By David Benda, Redding Record Searchlight, March 2014

Wildcard Brewing Co. in Redding has built a loyal following since it opened nearly two years ago.

The U.S. Small Business Administration honored Wildcard today when it was named the federal agency’s Start-Up of the Year for the Sacramento District.

Wildcard beat out four other businesses in the district, which stretches from San Joaquin County to the Oregon border.

“We are really honored to win it,” Wildcard co-founder and brewmaster Jeff Hansen said. “With our heads down working all the time, we don’t always look up to see what we have accomplished, so it’s something we are really proud of.”

Wildcard and the other winners will be honored at an awards luncheon on May 21 at the Maidu Community Center in Roseville.

SBA spokeswoman Carrie Ellinwood said a panel of SBA employees selected Wildcard. A business’ growth, achievements and financial health are among the things considered.

The Small Business Development Center at Shasta College nominated Wildcard. The brewery worked with the SBDC to get started and also took out an SBA loan that was financed by Cornerstone Bank in Redding, Ellinwood said.

The announcement comes days before Wildcard Brewing Co. beers will hit store shelves in 22-ounce bottles. Wildcard will start selling bottles of its Liar’s Dice IPA, Double Down Imperial Red and Shot in the Dark Oatmeal Porter on Tuesday.

The beers will be sold in stores in Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity and Butte counties. Kent’s Meat & Groceries, Liquor Barn and Tops Market are among the retailers that will carry Wildcard.

Wildcard beers also are on tap at restaurants and bars throughout the North State.

Established by Jeff Hansen and his wife, Jenny, who is the CEO, Wildcard Brewing opened its doors in October 2012 on Crossroads Drive in east Redding.

Wildcard expanded last year when it started brewing on a 15-barrel system. The Hansens will add another tank next week, which will up the brewery’s capacity to 3,000 barrels a year.

Wildcard will be bringing on a brewer, which will give it four full-time employees, Jeff Hansen said.

The brewery will host a bottle release celebration at its tap room on Crossroads Drive on April 3. The event will go from 2 to 8 p.m. and benefit the Shasta Land Trust.