Blue Bottle, Starter Bakery, others to breathe new life into old Pyramid brewery

The former Pyramid Alehouse building, at 901 Gilman St., is being reborn as a shared manufacturing space. Photo: Read Investments

The former Pyramid brewery at 901 Gilman St. in West Berkeley will soon be buzzing with activity after lying dormant for nearly two years. The expansive, 114,000-square-foot building will be a collective campus of food producers and startups, and four local businesses have signed up to move in.

Ripple Foods, maker of dairy alternative products, has taken a lease for 30,000 square feet. Founders Adam Lowry and Neil Renninger launched the business, which uses split peas as a base, in a lab in Emeryville.

Starter Bakery, owned by Brian Wood and founded in Oakland in 2010 off the back of its signature Kouign-Amann pastry, sells its baked goods at farmers markets and via many local restaurants and cafés. The bakery has secured 12,000 square feet at 901 Gilman.

Oakland-founded coffee roasters Blue Bottle Coffee, which has retail outlets all over the world and opened its first Berkeley store last year, will occupy 7,500 square feet. And a non-food related company, HERE — which provides mapping data and is owned by a consortium of German automotive companies — has leased 17,000 square feet.


All four tenants should be in place and operating before the end of the year, according to Scott Huffman of Berkeley’s Read Investments which owns the building.

“Read Investments is excited to bring such a great mix of food production and light manufacturing business that will complement the existing neighborhood, while respecting the character and history of the building,” Huffman told Berkeleyside. “This new hub within the Gilman District will ensure the continuation and creation of well-paying jobs and help support other businesses in the immediate area.”

The floor plan of 901 Gilman St. shows where the four new tenants will be located. There are two spaces that are still available. Image: Reid Investments
The floor-plan of 901 Gilman St. shows where the four new tenants will be located. Two spaces are still available. Image: Read Investments

Vera Kachouh, a spokeswoman for Blue Bottle, said the new Berkeley production facility would be dedicated to making the coffee company’s Cold Brew, which is sold in small silver cans.

“We were happy to find a location in the East Bay, near our headquarters in Old Oakland,” she said. “The close proximity means that we’ll be able to visit regularly to make sure everything is running smoothly and that our high standards of quality are met.”

Kachouh said Blue Bottle hopes to move in by the fall.

Pyramid Alehouse, as it was called, closed abruptly in July 2015 after operating in Berkeley for 18 years. The closure was billed as part of a consolidation effort by Pyramid’s parent company, North American Breweries, which said at the time it was shifting its focus to its Portland and Seattle locations. Along with Trumer Brauerei, Pyramid was one of the anchor breweries in West Berkeley which has since blossomed into a serious beer destination with spots like Fieldwork Brewing, Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room and Rare Barrel.

After Pyramid shuttered, Retail West, the group behind much of the recent Gilman District development, put forward a plan that would have kept the building focused on beer, transforming the space into a series of smaller breweries with associated tasting rooms, distilleries and retail spaces. Retail West said at the time that it was talking to two breweries and the proposal called for a retail element, with beer makers selling their wares to the public. There are no immediate plans for the new shared space to include sales to consumers, however.

The last time the old Pyramid brewery saw much action was in July 2016 when the Berkeley police used the space for a major de-escalation exercise . Photo: Emilie Raguso

The new 901 Gilman project aligns with the current trend for spaces shared by businesses operating in the same field. The Berkeley Kitchens, Uptown Kitchen, Kitchener and The Port Kitchens all work in the same way in the food area.

The last time there was much action in the Pyramid building it was of a very different nature to eating or drinking. In July last year, the cavernous empty space was used by the Berkeley Police Department for a day of de-escalation training, which Berkeleyside observed and reported on.

The 901 Gilman development is not complete, as there are two remaining spaces for lease — see the property’s marketing flyer for details. The largest area available in the building, at 31,753 square feet is up for grabs, as is another one measuring 13,010 square feet.