Joshua Zad has done this before. The founder of Alfred Coffee (and Tea), a chain that is ubiquitous throughout Los Angeles and has expanded to Austin and Tokyo, has not just built a brand, but a refined lifestyle to go with it. One that is eminently Instagrammable with its “But first, coffee” cups.
His newest brand, Calidad Beer, has been engineered with the same focus on lifestyle and identity.
One step inside the “Casa de Calidad” and the vision for the brand comes into full focus. A 1920s Spanish colonial home tucked away from Melrose Place where two of Zad’s Alfred outposts are located, the house is intricately curated with a modern Southwest vibe. Paddle cacti, a horseshoe and cow skull hang from the walls and stylishly worn rugs run throughout the space. There is a pool table, a set of rules on the wall encouraging photos and a beer tap in the kitchen. It was made to be experienced and enjoyed.
“Calidad is a SoCal brand at heart—specifically Santa Barbara where our beer is brewed,” said Zad to AList.
“With that in mind, we wanted to create an event space that captured that same essence and lifestyle. Everything from the tiled archways and hand-dyed rugs to the melted-brick fireplace and hanging succulents ties back to that iconic Santa Barbara aesthetic.”
For Zad, emphasizing brand experience is the most direct and engaging way to reach modern consumers—especially those who identify as discerning consumers of coffee and beer.
“Calidad is a SoCal brand at heart—specifically Santa Barbara where our beer is brewed”
“These days, customers are extremely brand and tech-savvy, so it is critical to plan out a holistic brand experience from introduction to a product all the way through its consumption.”
In engineering that brand experience, Zad has a clear understanding of what has worked for him. He refers to the key pillars of his success as “The Five C’s,” standing for coffee, charity, community, culture and cool vibes.
“A successful brand not only has a strong identity but a fully-fleshed out lifestyle to go along with it and must be a quality product that tastes good. You can’t cut corners on any of these three areas.”
Zad developed the logo for the brand with design house LAND, known for its lived-in, modern-Western aesthetic, having worked with other brands like Stumptown Coffee and Poler.
“It was a really inspired process,” said LAND co-founder/co-creative director Caleb Everett to AList.
“What’s speaking to millennials right now is just authenticity. We live in a world where people that do what we do typically do market research and focus groups, and they try to figure out what they think people want.”
Inspired by Mexican-style beer, particularly Pacifico, Calidad’s logo gives the perception the brand has been around for some time. “When conceptualizing Calidad, I knew I wanted a look that felt authentic and familiar—I wanted people to think, ‘have I seen this before?”
“We just wanted to create what felt like we wanted to see out in the world.”
And it has, in a way. Zad first launched a merch shop before the beer was ever sold, with t-shirts, rolling papers, patches and more “because the designs were cool.” With an audience and interest around Alfred already, it was a clever way to market the beer product before it existed.
“The question we were faced with was, ‘how do we get people obsessed with our beer brand before even having liquid in [the] market?’” said Zad.
The brand also blended old-school-meets-new-school with how it has approached marketing as well. Calidad relies heavily on Instagram where its lifestyle curation and visual identity read loud and clear; uses texts to interact (it’s 253-300-HOLA) as well as billboards and murals to draw attention to the brand.
“We like experimenting with different advertising mediums. In L.A. specifically, which has a very strong car culture, out-of-home marketing is extremely effective and allows people to organically discover new brands as they travel around town,” said Zad.
Now that the beer exists and distribution is expanding throughout California, Calidad is taking part in events throughout the region, like Taco Madness, where Zad looks to interact directly with consumers and provide them an opportunity to taste the beer.
Despite having raised a seed investment from the founders of Sweetgreen and MeUndies, among others, how Calidad’s marketing is taking shape feels very grassroots.
“We are taking a brand-first approach, building an entire lifestyle around a simple product.”