Cary Hanson ’06 (Graphic Design) and his brother, Brendan, have been in the beverage biz in some form or other for nearly 15 years. What started as a side hustle for Cary after graduating from CSUN quickly turned into several full-time, bustling beverage businesses.
Brendan and Cary, a collegiate athlete who played volleyball for the Matadors, are co-founders and co-owners of Cold Brew Avenue, a Simi Valley-based business that sells equipment to make, store and serve cold-brew tea, cold-brew coffee and nitro cold-brew coffee. The company embraces sustainability, selling 100 percent reusable, stainless-steel cold-brew coffee brewing and keg-related implements online and within Cary’s second business, Keg Outlet, also located in Simi Valley.
Nitro cold-brew coffee, a fairly recent take on America’s favorite hot beverage, has been generating buzz among foodies and coffee aficionados since its invention in 2013 by food scientist Nate Armbrust. Nitro coffee is made by infusing cold-brewed coffee with nitrogen to create a creamier, Guinness-influenced take on cold-brew coffee. Cary Hanson, a lifelong coffee lover and brewing entrepreneur since his graduation from CSUN, found his way into the coffee business thanks to a need he saw for cold-brew hardware in the market — and innovation.
After graduating from CSUN, Hanson quickly found employment as a graphic designer for Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. As a hobby, he began home brewing beer.
“[Home brewing] was a side project for many years that I would do in my off time with my brother,” Hanson said. “We developed slowly but surely over the years.”
As they brewed beer on a small electric stove in Cary’s cramped kitchen, they saw a need for more brewing equipment and materials to be made available online. Over the course of a few years — and countless late-night hours — the sibling duo launched their first business to fill that niche. Brew PS was the first of the Hanson brothers’ businesses. Brendan, a web designer by trade, and Cary collaborated on the website, a system they implemented across all three of their brands.
“At the time, there wasn’t a good website or place you could buy home-brew supplies or ingredients online,” Cary Hanson said. “My brother and I enjoyed the home brewing experience so much that we decided to launch our own website, selling home-brew supplies.”
“We would get orders, and pack them at night after our day jobs,” he said.
They launched their second business, Keg Outlet, to handle the hardware side of brewing. Their love for coffee and the knowledge they gained through Brew PS and Keg Outlet allowed for the Hanson brothers to transition into the professional coffee business, they said.
With the advent of nitro cold-brew coffee in 2013, and after years developing beer and keg experience, Cary Hanson co-founded Cold Brew Avenue.
The firm specializes in crafting, kegging, tapping and storing cold-brew coffee and nitro coffee. The business offers information and equipment to aid in the making of small or large batches of craft beverages. Their system allows vendors, business owners and individuals to make up to 50 gallons of “ready-to-drink, cold-brew coffee concentrate,” according to their website.
As an owner of multiple businesses, Cary Hanson is no stranger to hard work and long hours. Persistence is the key to success, especially as an entrepreneur, he said.
“A [couple] things that have helped us are time and persistence,” Hanson said. “This wasn’t born overnight … it took time to develop and find a niche.”
In addition to their businesses, the brothers have written free e-books to help others navigate the process of cold-brewing coffee at home, and they started a podcast where they interview leading coffee professionals and companies from around the world about launching startup businesses, as well as about coffee and trends.
Having such plentiful access to beer and kegging equipment might hinder productivity for some, Cary Hanson said, but the coffee certainly helps.
“Let’s just say our productivity level goes up greatly any time we have a keg of cold-brew on tap,” he said. “And our creativity level goes up greatly any time we have a keg of beer on tap at the office.”