Brian Koloszyc started brewing beer on a whim. He had just moved to San Francisco and met Teresa Tamburello, his future wife and business partner. “In the spirit of taking on a new project together, we decided to head to the local homebrew shop to buy supplies for making beer,” he writes on his blog, Novel Brewing.
“It was on, like, our second date,” said Tamburello.
Their first beer, an IPA, was “somewhat eh, but the experience was life-changing,” he said.
Koloszyc is not alone. He is part of a sizable group of home brewers-turned-pros who are all getting ready to open their first breweries in the East Bay. Starting later this year, at least four new breweries are headed to Berkeley and Oakland, bringing even more life into an already booming beer scene. Each brings something different — we’ll soon see more fresh, sessionable beers for outdoor drinking; inspired British-style ales to quaff alongside a favorite book; and funky Belgians paired with casual dining fare.
Beers and books in North Oakland: Novel Brewing Company
Koloszyc and Tamburello will be opening Novel Brewing Company on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland’s Golden Gate neighborhood, where they also live. The brewery has been born out of countless experimentation in their garage. In fact, Koloszyc said that the pair has moved to two different homes to accommodate his growing arsenal of brewing supplies.
“It was in [a] garage my own personal brewery was born,” Koloszyc wrote on his blog. “Didn’t someone say the garage was the birthplace of American ingenuity? Probably. My situation was nothing like that, but it was a place to tinker. … I purchased an oak barrel for sour beers. I began experimenting with pitching different kinds of bacteria and yeast: Brettanomyces, Pediococcus, and lactobacillus. I built a 7-tap keezer and a cold box for lagering. I had a single tier-3 burner homebrew rig welded and plumbed for my brewhouse. I began experimenting with yeast propagation and building a yeast library. You know, the usual stuff.”
During that time, Koloszyc began entering brewing competitions, taking second place for a Baltic Porter in a MoreBeer competition and landing in the top seven for one of Pilsner Urquell’s Master Home Brewer competitions. Afterwards, he decided to get even more serious, and enrolled in the American Brewers Guild Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering program in June 2012, and then interned with Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles.
“Finding myself soaking wet, spraying foaming caustic, scrubbing the floors, and yelling over the mechanical hum … made me never want another desk job again.”
“My time there really helped to shape my brewing methodology, and at the same time taught me what industrial brewing was all about,” wrote Koloszyc. “There is something special that happens when passion and education meets manual labor. Finding myself soaking wet, spraying foaming caustic, scrubbing the floors, and yelling over the mechanical hum to my fellow brewers about the things we love, made me never want another desk job again.”
On their way back to Oakland after the internship finished, Koloszyc and Tamburello decided they would open a brewery. They got the lease on 6510 San Pablo Ave., the future home of their brewery, at the end of August 2015. Koloszyc will be producing all of the beer and Tamburello will manage the taproom.
The brewery’s name stems from the couple’s love for books and for the physical aspect of printing itself.
Koloszyc originally wanted to be a novelist, and Tamburello’s parents own a printing business in St. Louis. “We have books all around our apartment,” said Tamburello. “We’ll have books [lining the walls] in the brewery.”
And the connection to stories isn’t just related to physical books. “When you have a beer,” said Koloszyc, “Stories just start to come out. You can tell your whole life story over a few beers.”
Plus, Koloszyc and Tamburello want the Novel Brewing taproom to have an emphasis on teaching. “Brian has always been big on education, so we’ll be doing [a lot of] private tastings” said Tamburello. “And we want to do female-only tastings. Getting to taste all different styles of beer made me enjoy beer a lot more. … I want to get more women involved [in beer].”
In fact, Tamburello wasn’t really much of a beer drinker before she moved to the Bay Area. “I grew up in St Louis, so [everyone was always drinking] Bud Light all the time. I avoided beer then,” she said. “It wasn’t until I came out here and tried, I think it was Lagunitas —”
“It was Racer 5,” interjected Koloszyc.
“Right, Racer 5. It was then that I realized there was more to beer than tasteless macrobrews.”
In that spirit, Novel Brewing will rotate through different varieties of beer at a rapid clip. The brewing production is small with a three barrel brew house and they will be using three different yeast strains in the brewery, said Koloszyc. He’ll have an English-style yeast for beers like porters and stouts, an American-style yeast for hoppy beers like pale ales and IPAs, and a Belgian-style yeast for, well, Belgian beers.
Eventually, Koloszyc would like to start a barrel-aging program, as well as cooperative brewing classes, but “it will take us a long time to get there,” he said.
As far as food is concerned, Novel’s ultimate offerings are a bit up in the air. “We’re still trying to figure it out,” said Tamburello. Originally, the couple had planned on building a kitchen into the taproom, but between permitting and the actual construction, the cost was simply too high.
Instead, Tamburello has been talking with food trucks and other neighboring restaurants, and “all the restaurants in the area have expressed interest in collaborating,” said Koloszyc. Novel’s taproom may include packaged food offerings from a commissary kitchen and catering company moving in next door.
No matter how Novel grows and changes, Koloszyc emphasizes that he and Tamburello want to maintain a strong neighborhood feel in the taproom. “We’re not really going to distribute much beyond the brewery,” he said. “We’ll maybe have one or two taps in Oakland, Berkeley or Emeryville, but we want to do most of our sales out of the taproom. … It’s very much going to be a neighborhood brewery.”
Koloszyc and Tamburello credit their Indiegogo fundraising campaign with jumpstarting their connect with their neighborhood.
While their ultimate results were far from a windfall — Koloszyc and Tamburello raised around $12,000 — the funds were still well-used. “We ran the campaign at probably at the worst time of the year, around the holidays,” said Tamburello. “But the money we raised did actually pay for our private sewer lateral certification, which was very helpful.”
“We couldn’t have fixed it without that money,” said Koloszyc.
The remainder of the funding for the brewery came from the couple themselves, through a small business loan. “We have no investors,” said Koloszyc, “so the brewery is owned only by us. … It adds a level of stress and it’s definitely a risk factor, but it does make use feel better because it is totally ours. … We like to joke that the brewery is our child.”
‘Sunny vibes’ in Oakland: Temescal Brewing
Sam Gilbert’s first career was as a software engineer. In 2011, he parlayed his interest in brewing into a “home-brew CSA” called BrewLab that originally facilitated the sharing of home-brewed beers among members. Over time, BrewLab has morphed into a hacker space of sorts; it is now a meeting place in San Francisco where members can learn about brewing, contribute to projects like growing hops, and play around with new brewing technologies. It also holds classes and tasting events.
But that’s no longer Gilbert’s main gig. Since last summer, he has been working towards opening his first full-fledged brewery in Temescal. Originally called The New Normal, and now renamed Temescal Brewing, the brewery should open this spring.
Temescal Brewing will be holding a “first taste” event down the street at Hog’s Apothecary on May 4 at 4 p.m.
Once it opens, it will be the first of two breweries opening in the North Oakland neighborhood. (Roses’ Taproom is headed to 4930 Telegraph Ave. in late summer.) “Especially when we started this project, North Oakland was a bit of a craft beer desert,” said Gilbert. “I think you’ll find in the next couple of years that Temescal becomes a craft beer destination, and we hope to be a part of that transformation.”
Judging from the brewery’s success on Kickstarter — Temescal Brewing raised over $50,000 to build an outdoor beer garden next to the brewing space — the neighborhood is very supportive. “We were absolutely blown away by the support we received,” said Gilbert. “After quietly working on this project for over three years, it was incredible to see that people are excited about what we’re doing and willing to put their money behind it.”
Part of the reason for the brewery’s fundraising success likely came from Gilbert’s clever idea to turn the building into a pop-up art space while waiting for permits to come through. The occasional art shows also included samples of the beers with which he was tinkering.
“We quickly zeroed in on the local artist community as a vital part of Oakland’s identity that we wanted to support and associate ourselves with,” he said.
Now that the brewing space is filled with beer tanks, there is much less room for art, so Gilbert won’t be able to host the same size shows. However, he does want to keep up the brewery’s relationship with local artists. “We’re focusing on more involved collaborations with artists,” he said. Temescal Brewing will have a few permanent installations for its opening, and Gilbert plans to host artist events and showcase temporary works in the future. He also hopes to “build partnerships in the arts community outside of our brewery walls.”
Temescal Brewing is housed in a “comically large” former laundromat on Telegraph Avenue.
Temescal Brewing will have a 15 barrel brewing system — “comically large,” according to Gilbert — in a former laundromat at 4115 Telegraph Ave. Indoors, there will be a small taproom dispensing pints, tasters and to-go growlers, but the highlight of the brewery will be the beer garden. The money raised in the Kickstarter campaign is going towards the beatification of the patio, a mural on the side of the building, and (importantly) an outdoor bar.
On tap will be a variety of beers courtesy of Wade Ritchey, who most recently worked as assistant brewer at Cellarmaker in San Francisco. “Wade is legit. He’s worked at some of the greatest breweries in the world,” said Gilbert in the brewery’s quirky Kickstarter video. (It’s truly a must-watch.)
The focus will be on “sunny day” beers. Translation? “The kind of stuff you drink outside on a hot day,” said Gilbert. That means lower-alcohol, easily sessionable brews. “We really like the challenge of brewing, and the joy of drinking, [these beers],” he added.
Of course, Temescal Brewing has a large enough brewing capacity that it will also be producing a range of beer types — everything from “boozy, dank stouts” to IPAs. “We owe it to the neighborhood to offer a wide variety of beers to match everyone’s taste,” said Gilbert. “We really get a kick out of exploring the whole spectrum of what beer can be and constantly trying new stuff.”
At the moment, Gilbert says he is particularly excited about the brewery’s saison, which is made from spelt and a unique blend of yeast strains. “It’s pretty special for a very light beer,” he said.
Temescal Brewing beers will also make appearances at bars and restaurants in Oakland and beyond, but Gilbert insists that he will only distribute enough to “make sure our beer stays fresh.”
Like at Novel Brewing, the food will come courtesy of local food trucks and pop-ups. There will be “a constant [progression] of delicious beer-friendly options,” said Gilbert. “I’m particularly excited to work with Kenny’s Heart & Soul. Kenny lives right in our neighborhood and makes damn good food.”
Gilbert hopes his brewery will continue to evolve over time. “A brewery should always be in dialogue with its neighborhood and its drinking audience, so it’s hard to say exactly what we’ll become, ” he said.
Funky brews in West Berkeley: Gilman Brewing
Further north into Berkeley, Sean Wells is working on putting the finishing touches on Gilman Brewing. Wells, who works full-time as an animal surgeon, founded with brewery with his co-surgeon and home brewing friend Tim Sellmeyer. Their brewery was originally going to be called Anvil Brewing, but was renamed “due to legal issues,” said Wells.
Gilman Brewing will eventually encompass two storefronts on Gilman Street. It will initially be a brewery and small tasting room, but over time will grow to include a fast-casual restaurant focused on beer-friendly food. “I really like to have a slice of pizza with my beer,” said Wells. He and Sellmeyer plan to fill the 1,200 square-foot restaurant space with family-style tables and a bar area.
Wells and Sellmeyer focus on small batches of “funky, interesting” beers, including both Belgian and American styles. Sellmeyer has a couple of award-winning beers that will likely grace the tap, like a nectarine wheat and a chile-based beer. Wells said he is also planning to start barrel aging as soon as he gets his brewing license. There will likely be between three and five beers on tap at opening.
Like Gilbert, Wells hopes to start distributing his beer as soon as possible. “We want to start local in Berkeley and Oakland, but will eventually branch out from there,” he said. “We want to be in all the big tasting rooms, but we should also be on tap at the places nearby where we go after working late, places like Picante and T-Rex.”
Meanwhile, across the street, the old Pyramid Brewing building still sits vacant. Matt Holmes, of the development company Retail West, said that it is now unlikely that the owners will go through with a zoning change on the building, so his hopes for a multi-use retail-brewing space are likely moot. He has brought other brewers to see the space, but given the vast square footage and lack of infrastructure (Pyramid removed all of its brewing equipment), it is hard to imagine smaller brewers having the capital necessary to move in.
Existing breweries have been nothing but supportive about new beer-makers moving in.
Even if a new brewing company does move into the Pyramid space, all of the area’s new brewers think that there will still be room for more. Wells says that all of his neighbors — particularly Fieldwork Brewing — have been nothing but supportive. “Everybody is super stoked,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be part of the West Berkeley community.”
“I want to see a small brewery in every neighborhood, and to see more dialogue and collaboration between breweries,” said Gilbert. “I want to see the East Bay on the map as a national destination for amazing craft beer.”
Tamburello agrees. “There are so many new breweries here, but we’re still behind places like Portland, [OR],” she said. “There’s plenty of room for growth.”