Features & Columns

SECRET STASH: Clandestine employee Jeff MacDonnell serves up a few glasses of the brewery's 12 beers on tap. Photograph by Franklin Avery

Justice League
of Beer

Like a cast of comic book superheroes—by day, they all work at local tech companies, by night, they create craft brews—each member brings a different set of skills to Clandestine.

Christine Kalaveshi, the only founder who's not a brewer, is also the only founder not working directly in software. She works in the legal department at Microsoft, where she ensures that the company responds appropriately to data requests. Her familiarity with legal bureaucracy proved useful in starting a business, especially when dealing with a highly regulated product like beer.

"There are so many contracts and permits," she says. "They don't make it easy to understand what you are reading."

Her husband, Adrian Kalaveshi, meanwhile, is a software engineer and a longtime homebrewer, as is the rest of the team. "I had a few failed attempts in college," he says. "In one of my initial tries at making beer I ended up with a bunch of bottles exploding."

Adrian hung up his brewer's apron after that, but returned to the hobby when he started homebrewing in his garage in California with Conticello, who was his neighbor. He discovered a preference for Belgian ales while Conticello gravitated toward experimental beers, like his Hopothetical line, made up of beers that use new or unusual types of hops, like the citrusy Azacca Hops beer. Soon the garage was full of brewing equipment, with friends drinking the beer that flowed from it. They were ready to start turning their hobby into a business.

Conticello worked with Kelly, another avid homebrewer and software engineer. Kelly started brewing beer that he says "really wasn't good" in college and testing it out on his roommates.

"People, actually, strangely liked it," he says. "The batches, I remember, definitely had some flaws, but in college cheaper is better and you can't beat free."

Along with a passion for good beer, Kelly had a knack for DIY construction, something he says he picked up from his father. He was brought into the operation, where Conticello says that he "probably gets as much enjoyment out of building the brewhouse as he does making the beer."

The Clandestine team discovered their final member in a homebrew club. Dwight Mulcahy moved to Mountain View after homebrewing extensively for eight years in San Antonio, Texas. He'd won dozens of awards at local, state and national fairs for his brews, and he'd been using advanced systems.

"Most of the equipment we're brewing on was sitting in a shipping crate in my San Antonio backyard," he says. "We used to call it the Container Bar. Now the Container Bar is out here."

Mulcahy was born in Texas but raised in Germany—he moved back to the United States at age 19. The variety of German beer styles on the Clandestine taproom tasting menu are a testament to Mulcahy's affinity for the drinks of his youth. But he also contributes business experience to the operation. Mulcahy has worked in small business consulting, owned a women's gym and a vehicle sale operation.

"I'm acclimated to the business environment. I know what we need to do to make money and how to approach those things," Mulcahy says. "I understand how to measure things like equipment costs against desired profits. For instance, there's an automatic keg washer that goes for around $40,000. I knew that in order to ramp up in profitability, we would have to do without it and wash by hand. It's about baby steps."

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