Nobody Knew That Running A Brewery Could Be So Complicated

Digging our new home in Richmond

Digging our new home in Richmond

So we thought that after we opened, we’d have more time for posting on the blog...but nope! It’s been six months since the last post, and we are most definitely busier than ever. The thing about a startup is, you have to wear so darn many hats; Chris our co-founder has on more than one occasion pointed out that one definition of entrepreneurialism is “trying to accomplish something beyond one’s present means.” And if that doesn’t describe our daily endeavors here, I don’t know what does. We’re still square in the startup phase, looking ahead to where we want to be 6, 12, 24 months from now, and realizing that we’re going to need more of everything – people, equipment, money...and beer! – in order to get there.

And yeah the money part can be challenging, but we had our eyes open going into this, and the reality is that very few new businesses are without some level of financial stress. But all things considered, we’re very happy with the way things are going. We love being part of the Richmond community, we’re enjoying steady growth in the taproom and in our retail accounts, and most importantly, the beers are turning out the way we intended: easy-drinking, clean-finishing, balanced – and in fact we’ve been struggling to keep up with demand.

So – here we are seven months after opening, back to cutting concrete, building more infrastructure, and purchasing the form of four large vessels – fermenters and conditioning tanks – that will more than double our current capacity. The couple of lagers we brew – Red Lager (Vienna style) and Bo Pils (Czech style) have proven more popular than we initially estimated, and since lagers take much longer than ales to make, we needed to kick off this expansion project sooner than planned. Should be cranking out a lot more beer by end of summer!

Oh and on a sort of but not totally unrelated topic, our lack of sophistication with regard to the SEO black box – and frankly, our lack of interest in “playing the Google game” as one blogger put it – compels us to mention the following phrases: Bay Area breweries, brewery near me, taproom near me, beer near me. There, we’re done for now.

The Doors Are Open and Beer Is Flowin'

Opening Night. Photo courtesy of George Post

Opening Night. Photo courtesy of George Post

We received a message from someone on our website recently with a rather blunt suggestion about this blog: “You need to update it” – and you know what – they were right! With all the chaos during our opening we pretty much forgot about the blog. OK so here’s the update: We’re open! We actually started limited distribution in kegs and cans to a few local accounts in late October, but with the taproom’s official open date on December 7th, we’re now moving forward on all fronts. And here’s the weird thing: The 3+ years we’ve been building this venture made it seem as if we were racing towards some sort of “finish” line, but in reality, we just got to the “starting” line.

And what a great feeling it has been. The business, which now requires day-to-day operation and therefore quite a different set of roles, tasks & challenges, is no less stressful and exhausting than it’s been during the building & construction period – beer is indeed labor after all – but so far the emotional rewards are there: Seeing people walk through the door with smiles on their faces, belly up to the bar, take a sip of beer, and tell us it’s good – is a truly gratifying feeling. And of course the fact that we’re finally generating some revenue isn’t a bad thing at all!

We’re very happy thus far with the key pieces of the puzzle – our beer is being received positively, we’re slowly but surely increasing the places you can find it around the Bay Area (click on BEERS to see the bars, restaurants & stores where we're carried), and the taproom vibe seems relaxed and casual (a friend recently referred to it as “homey and industrial-cool”). The awesome thing about the taproom is that we’re seeing people from all walks of life, which is consistent with our simple goal of having a relaxed and casual place for anyone and everyone to have a beer, listen to music, watch the game, and chill with friends & family.

Not sure when the next blog post will be, but feel free to remind us. And look for us around town and/or stop by the taproom for a pint!

The Beer and the Bar

These bags of malt will soon transform into pints of beer

These bags of malt will soon transform into pints of beer

Well another 2+ months has passed since the last post...and we're not yet open. Not frustrated though! is kinda frustrating, with the inevitable delays involved with a project of this scale. That said, we're keeping our focus on the big picture, because a year from now, it won't really matter that we opened a few weeks (OK months) later than originally planned.

And when we think of the millions of decisions we make on a day-to-day basis - i.e., should we try brewing a batch despite a broken flow meter, thereby potentially compromising the quality of our beer, or just wait until a new flow meter arrives - it feels like we're making the right ones. We're trying to avoid being penny-wise and pound-foolish, rather, creating a brewery that's built to last. And this ties into our decision to brew classic styles of beer: While we're not averse to experimentation, we're more interested in brewing a small number of beers over and over, making incremental improvements in the pursuit of perfection. And on that note, we're now brewing! As of yesterday we have all five of our fermenters filled, with a nice cross-section of both ales and lagers.

Along with the incredible amount of work that's been put into constructing our brewing system, we're also building a taproom for people to come and taste our beer fresh from the tanks. And this is where our location comes in. We feel like we lucked into this location in Richmond, tucked up against the hills of Miller-Knox regional park, a sunny oasis in the middle of an urban metropolis. We'll have outdoor seating as well as games like bocce ball and cornhole, and the brewing equipment will be in full view of the taproom customers. Our goal is to have a comfortable place for folks in and around the area to stop by to enjoy a casual beer with friends and family. We've spent a fair amount of time now reaching out to the Richmond community, and we've been blown away by the enthusiastic reception. Can't wait to meet all of our new neighbors!

Oh and we did in fact wait for that new flow meter before brewing again, ensuring that delicious beer will be flowing in the taproom and in kegs & cans around the community...very soon!

Beer Is Labor

It really is...

It really is...

So much has happened since the last post it would be futile to try and cover it all. On the one hand, it’s been more slow-going than we had hoped – not surprising given the magnitude of the project and the number of stakeholders, permits, details, approvals and costs involved – but on the other, it now feels like things are happening with lightning-speed as our train hurtles down the tracks towards opening – planned for later this summer.

Amidst the hustle & bustle, here are a few big developments worth mentioning:

- We welcomed three new employees: Peter (head brewer), Jarrod (sales manager) and Steven (taproom manager)

- We got our ABC license - and can now legally brew and sell beer in the state of California

- Our fermenters arrived - so we now have vessels for fermenting the beer

- Construction began on the taproom, scullery, lab, and bathrooms

- Ts & caps are on sale now! (check the “Shop” tab) 

The tagline on the back of our shirts, “Beer Is Labor,” pretty much sums it up. We’ve heard it stated that running a brewery is 10% brewing and 90% other stuff; and we'd say that opening a brewery is closer to 99% other stuff. The labor involved – physical, mental, emotional – can be exhausting; good thing we’re still having fun!

Looking forward to nudging that brewing part back up to 10%, and to sharing a beer with y’all. Stay tuned…


Concrete and Steel

The forklift gingerly lowers the grist case onto the mash tun.

The forklift gingerly lowers the grist case onto the mash tun.

Our March post mentioned that things were “gettin’ real,” but honestly, that was a bit of hyperbole; we pretty much just kept on with the process of virtual planning - permits, insurance, licenses, financing, etc. But now, we really are gettin’ real: the past seven days witnessed two very significant developments: 1) we poured a concrete platform, and 2) took delivery of our brewing system.

Though merely a slab of humble concrete, the Platform with a capital P is a work of art, with ramps, curbs, slopes and trench drains, ensuring efficient workflow and maximum cleanliness, all in the service of producing great beer. And on that note, the brewing equipment, manufactured by AAA Metal Fabrication, is the heart of our brewery, and an absolute thing of beauty. The 20 barrel system will produce 600+ gallons (around 40 kegs) per batch, and the gorgeous polished stainless steel will be in plain view of our taproom customers, who will enjoy their beverage knowing that it was made twenty feet from where they’re sitting.  

Next steps: Build the plumbing and electrical infrastructure, and start in on those test batches! (oh, and also build the taproom, bathrooms, offices, create signage, get kegs, tap handles, cans, T-shirts, caps, chairs, tables, UPC codes, coasters, stickers, growlers, lab equipment, glassware…and so on).

Gettin' Real

Q: What is this? A: A Penn blowdown separator, of course

Q: What is this? A: A Penn blowdown separator, of course

Two big things happened yesterday: 1) Rob quit his job, and 2) our first piece of equipment was delivered to our space (a blowdown separator, pictured - ain't it cool?). What this means is that it's getting real - real quick. We're in the final stages of our design phase; plans are drawn and engineering specs completed. Over the next month our space will undergo dramatic transformation, as the brewhouse is outfitted, and taproom, office and bathrooms are constructed. Our brewing equipment is due to be delivered in April, and we can't wait to get started with installation, optimization, and test batches.

Regulatory Stuff

All I want for Christmas is my CUP

All I want for Christmas is my CUP

Last night at City Hall, the Richmond City Planning Commission unanimously approved our production brewery! We worked extensively with the Planning Division, along with neighborhood councils, business associations, and local merchants, and have received an incredibly warm welcome from everyone. The unbridled enthusiasm we’re experiencing is enormously gratifying, and we’re tremendously excited to bring a craft brewery to Richmond!

The public notice period lasts for the next 17 days, and barring unforeseen developments, we expect to have in hand an official letter from the city of Richmond giving us the green light on January 4, 2016. 

This is blog post #1



It's been 2+ years since we started planning this thing, and as of now - November 2015 - the train has indeed left the station.

Location: Found (Richmond, California)

Equipment: Ordered (AAA Metal Fabrication)

Name: East Brother Beer Company (thanks Good Beer Hunting!)

And most importantly...

The Beer: Our approach will be a "Return to Classic Styles" - a portfolio centered around traditional ales and lagers, brewed with care and precision. We hope to address the growing trend towards sessionable, clean beers that drinkers across the spectrum will appreciate when looking for a well-made, local beer.

Stay tuned for more details. We're slated to open in the spring of 2016. Hope to see you at the taproom!