It’s not easy being a beer nerd in Richmond, a city of approximately 100,000 residents and exactly one bar that rotates its taps. That may change soon, and Benoit Casper Brewing Company — Richmond’s first brewery in the modern era — has been quietly leading the way.
(You should also stay tuned for East Brother Beer Company, a brewery currently being built in Richmond on Canal Street. More on them later).
Benoit Casper Brewing was founded in 2014 by Marc Benoit and Chad Casper (get it?) but it’s okay if you don’t know them yet. Slow expansion is actually their goal, not least because both founders have day jobs and families. “We will be lucky to top 200 bbls this year and 500 next,” said Chad. They hired their first outside employee this year, assistant brewer Tim Clair, and will be adding a 15 bbl fermenter and expanding the cold room. They self-distribute and plan to keep their beer more or less within a 50 mile radius.
Benoit Casper beers can be found at more and more beer bars in the area, but the physical brewery, for now, is known mostly to a small group of locals. On my visit, I ran into two neighbors I’ve never actually seen within Richmond city limits before because until now we all had to leave town for beer.
Benoit Casper already had to jump through hoops to be allowed to brew in its 12th Street location, which is zoned residential. The good news for central Richmond is that, despite the paperwork hassles, they’re moving forward with a plan to open a taproom in the brewery. This should be a wonderful thing for a neighborhood generally lacking in entertainment options outside people’s homes. Selfishly, I’m stoked for a beer place I can walk to in under half an hour, and I’ve got a soft spot for drinking spots near BART stations.
So why Richmond? Sure, it’s less expensive than most parts of the Bay Area. But just as importantly for these guys, the brewery is adjacent to the construction company Chad Casper has worked at for the better part of two decades. That is a guy who gets to name a beer Iron Triangle Double IPA.
As a relative newcomer to Richmond (I bought my house in 2013), I’m in the precarious and perhaps hypocritical position of hoping the city can improve in the future without losing what makes it good already. It bodes well that the first brewery in otherwise beer-challenged modern Richmond is a labor of love, not a gentrifying bandwagon jump. I look forward to meeting more of my neighbors over beers soon.
While we wait patiently for the taproom, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a growler fill or keg fill and meet the crew. Outside the brewery, Point Richmond’s rugby pub Up & Under is the most reliable place to find a Benoit Casper beer on tap. Follow Benoit Casper on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and don’t forget there’s a world north of Berkeley.