North Beach really is in some kind of renaissance, and a longtime resident is bringing a new business to the mix. Otherwise Brewing, a San Francisco-based gluten-free brewery, will open at 1402 Grant Avenue by early January 2024. If that address sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same space as North Beach craft beer bar, Church Key. Otherwise has acquired the location, thanks to Otherwise Brewing co-founder Stellar Cassidy’s having managed the business for 12 years. The exact dates of the transition between Church Key and Otherwise are unclear given permitting, but Cassidy says the turnover will be as quick as possible. She and fellow co-founder Aaron Gervais say opening a taproom was always on the vision board, but this was just perfect. “I’ve had an unwavering loyalty and love for this neighborhood,” Cassidy says. “I’ve lived here for 15 years and had the pleasure to serve it for 12. Now it’s going to be with a more focused purpose.”
The taproom will bring all of Otherwise’s beers to bear for the first time including fan favorites such as the Guava Fresca kettle sour and the Hella Nibs dessert stout. Moreover, the entire space is a dedicated gluten-free facility as a small food menu will join the beer taps and selection of natural wines. Cassidy says there’s a need for gluten-free beer in the industry, but moreover, the various grains used for celiac-friendly brewing produce innovative flavors in their own right. Plus, grains including rice, millet, and oats have smaller carbon footprints than barley, which is commonly used in beer. Wholesome Bakery on Divisadero Street will provide galettes alongside packaged gluten-free snacks and treats on the menu. Otherwise is also pursuing a permanent status for the parklet already stationed outside Church Key and is looking to play host to poetry and music shows in the future.
The business is relatively young, only selling its first rice lager in early 2021. Gervais and Cassidy had wanted to link up for a project for a long time and decided to head into gluten-free brewing. Gervais was a working composer at the time who dabbled in homebrewing while Cassidy holds a Cicerone certification — the beer equivalent to sommelier status — and had managed Church Key for years at this point. Gervais has lots of gluten problems in his family, so leaving the barley on the side seemed like the best idea. “Stellar said, ‘That’s a great angle, but it has to taste great,’” Gervais remembers. “People drink beer for enjoyment, so if they don’t like it they’ll drink something else.”
People seem to enjoy Otherwise well enough: The nascent brewery sells its beer in more than 400 outlets from Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz. The beer distribution will continue in full force while the taproom allows Gervais and Cassidy to experiment with new beers. This taproom joins riesling wonderland Golden Sardine and a gelato shop from Michael and Lindsay Tusk as upcoming attractions to the neighborhood. But Otherwise Brewing doesn’t see this opening as the final stop on their road to the top. “The vision is to become a brand that people associate with high-quality gluten-free beer,” Gervais says.
Otherwise Brewing will open at 1402 Grant Avenue in the current Church Key space by the end of the year with a grand opening in January.