Ocean View Brew Works in Albany is something of a homebrewer’s dream come true. The owners, husband-wife team Scott and Veronica (Vonnie) Davidson, grew up in the area and live close enough to their brewery that they can walk to work. Crowdfunding from the local community helped them build out the space and open its doors in February.
Scott, who picked up the brewing bug frequenting Oak Barrel Winecraft on San Pablo Avenue, brews his own recipes on a seven-barrel brewhouse he rescued from the defunct Baeltane Brewing in Novato. Unlike many local brewers, he did not have production brewing experience before opening his business; he developed these recipes brewing in his backyard, and the attention to detail shows in the beer.
This commitment to the community extends to the beer’s production. Ocean View makes an effort at sourcing local ingredients, including using Admiral Maltings’ locally grown and malted barley. In fact, the Davidsons used to work with Admiral’s head maltster Curtis Davenport on an organic farm in Southern California, where they discussed the possibility of estate brewing, or brewing beer with ingredients grown on the brewery’s property, an idea that Curtis also mentioned to us a few months ago when we visited The Rake. The care that Ocean View gives to its raw materials manifests itself in the beer. We found the brews we tried to be clean and crisp and very well made, regardless of style.
Because of its community vision, Ocean View is the kind of place where families feel at home. In front, a mini library stands next to its patio, and a pig’s silhouette points it snout toward the cozy taproom. Inside, you can sit at one of the few tables or stools to play board games. Vonnie’s brother crafted the wooden bar and also the gorgeous double doors that lead to a modest terrace that wraps around the side of the building.
The Davidsons admit that in addition to brewing and serving beer, they’ve become event organizers. Along with featuring local artists and musicians at the brewery, they welcome local pop-up restaurants to serve food here too. And patrons are regularly given a peek into their brewing area, kettles and equipment snug and fitting just right.
With such a small production area, Ocean View brews once a week and regularly changes its beer and recipes, which means that what we’ve reviewed here will likely be tapped out by the time you arrive, but these are all great examples of the range that it offers:
Fool Me Once, ESB, 5.1%
Nutty and brown, this extra special bitter ale starts with a sweet, malty nose and a slight caramel flavor balanced with bitterness at the end with a clean finish. A great pub brew that’s easy to drink and will give your palate a break from the hop madness.
Short Schwarz, black lager, 4.1%
This rich and roasty beer looks and smells like a porter, but a moment after the coffee flavor hits your tongue, it backs off with a light sweetness that doesn’t leave you feeling full. This German-style schwarzbier is a great choice those who haven’t explored black lagers and who want to sip all afternoon long.
Dueling Melons, watermelon wheat ale, 5.6%
Ocean View serves this with a slice of watermelon jutting out from the glass. It looks like summer, but I was immediately skeptical as all the watermelon beers I’ve had in the past have tended to have a sickly sweet flavor reminiscent of Jolly Ranchers rather than fresh fruit. This wheat beer though is crisp, and the watermelon, while not subtle exactly, is clean and refreshing and bright as a blue sky.
Summer Dayz, New England-style IPA, 7.4%
Moving on to hoppy, the IPA pours a nice straw color, and the nose is filled with fruity notes of citrus and some melon. The brewer bittered this one with Columbus hops for a bit of the dank, but it’s the Citra dry hopping that brings the juiciness, even if it’s not quite as hazy and juicy as many NE-style IPAs. The clean finish and the excellent balance made me pine for more when my glass ran out (so I filled a growler for home).
Into the Bay, double IPA, 8.4%
Ocean View’s double IPA packs a punch at 8.4%, but it drinks quite easily. It’s slightly more amber than the Summer Dayz, showing off its classic West-Coast malt profile, and it is just as clean and light. The Mosaic and Citra hops give it a properly dank nose, but I found that the flavor didn’t quite match up, despite the fact that the alcohol is quite well hidden. It would be easy to drink too many of these, but I found myself wanting more Summer Dayz.