Rose’s Taproom opened on the first day of July in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland, bringing to life the community-driven vision of husband-and-wife team Hillary Huffard, and Luke Janson. It’s a small brewery and taproom, the result of the duo’s passion for homebrewing, and desire for a place that wasn’t “just another beer place.” And don’t call Rose’s a beer garden— there are no picnic benches (or even outdoor space) at this spot.
Instead it’s the product of two visual artists — Huffard and Janson met while studying art at The Cooper Union in New York — looking “to create a space that doesn’t exist in Oakland yet.” Rose’s, located in the former home of the Shaver and Cutlery Shop, is certainly a departure from a typical brewery setting, with walls bathed in warm pinkish tones (“petticoat pink” and “apricot blush”), potted plants, and a bright teal backspash behind the bar.
“We wanted to create a space that’s beer centric, but has a lot of consideration towards the design and intention of the space,” said Huffard. “We wanted it to be inclusive, and welcoming.” Because of the Type 23 license that limits them to selling only the beer they brew, it’s also family-friendly. “We were clear in our idea that we didn’t want this to be purely a drinking establishment.” As a result it’s a combination lab, restaurant, and community space.
With the help of Meghan Dorrian of Young America Creative, Janson and Huffard designed a space with soft edges and plenty of DIY details. Janson, who has spent the last decade as carpenter and fine furniture designer, made every wood surface by hand, from the bar to the tables, and stools. A particularly well executed detail is the face of the wall beneath the bar, which is wood engraved to look like tile. “We spent our entire budget on the Fireclay tile backsplash behind the taps,” said Huffard.
The rounded edges of those tiles also mimic the shape of the large, shiny fermentation tanks in the rear of the taproom. It’s part of the artists’ plan to “communicate the human scale to our guests,” showing the process of brewing beer and drawing it into the design and architecture.
Their close-knit Oakland community of makers was key to the process, says Huffard. After the major buildout process was completed — Echo Summit Construction handled the major structural changes, like tearing down walls and a mezzanine — the taproom was complete DIY. “We built this place with our own two hands. We did all the painting and finishing work ourselves with community.” Crimson Horticultural Rarities helped curate plants and their vessels; ironwork on the seating was done by local Aldoni metal workers; Jacob May Design helped fabricate the seats.
The beer is brewed by Janson, the head brewer, and a brewing assistant who also doubles as the front of house manager. At opening, three beers were available: a toasted coconut porter, California blonde ale, and American pale ale; once production has ramped up, there will be up to eight on tap, plus a kombucha brewed alongside the beer. In the fall, they’ll make a huge run of cider with apples from the Philo Apple Farm.
A small menu of snacks accompanies the beer list, curated and supported by Huffard’s many years working in the Oakland dining scene. Bread from neighboring Pizzaiolo and cured meats from Duende’s Paul Canales are headliners, alongside simple treats like Serrano ham, olives, and oil-cured sardines. “If we’re going to serve food we might as well serve the best,” said Huffard. Down the line that will include vegan options, and in-house fermented pickles and krauts as another tie-in to the beer-making process.
On the shelves above the bar is an impressive selection of stoneware and ceramic mugs, which constitutes Rose’s mug membership program. Three artists — Josephine Heilpern, Sarah Kersten, and Peter Saint Lawrence — contributed 25 14 ounce vessels apiece that are numbered in a grid on the shelves. Customers can join and claim a mug that will then be theirs for discounts, early access to new releases with free beers, and eventual ownership when they quit the club (which is $30 per month).
Rose’s joins a growing beer scene in Oakland (and the Bay Area as a whole), which has long used breweries and beer gardens as gathering spaces. Nearby Temescal Brewing has been very supportive along the way, along with newcomer Arthur Mac’s Tap and Snack, and others.
“We feel so fortunate to be included in such a vibrant brewing community,” said Huffard. “We believe the rising tide raises all ships and if we can contribute to more people to coming to Oakland to appreciate the craft, and create a culture of symbiosis and not competition, then we are doing our job.”