The world’s largest beer company is setting up a small outpost in North Oakland — if mounting opposition doesn’t manage to stop it.
We reported last month on Golden Road Brewing’s plans to open a beer garden and brewing facility with walls made out of colorful shipping containers on a parking lot at 40th Street and Broadway. After journalist Ali Winston tweeted a photo of the project notice, members of the local beer industry and neighbors sprung into action, encouraging people to express their concern to city planners.
To an outsider, the proposed project might sound like yet another craft-beer bar joining Oakland’s growing scene. But those who make up that scene say it’s nothing less than a domination plan by “Big Beer.”
A few years after Meg Gill and Tony Yanow opened Golden Road in Los Angeles in 2011, they sold it to Anheuser-Busch InBev. AB InBev makes such beers as Budweiser and Corona, and in recent years the company has also been buying up local craft breweries throughout the country. Following its merger with SAB Miller last year, the company represents about 28% of the global beer market, and 45% of the national market.
“AB InBev’s naked agenda is to put a kink in the hose for craft beer”
“The way beer companies have adapted is by getting hyper-local,” said one of the people spearheading the campaign against the Temescal beer garden: Sayre Piotrkowski, a certified cicerone and sales manager for several local breweries.
“AB InBev’s naked agenda is to put a kink in the hose for craft beer,” he said.
Golden Road begs to differ.
“Our decision to come to Oakland has nothing to do with our partnership with [AB InBev],” Gill wrote in an email to Nosh. “Golden Road operates from our own unique vision.”
She said the company has long wanted to set up shop in Oakland. Gill lived in the Bay Area until she moved to Los Angeles to launch Golden Road there.
Golden Road has opened three taprooms in Southern California, and has proposed a pub in Sacramento too.
Those skeptical of the North Oakland project take umbrage at the proposed design.
“Why is one of the richest companies on earth being allowed to enter North Oakland without adding or restoring any infrastructure?” Piotrkowski wrote in a letter to the Oakland City Council.
The outdoor beer garden would replace a parking lot on the 7,000 square foot site at 320, 322 and 330 40th St., and it would be surrounded by seven brightly-painted shipping containers and fencing in lieu of permanent walls. There would also be a 19-foot stacked shipping container in the middle of the site. If it goes forward, the Golden Road project will be one of two new shipping-container beer garden developments on 40th Street, after Arthur Mac’s Tap and Snack opens by MacArthur BART.
Small companies came up with the idea to use shipping containers to make walls out of financial necessity, Piotrowski said.
“Recyclability has always been a key value for Golden Road…and the use of shipping containers part of that sustainability mission,” Gill wrote. She noted that the company has used containers for storage and at Golden Road’s current bars.
Piotrowksi used to be the beer director at Hog’s Apothecary, just a couple blocks away from the proposed Golden Road site. The beer bar and restaurant, along with Temescal Brewing and the forthcoming Arthur Mac’s and Rose’s Taproom, together make for an alrealy crowded craft-beer scene in the neighborhood.
Ironically, some of those businesses drew opposition and allegations of gentrification themselves when they opened up shop.
The owner of Temescal Brewing says his opposition to Golden Road is not based on resistance to competition, however: “This is a hard one for people to believe, but I honestly don’t think Golden Road opening up there is going to affect Temescal [Brewing’s] bottom line,” said Sam Gilbert.
But Gilbert thinks the continued expansion of AB InBev into the craft-beer market will ultimately threaten the viability of all local breweries.
“This is not just another small, local, passionate owner trying to do a beer thing. This is a much larger corporate move,” he said.
Neighbors put together a petition against the Golden Road beer garden opposing it on the grounds of the noise, traffic and parking problems they think it would bring to the area. It got off to a slow start but has now garnered around 150 signatures.
However, a Facebook post by Temescal Brewing encouraging resistance to Golden Road quickly generated dozens of comments — a mix of anti-corporate sentiment, accusations of NIMBYism and arguments about parking.
One commenter put forth another idea for the site: “Too much craft beer already. How about a tiki bar?”