The newest player in the East Bay beer boom is actually one of the originators of said beer boom: Ale Industries, which has been operating out of Concord for the past four and a half years, is making a move into Oakland, where they're planning to open a 6,000-square-foot brewery and taproom. The reason: they've exceeded production capacity at their 2,500-barrel Concord brewery, a happy problem that also occurred for their predecessor in the space, E.J. Phair (which opened another, larger brewery in Concord).
Though they considered other locations in Concord, brewer Morgan Cox (who owns Ale Industries with friend and former E.J. Phair coworker Steven Lopez) lives in Oakland, and wanted to work in a location closer to his home. After an unsuccessful property hunt in Jack London Square, Lopez and Cox got their wish with a space in the former Norton bucket factory in Fruitvale/Jingletown, a block north of the BART station and only five miles from Cox's home. It's been vacant since 2006, but is surrounded by a group of art studios and a high-end furniture manufacturer. "I think we would be following in Jack London, but we can lead in Fruitvale," says Cox.
The new brewery will be able to produce 20,000 barrels a year, though Cox says he likely won't use all of that capacity. "Over the last couple of years, we've decided to step back a little bit from chasing the high-volume, economy-of-scale concept that was created in the '90s for craft beer," says Cox. "We're concentrating more on barrel-aged stuff that takes a little more time. Where a normal brewery will turn over a beer in two weeks, a lot of our beers take a year and a half to two years." Accordingly, he's looking to dedicate about a third of the space, 2,500 square feet, to barrel-aging. Ale Industries has already released three sours this year; a fourth, a sour stout, is planned for release in the next couple of months. They're also doing beers aged in bourbon and whiskey barrels.
As for the taproom, Cox estimates that it will be able to hold about 100 people, and unlike many breweries' taprooms, it'll be designed to meld with the brewery itself, not look like a separate bar. The brewery's license will only allow it to serve its own beers (in pints and growlers), and it won't have a food component; instead, local trucks and vendors like Fiveten Burger and Fist of Flour, as well as the neighborhood taco trucks, will be invited to park outside. "Fruitvale is the area that came up with the food-truck idea, and we want to incorporate that into what we're doing," says Cox.
Cox and Lopez signed the lease on the space yesterday, and are currently working on their conditional-use permit with the city of Oakland and their change-of-location ABC license for a planned October opening. "It's a pretty aggressive timeline, but we didn't get to where we are without being aggressive. I'm saying October, but it'll probably be December," says Cox, laughing. As for Concord, they're not planning to entirely desert their original home: "Concord's been really good to us, and we're planning to keep some kind of tap room in Concord as well. It won't be in our current location, but we'll have a presence there."