A SUDSY CELEBRATION
By Lou Fancher
Hoist a pint and holler “cheers!” to celebrate the openings of Calicraft Brewing Company in Shadelands Business Park and Farm Creek Brewing Company on Pine Street not far from BART. We visited the microbreweries just days after their August openings and found distinct craft beers, considerable numbers of fans and taprooms with style.
Visiting Calicraft’s 2,000-square-foot tasting room is like going to a party with two friends and leaving with 20. Conviviality spills out of the inconspicuous entryway—soon to be replaced by a garage-style roll up door—and sprawls across lawn furniture onto the grassy “front yard.” A food truck in the large parking lot is a regular fixture, although people often tote picnic baskets. Inside, the vibe is just as lively. A stunning floor-to-ceiling wall of woven barrel staves and a long redwood bar with contrasting silver embossed metal tile sets a multi-textured tone in the serving area. A larger space with butcher-block tables, some long enough for communal gatherings, invites guests to sip brews and socialize. “It’s a mix of urban hip and non-snobbery,” says Calicraft Founder Blaine Landberg.
The “lab” space next door is devoted to R&D, a place where Landberg can express his inner beer geek by experimenting with new ingredients and techniques. A two-and-a-half acre piece of land behind the taproom will soon showcase a garden with hops, plants and herbs used to produce the craft beer. The brewery’s 12 beers on tap include IPAs made with a malty kolsch strain; beer produced using wine yeast; and a Cali coast “cocktail” Pomoli that’s infused with pomegranate juice. Oaktown is a hoppy beer that starts bitter but opens into a chocolatey softness at the finish. Dub C, a bright, explosive brew created for the city’s 100th anniversary, features California grown malt and a range of citrus flavors. “It’s like the city. It’s approachable and finishes clean on your palate,” says Landberg.
Farm Creek’s taproom is like a Hollywood studio set. By day, the taproom is a factory with a shiny copper and silver brew system, fermenters and other large-scale equipment that produce rustic, European-inspired pale ales, stouts, lagers and 200-pound barrels of beer. During the three days the taproom is open to the public, the equipment is swiftly relocated, transforming the two-level space into an industrial barn. The open atmosphere leaves the equipment on view revealing the room’s raw wood, exposed steel beams, warehouse light fixtures and gingham-decorated picnic tables.
Planning to have 12 brews on tap when production reaches full speed, Owner Randy Janinda says, “We get back to traditional beer, the beer Americans skipped over when they went from Lagers to IPAs. We remove the sours, the crazy flavors. It’s beer that tastes great, then gets out of the way.”
Randy and his wife Heather grew up on farms where they learned strong work ethics and formed sturdy family values that include “making other people happy.” Their beer demonstrates an appreciation for history tapping into European traditions passed down through generations of brew masters. Farm Creek beers are light and straightforward; not “dressed up” with fancy flavor additions or “over hoppy.” ”They don’t stack up on your tongue or make your taste buds go numb,” says Janinda. #Beer, is a simple recipe of malt and hops that results in a light American lager. Several beers are named after family members: Heather's Limit, a smooth stout with coffee, chocolate and toffee flavors;Southern Smile, an English-style pale ale named after their first born son. Ahead, look for a Scottish ale, and surprisingly an IPA. “We’ll do it because there’s a segment of the market that wants it, but you won’t see 10 out of 12 taps devoted to IPA. We do beer that’s sturdy, strong, and goes well with food.”