I’m late on this one — not just because the beers have been pouring since February, but because I like putting my next-big-brewery predictions in writing early. Here it is: get excited about Fieldwork Brewing in Berkeley.
handy-dandy beer book with all the technical details in it. Almost as tasty as the beers!
It’s possible you’re already psyched on at least one of their beers that have been rotating through the Bay Area for the last few months. I work at three bars, and I’ve watched Fieldwork beers like Canopy pale ale, Chocolate Milk Brown, and Farmhouse Wheat go pretty fast. And then there are those great IPAs…
Before Fieldwork, founder Barry Braden co-owned a restaurant in San Diego with a good beer list and frequent events. You may know head brewer Alex Tweet, formerly of Ballast Point and Modern Times, as the guy who put grapefruit in your Sculpin. His professional brewing career started when Ballast Point invited him over to brew a commercial-sized batch of his homebrew Indra Kunindra, a stout with cumin, curry, cayenne, coconut, and kaffir lime leaf that tasted way better than I just made it sound.
I sent Barry some questions and it turned out to be one of those email exchanges you can publish almost as-is. (West Berkeley brewery people seem to be good like that.) Thanks Barry for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this!
Q. How big is the brewhouse currently? Seems like you’ve got room to expand?
A. 25 bbl system with 260 bbls of fermentation capacity. We can expand our fermentation capacity to over 700 bbls if people like what we are doing.
obligatory shiny-new-tanks photo
Q. What brought you north to the Bay Area in general and Berkeley in particular?
A. I grew up in the East Bay and wanted to move back to the area since my family are all here. We looked at buildings all over the East Bay, but kept coming back to this building in Berkeley. The city is ground zero for all things “local” and we were just very excited to locate the brewery in Berkeley. Our building is in an up and coming part of West Berkeley and it was affordable at the time for what we wanted to do. The city has gone above and beyond to welcome us, and we have had tremendous support at all levels of city government.
Q. Are you eventually going to settle into a flagship or some year-round brews, or will things always rotate?
A. The plan is for a little bit of both. I think variety is what people can expect from us for a while. The rotation at the moment is simply driven by what’s going on in the hop market. Our big hop contracts begin in 2015 (for 2016 delivery), so we are working with what we were able to contract for 2014. We are unable to make the same hoppy beer all the time, however, we can rotate hoppy beers through the rest of the year and bring back favorites. For example, batch two of Burning Daylight IPA will be released next week and batch two of Chisel IPA is being brewed next month. We expect Farmhouse Wheat and Morning Time Breakfast Stout to be year-round beers and we may get there with Chocolate Milk Brown based on the response to this brew.
Q. Can you tell me more about your plans for wild/funky/sour beers?
A. We are brewing some “tart” beers this month and are ramping up the sour program. It will be an ancillary part of the brewery and beer lineup, and we are very excited about it. Alex is passionate about these styles and I can wait to taste the results.
Q. You recently expanded the hours at the taproom. Any other changes in the works?
A. It’s a great question. People seem to be enjoying the beers and the brewery is growing quickly. It’s everything we can do to keep up with the pace at the moment. We are going to keep our nose to the grindstone and concentrate on getting more beer out to people here in our own backyard and see where the winds take us.
[Finally, I made a dumb joke about "rock star brewers" and asked if he could tell us more about the Fieldwork team other than Alex, who's already gotten a lot of media attention. Little did I know...]
A. We have been fortunate to attract some amazing individuals to the company. Mark Maigaard is leading sales in the East Bay for us. He literally was a “rock star”– seriously, look him up . Josh Olenberg-Meltzer spent the past couple of years as a brewer at New Helvetia in Sacramento before moving down here to join us. He has proven to be an excellent complement to Alex. We knew our Taproom Manager, Finn Parker, from San Diego and we were ecstatic when he told us he and his spouse were looking to move up here. He has been glue for us these past few months since opening. Brian Fulk — well, you know Brian Fulk [yep, old friend from my homebrew club] — serious, but funny guy. Knows beer and brews beer. A really great representative and leader in the Taproom. Our Taproom team of Brian, Marcella and the two Matts are first class individuals who are passionate about beer and it shows in their interactions with our guests. It really is an amazing team for such a young company.
Doesn’t that make you want to go to the taproom if you haven’t already? I thought so.
The Fieldwork taproom boldly (for America) has no TVs, which is right up my alley. Instead it offers board games and occasional live music. You can stand up at the bar or sit down at a table inside or outside. Food options are currently large soft pretzels and meat pies. Beers are available in full pours, half pours, and sample size, and they fill growlers — bring a clean, logo-obscured 64- or 32-ounce growler or buy one there. The brewery is kid- and dog-friendly, and maybe if you’re lucky you can meet Barry’s dog Hannah while you’re there.
Fieldwork Brewing is located at 1160 6th Street in Berkeley, at the corner of 6th and Harrison. Hours are 4-9pm Monday and Tuesday, noon-9pm Wednesday and Thursday, noon-10pm Friday and Saturday, and noon-8pm Sunday. It’s not the greatest trip for BARTers but it’s convenient by AC Transit #72 and seems popular with cyclists. Follow Fieldwork on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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