Emma Wood

Emma Wood State Beach. In the distance you can see cars on the Pacific Coast Highway.

The wind is whipping as soon as we hit the top of the embankment; a perch holding the seemingly endless trail of crossties that run parallel to the renowned Pacific Coast Highway. With nothing but our flip-flops and bathing suits, I chuckled at the irony how the dividing line between the pleasant and unpleasant areas (in this case, the weather) is a set of railroad tracks.

Ahead of us lies the shore of Emma Wood State Beach. Behind us, is the camp ground where the rest of the family lounging in the warm, southern California sun. Every summer, my extended family (all 50+ of us) go camping for a long weekend and reconnect. Leading up to this particular trip, I was especially nervous.


While I’ve always felt like a reasonably accomplished person, for some reason, and only around my family, I revert back to being a little kid just trying to do the right thing and make everyone proud. So when I showed up to Emma Wood State Beach with a case of homemade wheat beer, I wasn’t exactly confident that my announcement to move across the country to New Hampshire (a state I only visited once) to brew beer (something I’ve only done a handful of times in the kitchen) after spending so much effort to finish school (Master of Business Administration) was going to be well received (they can be blunt).

When I arrive, I’m a day late. Everyone is already gathered around a smoldered fire from the night before eating lunch, so I figure I should get it over with. With my unlabeled, semi-cold case of beer in hand:

Me: “Well guys, I think I’m going to move to New Hampshire next month and start a brewery.”

Aunt: “Well you better have brought us some!”

Cousin: “Where’s New Hampshire again?”

Me: “Near Boston.”

Another Cousin: “What’s the beer called!?”

Me: “It doesn’t have a name. I just call it the wheat beer.”

My Dad: “I know: call it Emma Wood.”

Me: “That’s a stupid name.”

(Shows what I know).

The support was amazing and made me feel that maybe I could actually pull off opening a brewery. Even the ones I know don’t drink, ask for an “Emma Wood.” They just want to be a part of it.


Once we reach the shore, we realize that it is less of a beach and more of a rocky edge. Running out into the ocean is the last thing on our minds. Small boulders with smooth edges from a lifetime of battering the tides extend all the way to the water.

As we walk around, I notice the beginnings of a wall made of rocks. It’s just tall enough to shield a person from the wind while sitting down, so I prop myself next to it and take in the beautiful view of the coastline.

While sitting, my brother and his friend start to gather more rocks and add them to the wall next to me. As they silently work, instinctually fortifying the perimeter like kids with a Lego set, I clear out the interior area and reposition stones to act as more comfortable places to sit. Once the base is laid, I can feel that we’re starting to take this seriously. Delicately balanced rock columns make for taller walls. Driftwood pieces serve as windows so the ocean view can still be enjoyed from the inside. An extremely large piece of driftwood is propped up a few feet from the main structure which serves the purpose of flagpole. Even though there is no discussion of exactly what we’re doing, we keep adding rocks; we just want to be part of building it.

When it’s finished, we have a makeshift fort on the beach shielding us from the gusty wind. As more family members make their way to the beach, a few of them seek refuge in our shelter. After all, it’s the only place on the beach where playing cards won’t blow away. And that’s what we do. We play cards until the sun goes down; it’s awesome.


Outside of moving to New Hampshire, I have never felt such a sense of family from a community. Ever since we open our doors nearly three years ago and put ourselves out there, you guys have shown us nothing but love and support. That continues to drive us to make you proud in everything we do. Although the final result of what we’re making is uncertain, we’re going to continue to build, and are thankful you guys have chosen to be part of our family.

- Mike