Growing brewery Fort Point will assume ownership of small but mighty Lower Haight brewpub Black Sands, whose entire 33-person staff, including head brewer and co-owner Cole Emde, will join the Fort Point team.
Emde and Justin Catalana, Fort Point’s co-founder and CEO, characterize the acquisition as a win-win. Black Sands will benefit from the added resources of the 150-person Fort Point team, while Fort Point will gain a prominent retail presence — and an R&D brewery aspect — with Black Sands.
Changes at Black Sands will be incremental — the name is staying, at least for now, and the popular double cheeseburger isn’t going anywhere.
“If you were a customer in November or December, and you come January or February, you’re not going to see any significant changes,” says Emde. “It’s going to be a slow process... We’re in this for the long term together.”
Emde and partners Stefan Roesch, Andy Gilliland, and Robert Patterson opened Black Sands at 701 Haight Street in 2015. By day, it’s a bright space serving coffee, baked goods, beer, and weekend brunch at outdoor seating. By night, it’s a dimly lit and typically crowded bar where patrons drink cocktails and beers like Emde’s SMASH series, which focus on using single malts and single hops. And in an adjoining garage space, Black Sands sells home brew supplies and hosts pop-up events.
Despite Black Sands’ popularity — and profitability — Emde’s partners, who are not-full time employees, sought an exit from the business. The foursome listed Black Sands for sale this summer, seeking a buyer to continue it mostly as-is.
Fort Point, a brewery eager to grow its retail presence, wanted in.
“The first five years of Fort Point have been very much about the wholesale side of the business — selling to other bars and restaurants and grocery stores,” says Catalana. “But I think you’re going to see a pivot of us doing a lot more retail. We really like this aspect of the industry.”
Fort Point’s beer is widely available in cans and on tap, but its Presidio brewery, which produces more than 30,000 barrels of beer annually, isn’t open to the public. In 2016, the team opened a Ferry Building outpost, and this summer, signed on to open a larger taproom and restaurant on Valencia Street (in the former Brasserie St. James space). That’s under construction and due this spring. Fort Point also owns Mill Valley Beer Works, a brewpub Justin opened with his brother and co-founder Tyler before they started Fort Point.
At Black Sands, Fort Point’s beers will augment Emde’s offerings, which he brews on the pub’s 3-barrel system. But the influence will cut both ways. Emde will also brew on Fort Point’s 40-barrel system and develop recipes at Black Sands for larger-scale production.
“It’s kind of a brewer’s dream, to be the pilot guy or girl,” says Emde.