barrel fermenters and a 40-barrel brite tank will ensure that Valiant will be able to keep up with the demand of thirsty customers, and a series of additional, different-sized fermenters will be put to use for experimental brews and small batches. Valiant doesn’t look like a typical start-up microbrewery—and that’s part of the plan.

“We have mission to provide a wide array of flavorful craft beer,” Brian explains. “Our unique equipment allows for that.”

Valiant even has a 1500-gallon reverse osmosis plant, a custom water-delivery system that allows the Schroepfers to mix various types of water to craft the flavors of each beer they brew.Now their system is installed, there is gas and running water, all agencies have approved the brewery set-up, the brewing license is active—and Brian has his first brews on the new equipment behind him. Valiant will open its doors Feb. 9 to serve fans who have been observing the brewery’s progress for nearly two years.

Billing themselves as Southern California’s “ale specialists,” the Valiant team will have a core beer list ranging from English barleywine and Scotch ale to a Biere de Garde (a French Ale), an Imperial IPA, sometimes also called a Double IPA, and a Dunkelweizen, a more complex and layered cousin to the Hefeweizen. In addition to their core beers, the Schroepfers plan to offer specialty beers throughout the year, as well as venturing into sour beer territory.

“We truly believing in uncovering newer flavor combinations and refinement not currently available to the public,” says Brian.“I mean, isn’t that the fun part of seeking out craft beer? It’s kind of like ‘What’s next?’”

Valiant Brewing Company, located at 2294 N. Batavia, Unit C, in Orange, will hold its Grand Opening from noon-9 p.m. on Feb. 9.