Where is Bay Area craft beer going in 2020?
Ask the brewers, and there are a limited number of things they’ll agree on: Traditional styles are in, quality control is much better, and “healthier” lower-calorie beers and seltzers are all the rage.
Another: It’s a bold idea to open a brewery in California in 2020.
And yet, new and experienced brewers are still plotting big moves by opening new businesses in 2020 in the greater Bay Area. Here’s who to look out for this year.
Wondrous Brewing, Emeryville
Set to open: Late Summer 2020
One of the most anticipated breweries of 2020, Wondrous Brewing, will be the first in years to open in the late summer in one oft-overlooked East Bay town: Emeryville.
At 27, Wondrous founder Wynn Whisenhunt may be young, but the Bay Area native is nevertheless a seasoned brewer. He’s been interested in the craft since he was a teenager working at E.J. Phair’s in Concord, where he met the homebrewing personalities of the East Bay-based Brewing Network.
“[Mike ‘Tasty’ McDole] took me under his wing and showed me homebrewing,” Whisenhunt tells SFGATE. “Then my first ever real homebrew batch was on [future Heretic Brewing founder] Jamil Zainasheff’s homebrew system … I didn’t know how well-known Jamil was, I just remember mashing on the first brew and he would explain these processes, how stuff works in a brewery. Being able to learn from him in a production barrel-sized brewery was my upbringing.”
After taking a brewing course at the Siebel Institute in Chicago and working a stint at Lagunitas in Petaluma, he was hired as head brewer at Bartlett Hall, a brewpub in Union Square, San Francisco. The opportunity allowed him to “learn to make mistakes and to learn what actually worked and just find and hone in on my brewing style.” But despite the prestige of a head brewer gig (and a couple Great American Beer Fest medals) Whisenhunt wasn’t content; to move forward in his career trajectory, he found he’d need to take a few steps back.
Whisenhunt’s favorite brewery was (and still is, he says) Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, a very small craft brewery in Capitola, Calif. known for its expertly-produced mixed-fermentation ales (known colloquially as “funky” beers). So he sought out its brewmaster and co-owner Tim Clifford to ask if he might join the team.
“The first thing [Clifford] said [was] I won’t be able to pay you anywhere close to what Bartlett Hall pays you and you’re not going to be head brewer,” Whisenhunt remembers. “I said I just wanted to see how this awesome brewery works.”
Whisenhunt spent an “amazing” year and a half at Sante before a different kind of opportunity arose. Over the years, friends and family who recognized his talent had expressed interest in investing in a new brewery for him. Suddenly, Whisenhunt had enough cash to pursue his own company.
“I thought, what do I do?” he recalls. “Do I stay working at my favorite brewery in the world? Or do I follow my own path and open my own brewery? It was like being torn between the two best options in the world.”
He opted for the latter choice, and in late summer or fall of this year, Whisenhunt will open Wondrous Brewing on 65th Street in Emeryville. There, he’ll focus on classic styles like IPAs, barleywines and mixed-fermentation ales, but also make sure to keep a strong lager program going.
“We’re getting a couple horizontal lagering tanks,” he says. “It would be awesome to have just as many lagers on tap as normal ales.”
Pretty soon, thanks to the financial backing of his supporters, East Bay locals will be able to visit Wondrous’ taproom and beer garden.
“They believed in me — people I’ve known for years were supportive and stoked on it,” he says. “I can’t thank them enough for supporting my dream.”
Private Press Brewing, Santa Cruz
Set to open: Late summer 2020
When Brad Clark began his tenure as brewer at what became Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery in Athens, Ohio in 2006, he had never brewed an all-grain beer before. He had homebrewed as a hobby, like many future professional brewers, and had a knack for it, but the introduction to the brewpub’s 7-barrel brewing system meant Clark was learning to brew commercially on a major learning curve.
He took a brewing course at Siebel, and in 2011, the company purchased a farm and a new production brewery. With Clark at the helm, Jackie O’s became nationally famous and renowned for its top-of-the-line imperial stouts — it’s the style at which Clark thrived.
In 2019, after working at Jackie O’s for 13 years, Clark opted to pursue making that style exclusively, with all new scenery.
The timing was right; Clark was engaged to Adair Paterno, co-founder of Sante Adairius, and it made sense to make the move to Santa Cruz to start a new chapter — including founding a new brewery with a rather unique business model.
“I’d been working on this business idea for a while, a couple years now,” he tells SFGATE. “I wanted it to be sustainable, to provide a life I wanted, a life I’d enjoy. Working at Jackie O’s, a pretty large 14,000-barrel brewery, [I was] dealing with a large distribution of many different styles of beer going to other states, and then trying to play this volume game. That just created a lot of stress, not to say it wasn’t exciting. It was challenging, but it was running me instead of me running it.”
So rather than going the traditional brewery-and-taproom route, Clark’s keeping things very exclusive: When it launches, Private Press Brewing’s beers will only be available via a subscription.
There’s a method to the madness; Clark is aiming to make the very best beer possible. He’s investing in double the amount of spirit barrels he’ll actually need to be sure he’s creating super premium beers in very small batches.
“From how I have it set up, I’d only be selling 80-90 barrels each year; I’ll be producing close to 200, but only selling half of that,” he says. “I’m anticipating filling twice as many barrels as I need. Then as I go in and blend the beers over the course of the year, I can choose barrels that present the roundest expression available. I’m giving myself lots of room to create something special.”
Clark will be brewing, curating and blending exclusively barrel-aged imperial stouts and barleywines, but don’t expect to see any wild ingredients on the labels.
“I guess I’m a little bit old school,” he continues. “I’m definitely going to be making beers with a lot of residual sugar, that have a lot of body, but I don’t think I’ll be making beers with marshmallows in it. Definitely coffee, vanilla, nuts — I will be using adjuncts.”
Clark plans to launch the membership sign-up in June, around two months before the brewery officially opens. Each membership — of which there will be 500 available — will cost $300 and include 10 bottles of 500 mL beers as well as glassware. Only very occasionally will Clark fill a keg, such as in the event of a beer festival or special event.
“Doing distribution can be difficult because it’s a specific niche,” he says. “Focusing in on a club, it seemed like a great way I could make the beers I love to make, do them in small batches, and get them to a small and captive audience.”
Otherwise Brewing, San Francisco
Set to open: Spring 2020
Ask economists about the biggest trend in brewing, and you’ll get a singular answer: It’s time for the rise of the health-conscious beer.
In 2020, that means San Francisco’s new Otherwise Brewing, a gluten-free brewery specializing in using other grains like rice, buckwheat and quinoa as malts, is primed for success.
It’s been in the works for about five years now, says co-founder Stellar Cassidy. The longtime San Francisco local became interested in beer while living in North Beach and frequenting Church Key, a beer bar on Grant Ave., before she decided to jump into the industry herself. She took a bartending job there after college and rose up the ranks, quickly landing a management position there. Then she took a second bartending job at City Beer Store. It wasn’t long before she set her sights on building her own beer brand.
“I wanted something more than just pouring beer,” she says. “So I started talking to [now-Woods Beer Co. Head Brewer] Kim [Sturdavant]. Kim and I had this vision and put things together.”
Sturdavant ended up taking a head brewer role at Woods Beer Co., but still invested in the company, and now serves as an advisor to Cassidy and her co-founder, Aaron Gervais. Initially, the plan was just to brew good beer, but as the project took shape, they decided to focus on a more specialized, alternative grain product.
“Talking to our investors, what they were most excited about was the gluten-free angle,” she adds. “So I was like, well, if we’re going to go gluten-free then I want to go experiment with all these weird, crazy grains. San Francisco doesn’t have a gluten-free brewery, so we had that on our side. And the flavors the alternative grains are producing are also delicious, so we decided to go fully-fledged with that after a couple of test batches.” [Editor’s Note: Sufferfest Beer Co., also based in San Francisco, is gluten-removed, which is a slightly different distinction than gluten-free.]
Next came the name Otherwise, meant to nod to the other, non-barley malts used in their beer. And after that came the beer itself. After a trial of recipes, contract brewed at Speakeasy Ales & Lagers in San Francisco, Cassidy and Gervais have settled on their first three official beers, set to release in kegs and cans in the spring: an easy-drinking, “sparkling, true rice lager” called Calrose; a hazy IPA hopped with Ekuanot and malted with millet and quinoa; and Sunday Brunch, which Cassidy likens to “a Nutella crepe-style breakfast stout” made with buckwheat, quinoa and other chocolatey malts.
It’s an exciting task for Gervais, especially given his background as an operatic composer.
“The way [Gervais] approaches brewing is a lot like composing music, because there’s so many variables,” she says. “[But] most brewing techniques don’t apply to us because we’re not using barley. It’s all like, if you tweak like this, then it affects everything else. [Gervais] explains it as being similar to a composition.”
Cassidy, on the other hand, would prefer to use the title “Director of Thirst Fulfillment,” she explains, but clarifies that she’ll be in charge of the operations, logistics, sales and marketing in new territories.
And for a gluten-free brand in the Bay Area, it’s all pretty much new territory. Otherwise is up for the challenge, Cassidy says: “We’re like pioneers.”
Dokkaebier, San Francisco
Set to open: February 2020
You could drink your way through all the breweries in the Bay Area, and still the chances you’d taste a beer like those at the new Polk Street brewing pop-up Dokkaebier are nil.
One, a pilsner, has a nuanced sweetness, imparted by bamboo. Another, a witbier, has a subtle zing of omija berry and back-end heat of gochugaru, a Korean chili powder. Last is a roasty stout, spiced with warm cardamom and green peppercorn.
The contract brewing of these rather creative beers was overseen by Youngwon Lee, a Korean-American in California who’s made a career in multiple areas of the drinks industry.
Lee was born in Korea, but as a child moved to the U.S. East Coast. He spent most of his young life there and in California for college, but at 19, he returned to Korea to see his grandmother before she passed. While in Seoul, he began work at a high-end wine and spirits importer called Indulge. Soon thereafter, he’d begun his own importing company, and, now savvy in the industry, he opened a taproom and wine bar.
Eventually, Lee met the CEO of The Booth, a Korean brewery with a Humboldt-area brewhouse. The Booth eventually coaxed Lee to join their brewing company and in 2017, to move back to California to work on its sales and marketing in the American market.
But by 2020, Lee’s entrepreneurship instincts kicked in again, prompting him to pursue his own brewing project, called Dokkaebier (pronounced “DOH-kay-beer”).
“[The name] originated from the name dokkaebi, which is a Korean, sort of mythical creature,” says Lee. “It’s kind of like a ghost, but it always has a positive energy and it’s fun. It hides in objects in the daytime; it comes out at night and it likes to drink, eat and hang out with people.”
When Dokkaebier debuts just in time for San Francisco Beer Week, it takes on a novel form: It’s going to be a taproom and restaurant pop-up, open Friday, February 7 through April 2020 at 1735 Polk Street in San Francisco.
The beer is hardly the only sell; the food may well be some of the best to ever be served in a brewery taproom. After meeting Daniel Wright, chef de cuisine at Saison in San Francisco, through a series of work connections, Lee partnered with him to drive Dokkaebier’s culinary program.
As Wright details, the menu will be a “beer-friendly” small bites format, consisting of raw and cooked seafood, fried Korean chicken, poke rice cakes, short ribs, and locally-sourced seasonal produce.
“We’ll be able to make multiple suggestions on the types of beers that people can enjoy with this food,” Wright adds. “The food needs to work with the [beer] because what we’re really trying to do here is promote the beverage … It’s going to be a relatively limited venue in the beginning. And then as we move forward we’ll be able to introduce other [dishes].”
Set to launch: Spring 2020
You could say Tim Decker’s reputation preceded him. Or at least, his stickers did.
Decker, a longtime punk and metal concert promoter and Sacramento-area homebrewer who turned “pro” in 2012, has been a roving brewer for years, collaborating on mostly farmhouse-styles ales with Santa Rosa’s Shady Oak Barrel House and other local breweries. His beers have yet to be seen in the wild, but chances are, drinkers who’ve frequented the area’s famed beer bars have likely seen his stickers, depicting a glass of beer atop a skull, with a snake slithering where its jaw should be.
In 2020, Decker’s going legit, releasing three beers through Shady Oak this spring under his moniker as he seeks business partners and financial backing for his project. But what the concept of the brewery AltBrau will end up looking like is still anyone’s guess. Will it be a taproom? A contract brewery? Decker’s not sure yet — not that he minds.
“Because I‘m not [currently] a legal licensed brewer, I don’t have the hard lines with how [AltBrau] exists,” he tells SFGATE. “I’m open to a lot of ideas: contract brewer, nomadic brewer. If I got the money to open a brick and mortar, would it be a blendery like The Rare Barrel? Having [the intention] be not so clear has benefited me.”
One thing that is clear is that, in the meantime, Decker’s honing in on his strengths: meeting people and making connections.
“You have to take the things you’re good at and push those and take the things you’re not and delegate,” he says. “I don’t know how to write a business plan, but something that’s not intimidating to me is that public interaction. I wanted an excuse to hang out with brewers who knew more than I did.”
From those brewers, Decker’s learning a lot, particularly when it comes to the styles that most interest him: mixed-culture wild and farmhouse ales.
There are “professional brewers who [follow] strict, almost German lager guidelines of brewing,” he says, but also those who let the brewing process “be more natural and organic, loosening the grip of control and letting nature play more of a role.”
The end goal, he says, is to make beer using the latter, more traditional European method, and eventually buy land for a new farmhouse brewhouse in the North Bay. It’s only fitting, considering the name of his brewing project.
“[AltBrau] is just German for ‘old beer,’” he adds, “but it’s alt, like alternative — like this is old world and new world, one foot in the old and one in the future.”
San Francisco Beer Week begins Friday, February 7 and runs through February 16, 2020.
- This Comedian Is Dead Serious About Staten Island Beer
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s founder talks craft beer’s past, and its future relevance
- The Graphic Details Behind Marketing Austin's Craft Beers
- The future of IPAs is weird and wonderful, says craft beer pioneer Dick Cantwell
- Baseball Road Trips - America's Best Baseball and Beer Destinations
- Trending beers at Great American Beer Festival offer glimpse into our fizzy future
- What's happening in Tampa Bay this weekend? | October 18-20
- Dive into beer! Vegas crafts, taps, seasonals, upcoming fests and more
- Tenaya Creek Brewing celebrates 20 years on the local scene
- Downtown Las Vegas’ Arts District is becoming a beer lover’s paradise
- Waah Taj! IHCL hotels may serve craft beer
- In Colorado Springs, you can sample America's best beers without leaving home | Pikes Pub
- The Wrap: Bagels, baklava and beer
- Bar Tab: Gulf Gate Food + Beer expands to second Sarasota location
- Byron Bay Markets - Enjoying Bargains in Open Air
- Six delivery sites that will change the way you shop
- Goal Sports Centre II won't be open in time for 2019 indoor season, manager says
- Police, coroner push forward with new investigations into 9 Indigenous deaths in Thunder Bay
- Crafting Guide For Aion Online - The Tower of Eternity
- 10 Ways to Rock Your Open House
The craft breweries opening in 2020 that will change the Bay Area’s beer scene have 3294 words, post on www.sfgate.com at February 7, 2020. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.