Cleophus Quealy Beer Company has both an unusual name and an origin story that is decidedly different for a craft brewery.
Founders Peter Baker and Dan Watson are software developers who met while working at Google in 2005. A friendship bloomed, and when Baker and Watson were traveling together in Europe, they confirmed a joint love for beer. Five years ago they started brewing together in a garage.
“In some ways we’re trying to follow the tech path of doing a startup and iterating,” Baker explained. “Two years ago we had a showcase event to see if people liked our beer. We wanted to see how people responded to the beer and how we responded to the people.”
The feedback from that early alpha test was good enough that the pair decided to make a business out of it.
The San Leandro microbrewery has its grand opening this weekend, where beer fanciers will be able to try quaffs from different brewed batches, ranging from golden ale to weisse to dubbel to a milk stout.
Baker said his current favorite beer is the brewery’s rye, but “every week my favorite changes.”
Watson is the brewer and Baker concentrates on front of house, and led the drive to get the tasting room built. Watson plans to take the brewing masters course at UC Davis, building on what Watson describes as his “strong scientific and engineering background in brewing.”
The plan is to produce fewer than 400 barrels annually, which makes Cleophus Quealy bigger than a nano-brewery, but on the decidedly small end of microbreweries.
The tasting room and brewery is funded personally by Baker and Watson, who have kept their day jobs in technology: Watson still at Google, Baker now at Salesforce.com’s Heroku platform. For the moment, Cleophus Quealy is a side project that will be open weekends only, but Baker said he would like to see it grow.
“Fortunately for us, we’re far enough along in our careers in technology,” Baker said. “It does offer flexibility that you don’t necessarily find in a lot of other careers. I personally would love to grow the business with people who have ownership in the business. I’m a technologist. I’m a geek. I’m never going to not be involved in technology in some way.”
What led Baker and Watson to San Leandro, where a brewing cluster seems to be developing (with Drake’s and 21st Amendment)?
“Our mission has always been twofold,” Baker said. “One, have a strong community. Two, build something sustainable. Sustainability at our size has to do with brand and overhead. Affordability was a huge piece of it. We spent almost two years looking at real estate.”
Oh, and about that name? Quealy is Baker’s mother’s maiden name, and Cleophus was the first name of Watson’s great great great grandfather. It also happens to stand out when you Google it.
Cleophus Quealy Beer Company, 448 Hester St., San Leandro. The grand opening is on Saturday, Dec. 6, from noon to 9 p.m. Canasta Kitchen will be selling tacos, empanadas, taquitos, burritos and more from 12.30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Live music will be provided by Redwood Ramblers and Chloe Fuller. A raffle for Cleophus Quealy merchandise will benefit Rocket Dog Rescue. Children and dogs welcome. Connect with Cleophus Quealy on Facebook.
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