Craft Beer Finds a Home at Ford Point in Richmond

Craft beer is finding a foothold in just about every corner of the Bay Area, even in cities that are normally considered a beer desert. A case in point is the city of Richmond, where the Boilerhouse restaurant is now featuring Rosie’s Shipyard Ale.

The Boilerhouse is part of Ford Point, a former Model A assembly plant built in 1931 on the edge of San Francisco Bay, which is part of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Homefront National Historic Park. Thousands of women worked at the facility to support their families and the war effort. Now, where jeeps and tanks once rolled down the line, several businesses operate alongside an entertainment complex called the Craneway Pavilion.

Rosie’s Shipyard Ale was named after this historical pedigree and Richmond’s other major wartime contribution, the nearby Kaiser Shipyard, where Liberty Ships were once built and christened at a rate of one every two weeks.

This “house craft beer” was brewed for the Boilerhouse by Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro. It’s on the lighter end of the Pale Ale spectrum with a malt bill composed of American 2-Row, Caramalt and Crystal 45L. Magnum hops were employed for bittering, while Styrian Golgings and Cascade hops round out the aromatic character of the beer.

While the Boilerhouse may be too far off the beaten track for some folks, if you’re riding the Bay Trail or happen to be in the neighborhood, it’s worth stopping in to try the beer and take in the historic setting. The restaurant is situated amongst the plant’s old powerhouse equipment and offers modern American cuisine. If that’s not enough, the panoramic views of San Francisco and the surrounding topography are stunning.

Craneway Pavilion / Photo © Brian Stechschulte

Drake’s Brewing Company is Big on Giving Back

Whether it is because, as the drink of the everyman, beer inspires giving back to one’s fellow man, because the tight-knit feeling of community in the Bay Area’s beer scene prompts giving back to the community at large, or because good beer simply causes feelings of happiness and generosity, there is no question that charitable giving is a big item on many Bay Area breweries’ and beer hubs’ agendas.

Drake’s Brewing Company in San Leandro, in particular, is one brewery that has had a longstanding and substantial commitment to giving back to the Bay and especially its hometown. Their main event is “First Fridays” which, until its barrel house opened this past week, were some of the few days Drake’s opened their doors to the public. The first Friday of each month the brewery holds a party and gives the proceeds to a different local charity, often one located in San Leandro itself.

Brittany Dern, sales and marketing spokesperson for Drake’s, explained, “when the First Friday events started, they (Drake’s owners, John Martin and Roy Kirkorian) thought it was a good way to give back to San Leandro, to the community, for supporting Drakes.”

At First Fridays guests are asked to give a $5 donation at the gate, and then they may either bring their own Drake’s glass or purchase one at the brewery. To get a pint, guests then purchase beer tokens. From there, the beer stays flowing into the evening, and all the profits go to the sponsored charity for the night.

This format has caught on too. Devil’s Canyon Brewery in Belmont implemented a similar monthly charitable facet called Cheers for Charity this past May at their monthly Beer Friday events on the last Friday of each month.

But the First Fridays are just beginning for Drake’s charitable arm.  Their event calendar consistently has one or two events on tap that focus on giving back–  even infiltrating some events that you may not have expected to see craft beer before.

Last Thursday, Drake’s represented craft beer at the posh Union Square restaurant Postrio for an event with a few local wineries for the CASA organization of Contra Costa County. CASA, a national organization with several local chapters, provides volunteer mentors or CASAs to help guide particularly vulnerable children in the foster care system. There, roughly 120 guests for $75 a head tasted wine, munched on smoked salmon and mushroom and garlic confit pizzas and drank Drake’s beer.

Drakes Brewing-Guests-at-the-Postrio-Event

Guests at the Postrio event listen to Charles Mead, CASA’s executive director between glasses of wine and Drake’s beer.

At the event, women and men clearly more accustomed to a Napa pinot noir than an IPA, cautiously approached Drake’s representative Jeremy Wanamaker with his long hair and lumberjack-esque beard and build to ask about the brews available. One woman, casually holding a Coach handbag in one immaculately manicured hand, sipped on Drake’s hefeweizen cautiously and declared, somewhat surprised, “I like it!.”


Jeremy Wanamaker explains the beer selection to one guest at the Postrio Micro Beer and Wine Summer Solstice event.

“You worry at these events that people might be, you know, standoffish,” Dern said, “this has been great because people have been very interested.”

According to Dern, the exposure for the beer is admittedly huge perk of doing charitable events. At Postrio, it was quite evident that few of the guests in attendance had never heard of Drake’s before, but several mentioned that they were new fans after trying the beer.

While the event was somewhat an oddity for the Drake’s crew, their participation like most of their charitable giving still stemmed from a close community affiliation. Dern’s father, John Dern, owns Postrio, and his sister has been a volunteer with the CASA organization in San Jose for years.

“If someone in the brewery has their own special project,” Dern said, “they are more than welcome to pitch it.”

Which is exactly what Dern and her father did, and thus was born what could the first of many pizza, beer and wine events Postrio hosts in the future, according to Mr. Dern.  Drake’s, therefore, may make further inroads into the Postrio set than they imagined.

But for Drake’s, spreading the love around is just what they do. This weekend the brewery will be holding their First Friday for the Boys and Girls Club of San Leandro on Friday and then participating along with other local breweries in “Breastfest” at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco on Saturday to support, you guessed it, breast cancer research.

In the end, all the giving and exposure seems to have been a win-win for Drake’s and the organizations they support. Drake’s is one of the faster growing breweries in the area. According to Dern, Drake’s output was just over 6,000 barrels last year, and they expect to hit around 8,000 this year. The brewery also recently opened a taproom at the brewery that will serve Drake’s beer to the public every Wednesday through Sunday.

For Drake’s it seems, some seriously good karma is certainly paying off.

Drake’s Brewing Set To Open Barrel House

Drake’s Brewing has been in a constant state of construction over the last few months. Like most breweries, it’s a symptom of increased demand. They’ve been shuffling equipment, digging trenches, making room for 60 barrel fermenters, a brew kettle, and barring any unforeseen hiccups, will be opening their new Barrel House and Tap Room on June 24th.

“I guess you could call it community outreach,” said a laughing Gabrielle Chan, who left a career in the tech world to join Drake’s as manager of the new space. She explained “the old tasting room wasn’t adequately staffed and First Friday visitors wanted the event to happen on a more regular basis. The owners are obviously very passionate about the beer and wanted to make it more accessible to people.”

Gabrielle Chan, Barrel House Manager

The Barrel House sits inside the same dusty blue warehouse where visitors found the old tasting bar and cooler. All of that is gone. Now you’ll find church pews, distressed chairs, tables and a long bar topped with a slab of honey colored Douglas fir that was milled on-site. The tree fell at the home of Drake’s owner John Martin.

Behind the bar twenty-one taps have been drilled into the wall of a new cooler room. Chan said, “There’s going to be a lot of different beers coming through along with house-made sodas. We’re also working on getting the barrel aged beers organized.” Capacity inside is set at forty-nine, but a patio will also be available outside with tables and umbrellas for guests to enjoy East Bay sun or cool breezes.

Around the corner from the bar you’ll still be able to grab six-packs or bombers to go, and if you get hungry, a book of menus will be available for guests to order take out. Chan is also working on rallying a bunch of food trucks to stop by on occasion.

As for operating hours, Chan stated, “we’ll be open Wednesday through Sunday. We’re playing around with Wednesday right now because it’s kind of an unknown with people getting off work, but definitely Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from either Noon or 1:00pm till 8:30pm. Sunday we’ll be open from 1:00 to 6:00pm. We’ll also be available for private events on Monday and Tuesday.”

Keep your eyes peeled on Drake’s twitter feed and blog for official word of the grand opening. The Barrel House will be a great addition to the East Bay beer scene.

Calendar of Events

February was a blur. SF Beer Week has come and gone leaving many people depressed and yearning for more. Don’t worry, great stuff happens year round. The March calendar is just starting to take shape. More events are rolling in and will be included on the CALENDER portion of the BACB website. Check there for the latest and greatest events throughout the month.

March 1

Real Ale Night: Telegraph Brewing
7:00pm, Toad in the Hole, 116 5th St., Santa Rosa, CA. (map)

Telegraph Brewing will be pouring their California Ale and Brown Ale on draft, a hoppy Amber in a firkin and Rhinoceros Rye Wine from 22 oz bottles.

March 2

Pizza & Beer Night: Telegraph Brewing
Call for time, Vinyl Wine Bar, 359 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA. (map)

Brewery Night: Ballast Point
6:00pm, Beer Revolution, 464 3rd Street, Oakland, CA. (map)

March 4

Drake’s First Friday
4:00pm, Drake’s Brewing, 1933 Davis Street, San Leandro, CA. (map)

Drake’s First Friday Events are fundraisers for local schools & non-profits, and are held at Drake’s the first Friday of every month. This Friday will benefit San Leandro’s James Madison Elementary School. $5 per person voluntary donation and $15 for a Drake’s tasting glass with 3 drink tokens.

March 19

16th Annual Fairfax Brewfest
12-6pm, Fairfax Pavilion, Fairfax, CA. (map)

17 of the finest breweries in the Bay Area together for one of the first, funnest, festive beer festivals of the season. Tickets: $25 advance, $30 day of event.

March 22

Deschutes Beer Pairing
6:00-9:00pm, Monk’s Kettle, 3141 16th Street, San Francisco, CA. (map)

Deschutes Brewery Chef Matt Neltner and Monk’s Kettle Chef Adam Dulye collaborate to deliver a menu made for beer. The special menu will be available to anyone visiting the restaurant. On tap will be a large variety of Deschutes beers including: The Abyss 2010, The Abyss, 2009, Black Butte XXI, Hop Henge Experimental IPA, Red Chair NWPA, Mirror Mirror, Jubel 2010, Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Green Lakes Organic Ale. Visitors will also have a chance to discuss the beers and brewing processes with Deschutes Brewery brewer Robin Johnson.

March 23

Brewery Night: Deschutes Brewing
6:00pm, Beer Revolution, 464 3rd Street, Oakland, CA. (map)

March 23-26

Craft Brewer’s Conference
Hilton Union Square, 333 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA. (map)

For professional brewers, CBC is the number one environment in North America for concentrated, affordable brewing education and idea sharing to improve brewery quality and performance. The conference is also a great social event with over 2,600 brewing industry professionals enjoying craft brews together.

March 25

15th Annual Battle of the Brews
5:00-9:30pm, Grace Pavilion, Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, CA. (map)

30 breweries and 20 different food vendors setup shop for this beer tasting for charity. Proceeds benefit the Youth Benevolent Fund. $40.

Drake’s Brewing Throws Old Fashioned Pig Roast

Beer and food pairings abound during SF Beer Week. Either throw a dart at the schedule or pick your artery clogging poison. Chocolate, cheese and cupcakes are a delectable option or you can vie for a seat at an elaborate dinner. Bay Area Craft Beer decided to venture into the East Bay this week for a more down home-style event at Drake’s Brewing. It’s their first year as a major sponsor and they hosted a Sau & Brau party to celebrate at the brewery in San Leandro.

The event took place on a chilly Wednesday night thanks to a winter storm that blew in just in time for beer week. Before the doors opened at 6:00pm, attendees huddled around glowing embers roasting the special guest. The Chop Bar in Oakland prepped and cooked the pig along with several sides and desserts that were on the menu. Drake’s offered a selection of their flagship beer during happy hour and paired 6 barrel-aged beers with the food. Everything cost a mere $40.

The industrial space managed to be a warm and cozy respite from the cold. Guests were greeted with festive lights and long dinner tables stretched between aging barrels. During the first hour three taps poured Drakes IPA, 1500 and the seasonal Imperial IPA called Hopocalyspe, while patrons chatted and perused the tall stacks of packaged beer and brewing equipment.

After a brief introduction from a member of Drake’s sales staff, dinner was served at 7:00pm in an orderly fashion. Guests gathered in a short line where the Chop Bar staff dolled out a spoonful of salad, potatoes, grilled flat bread and a portion of the succulent hog that beautifully dressed the table. The ferocious clatter of the cleaver slicing through meat and bone into the butchers block was not for the faint of heart.

Once the food was portioned out a selection of barrel-aged beer complimented the roasted flavor depending on your preference. You could pick just one or try them all. The list included:

  • Hooked on Drakonics, a 2009 Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels (10.5% ABV).
  • Barrel Droop, a 2008 Barleywine also aged in bourbon Barrels (11.5% ABV).
  • Aged Barrel Droop, which spent two years in steel barrels (10.5% ABV).

If guests didn’t have their fill with a second serving of the main course, dessert finished off their appetite at 8:00pm when two different cakes were paired with two sour beers. BACB chose the Red Velvet cake and sampled the following beers inoculated with brettanomyces.

  • Brett Butler, a Belgian Triple aged 14 months in Pinot Noir barrels.
  • Sauer Brauer, a blend of Belgian blonde and Drake’s Amber aged in Merlot barrels.

Following the wonderful meal everyone mingled and compared notes. Judging by the comments, its safe to say everyone left full and happy. If your taste buds are chomping at the bit, unfortunately you’ll have to wait for Sau & Brau to occur again next year during SF Beer Week.