Most people would say that working full-time as a veterinary surgeon while founding and running a brew pub would be too demanding. Sean Wells and Tim Sellmeyer of Berkeley’s Gilman Brewing would probably respond, “Hold my beer.”
Gilman Brewing was founded in 2015 and opened for business in 2017, bankrolled by Wells’ life savings. Already, the staff has grown to 12, its three IPAs are sold at stores including Costco, BevMo and Whole Foods, and the partners — both of whom are veterinary surgeons — are soon opening a tasting room in Daly City.
Actually, if the two ever tire of their existing occupations, they likely could succeed as comedians. Surveying the gleaming giant silver tanks, the bar and indoor and outdoor seating at the brewery, Wells noted, “This is probably the only place you could have a beer and get your dog fixed at the same time.”
Needless to say, the two don’t ply their veterinary craft at the brewery, though dogs are allowed throughout. There’s also two brewery felines from Oakland Animal Services, feral cats who have the run of the place plus their own private refuge upstairs.
The brewery focuses on small batches of what Wells and Sellmeyer call “funky, interesting” beers, including both Belgian and American styles, served in a low-key environment. As they wrote on Gilman Brewing’s website: “No pretentious descriptions. No snotty servers. Just a comfortable room, normal people and some good beer.”
Some of the more adventurous brews are Pineapple Jardin, an interesting way to satisfy one’s daily fruit requirement; Fear the Hornet, brewed with four different kinds of fresh green chiles; and Antifreeze, which the two describe as a Northeast/West Coast hybrid double IPA.
The latter got quite a few kudos from customers on Yelp. One customer commented, “The IPAs I’ve tried here were solid, especially the Antifreeze DIPA.” Another noted, “The chile IPA was really interesting with a green vegetable burst followed by just enough pepper at the finish.”
On a Friday evening in April, the familiar smell of hops and a buzz of conversation greeted visitors to the brewpub at 912 Gilman St. near REI and Whole Foods. There’s upstairs seating inside with a view of the giant tanks, a bar and outdoor seating. Rotating food trucks visit every Tuesday and Friday through Sunday.
It’s clear that, in the parlance of Silicon Valley, the partners eat their own dog food — in other words, they consume their own product. Decked out in black caps and shirts emblazoned with the Gilman Brewing logo, beers in hand, Wells and Sellmeyer were enjoying the fruits of their labors on a recent Friday.
Wells has been brewing since he was 17, Sellmeyer for about 10 or 15 years. They met at a veterinary job where they were both working and decided to open their own brewery, something they had both wanted to do for years.
Handling the ongoing challenges of running a brewpub — the pair’s official title is “head brewers,” and they do indeed make the beer — is relatively easy compared to some of the things they’ve faced as veterinary surgeons.
Sellmeyer has operated on critters including a 1,500-pound duiker, a South African antelope living at the San Francisco Zoo. He has also operated on a 3,000-pound bull, as well as Clydesdale horses.
“You wouldn’t think so, but there are a lot of similarities between the two jobs,” Sellmeyer said.
“You have to think on your feet. There’s a lot of problem-solving. The science overlaps, too — there’s a lot of biochemistry” involved in both occupations, he said.
One reason the two chose the Gilman Street location is that it’s central for both of them. Sellmeyer lives in Pleasanton, Wells in Daly City.
Still, Wells acknowledges, “I don’t sleep a lot.”
He added, “If you have a lot of things to do, you just do them. Your brain portions out things in little do-able pieces and you just march through them.”
The key, the two agreed, is that their jobs are labors of love.
Wells said, “It’s like the old cliche, ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ That’s what this is like for us.”