The Warriors won the NBA championship last week, prompting over a million people to flood Oakland for the victory parade. While many of those in attendance likely consumed dangerously large quantities of crappy beer, I’d like to think that a few local brews were also imbibed that morning. Being an Oakland native, I too participated in some celebratory beer drinking, opting for the Bay Area classic, Anchor Steam (as far as I know there are no Oakland beers available in the LA area). It has been nearly a decade since I left The Town for Southern California and in that time, the beer scene in Oakland has grown from zero to hella (sorry). At the forefront of the scene is the Linden Street Brewery, which opened in 2009 as the first brewery in Oakland in 50 years.
Almost since the doors opened, Andrew Ritter has been with Linden Street, and his meteoric rise has landed him as the Director of Brewery Operations. I missed him during my last trip, but spoke with him at length on the phone about all things Linden Street. They opened with 3 lagers, which to simplify, were a pale, a red and a black. The popularity of the pale and black pushed them to capacity, leaving the poor red with no home. Each of these beers is made with the “California Common” yeast strain - the same style yeast that Anchor Steam utilizes. The benefit of this yeast is that it produces lager beers (clean, crisp) in a relatively short period of time. This means your beer is out the door in 3+ weeks compared with 5+ for typical lagers (which is a huge difference). At least one Wild Parrot beer will use this yeast, partially as an homage to the Bay Area and partially because it produces a damn fine beer (and fast).
As always, here are some tidbits from our conversation that most of you will find mildly interesting, but a select few will find sort of interesting:
Their initial equipment purchase was from another brewery and consisted of a 10bbl brewhouse along with two 20bbl fermenters. They have since increased capacity with one 10bbl and two 20bbl fermenters, along with a few bright tanks placed in a cold room.
Lagers account for approximately 70% of their production (English ales represent the remaining percentage)
New Oakland Glow pilsner (also made with California Common yeast) takes 3-4 weeks until it is ready, which is a bit longer than their other beers. This is their best seller.
Linden Street self distributes (kegs only) with 1 full time and 1 part time employee along with 1 part time employee on sales
The tasting room is only open on the weekend, for a total of 10 hours and they go through a few bbls each weekend.
Beers are not filtered and they utilize natural carbonation (capping the fermenter at a certain point to trap Co2 released by fermentation) to partially carbonate their beers
They have used and reused the same lager yeast pitch since they started (!!!) - Lower alcohol and less hoppy beers don’t destroy yeast. In other words, they haven’t bought lager yeast since 2009.
Andrew said the number one thing that has contributed to their success is being a part of the community. Before they even had their license to sell beer, they would have parties and give away the beer they made. This (understandably) got them a lot of good will. They also donate an impressive amount - including to one of the schools I went to!
While their beers are only sold by the keg, they hope to branch into packaged beer soon. For packaging, nothing beats 6 packs for these kind of beers (I fully agree)
Andrew mentioned that Oakland was once called the “Milwaukee of the West” which is probably only a good thing in reference to beer production (just kidding, Milwaukee is awesome and the Lakefront Brewery tour is fantastic). If the A’s ever win the World Series, I will buy a keg of New Oakland Glow for all those looking to celebrate with me.