If patience is a virtue, then Kristopher Parker is the Dalai Lama of Haley Street.
When I first interviewed him back in September, the Old Town Goleta–raised grandson of actor/vintner Fess Parker had already been planning Third Window Brewery with his business school friends for nearly two years. He’d found a home in The Mill — the complex at Haley and Laguna whose tenants include Potek Winery and the Wildwood Kitchen barbecue joint — and jumped through the various city and county hoops required.
All he needed was the feds to approve his brewery license application, which he’d submitted in July 2015. But a few weeks ago, nearly 10 months later, Parker was still waiting, the federal office apparently understaffed and overwhelmed with the vast number of new breweries nationwide. “This must be killing you,” I said numerous times over that span, to which he’d usually reply, “It is.”
Then on April 21, the license arrived. “We called our friends and said that this is the last day we’re not open,” said Parker last week, still managing to smirk beneath his Powell-Peralta cap, squiggly tattoos sneaking out of his rolled-up sleeves. Since then, Third Window’s unique spin on beer has been flowing as they get the hang of actually selling the stuff, which includes about eight beers right now, from chocolate-orange stout, loquat-orange-blossom lager, and raspberry Berliner weisse to pilsners and Trappist-style ales. But don’t expect a grand opening, which is just one of the many decisions that gives the whole project a refreshingly understated yet visionary ethos that makes it stand out from an increasingly dense crowd.
“We want to give ourselves time to find people who will become the leaders of our business, then bring them on and enjoy a period of chaos and ambiguity,” said Parker, who was heavily encouraged to start this endeavor by Fess; is partially backed by his dad, Eli, aunt, Ashley, and QAD veep Anton Chilton; and runs the brewery with his partners Adam Nazar and John Neale. “We’re not starting with a flagship beer,” said Parker, who probably won’t make many of the same beers twice. “We brew what we want to drink, which gives us a lot of freedom.”
Parker’s patience actually started before he even knew it. Conceived when his parents were quite young, he was raised by his single mom near the railroad tracks off Orange Avenue, never knowing his grandpa was a wealthy and famous actor. But when Parker turned 11, Fess Parker showed up with a Schwinn beach cruiser bicycle, a moment captured by a Polaroid that his mom took and Kris Parker still cherishes. “My whole life changed,” he said. “I was at La Patera one day and Laguna Blanca the next.”
Not that he headed straight to the Ivy League, though. Parker spent five years at SBCC, often escaping through music in his punk rock band Slap Riot, and then wound up at Santa Clara University. He did financial analysis for the entire Fess Parker portfolio, and attended USC to get his MBA, which is where he met his current partners.
Along the way, he hooked up with Patrick Rue from The Bruery in Orange County, one of the world’s most boundary-pushing craft ale makers, and started supplying him with wine grapes from the family’s vineyards. They made sour wheat beers with riesling and lavish imperial stouts with petite sirah, some of which sell for many hundreds of dollars today on the World Wide Web, if you can even find them. Rue and Parker also collaborated the past two years on Bierbara, an apricot, raisin, and spice-laden ale to celebrate the December feast day of St. Barbara.
Today, The Bruery’s old brew system (which Rue found rusting in a field after Mendocino Brewing Company ditched it years ago), and their former brewer, Tyler King, are powering Third Window. In addition to the beers, there is also a shed adjacent to the property that will become a simple restaurant of sorts, which Parker has hired Mandy Barrett to run.
She was coming by the brewery every week for months, he explained, and wowed the staff by cooking up an amazing feast on a George Foreman grill/fryer. “We want to give her a shot at it, and we’re giving her a lot of leeway,” said Parker. Expected menu items include tempura veggies with special sauces, pretzel bites, french fries, chicken and waffles, Wildwood-made sausages, and sandwiches priced smartly for the tradespeople coming to Buena Tool across the street, as well as cheese, charcuterie, and pickles. “You know,” said Parker, “all the stuff you like to eat with beer.”
The name Third Window is an ode to St. Barbara’s Rapunzel-esque legend, and also reflects the three values that are driving the business: cultivation, passion, and purity. But Parker’s proudest motivation is to return the wine-world notion of terroir and the use of indigenous ingredients — from homegrown barley and native yeast to the orange blossoms on the trees outside the brewery and raspberries that his daughter and her preschool friends foot-stomped — back to beer.
“All my beer ideas are essentially developed from wine — I don’t know how to think any other way,” said Parker, who’s prepared to throw out every bad experimental batch they make. “We will be totally uncompromising in terms of quality — growth be damned.”
Third Window Brewing Company is located at 406 East Haley Street inside The Mill. Call (805) 979-5090 or see thirdwindowbrewing.com.