Elevation 66 Brewing

Photos: Brian Stechschulte

Sixty-six feet above sea level and the fractured geology of the East Bay, the regions newest brewpub, Elevation 66 Brewing Company, is preparing to open its doors in El Cerrito by mid to late August. The project has evolved since 2010 from “wishful thinking” to clearing its final licensing hurdle last week. Soon they’ll be firing up the mash kettle.

“It was a pipe dream at first,” said Brian Kelly, who partnered with Kayvan Sabeghi and Dave Goodstal on the new venture. The three friends are all former employees of Pyramid Brewing in Berkeley. Kelly and Sabeghi spent time as servers behind and in front of the bar, while Goodstal, who did stints at Beermann’s, Sudwerk and Trumer, worked on the brewing team.

Once they mustered up the guts and capital to take the big leap they went shopping for a location. According to Kelly they were welcomed by the city of El Cerrito with open arms and a little funding. “We looked into a lot of places like Berkeley, Oakland, San Raphael and San Francisco, but they seemed to be a lot more expensive and some cities wouldn’t even talk to us. El Cerrito officials definitely wanted us here and did everything they could to help us get in and made sure the bureaucratic stuff went as smooth as possible. It was a blessing.“

Kelly was also encouraged by the changing demographics in the area. “It seems like the average age of El Cerrito’s population is getting younger. People in their mid thirties with families are moving into the neighborhood and don’t have a local bar or brewery to hang out and socialize.”

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The 4,800 square foot brewpub stretches over two floors and is located on San Pablo Avenue next to the historic El Cerrito Theatre and a block from BART. The space use to be a dance studio and art gallery without any infrastructure a brewery or restaurant requires. As a result, larger drains, a full kitchen and cooler had to be installed along with the brewing system that sits behind the bar.

It will smell like a brewery, something Kelly thinks customers will enjoy. “We played around with a lot of different design ideas and having the brewery behind the bar was the most efficient in the end. It’s also cool because people are interested in the process of how it’s being made and can learn a bit by playing twenty questions with the bartender.”

As for the beer coming through that system, six different choices will be on tap at any given time. Four of the beers will be served year round and they’ll rotate two seasonal selections. At the moment their core beer lineup will include an IPA, vanilla stout, light golden ale and amber ale. For the time being they’ll stick to ales so they don’t have a bunch of different yeast strains floating around the new brewery.

Along with their own beer, Elevation 66 will be offering five beers from local microbreweries. Kelly sees it as way to round out the portfolio with beer they’re not going to be brewing in the near future, such as lagers and Belgians. Guest taps may include Trumer Pils, the Belgian Blonde from Black Diamond Brewing and a cider.

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If you get hungry when you visit a full menu will be prepared by Chef Joel Coleman, a native of Hawaii whose moving from New Mexico to join the operation. All the ingredients will be sourced locally and the menu selection will change according to the seasons. Kelly said “It’s not going to be the greasy, no thought put into it, typical pub food. It will be pub food with a little bit a of a twist and a local flare to it.”

When the doors eventually open, hours are currently pegged at 11:30am to 11pm Sunday to Thursday and 11:30am to 2am Friday and Saturday, but could change depending on traffic flow. They also plan on hosting industry nights, open mic sessions and may offer discounts to customers with BART tickets.

Like any brewpub the group is focusing on quality beer and food to make customers happy, but Kelly has a larger vision in mind. “We just really want this place to be a good community spot where local people can gather with friends and have a good time. We’ll have good music, sports on the television and hope we can become an anchor for this growing neighborhood.”

Update (8/5/11): The address is 10082 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA (map). Thanks Dave!

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