Interview with Local Vendor: Drake’s Brewery

Chop Bar loves to use local vendors whenever possible. We hope to introduce some of them to you in a series of blog posts. For this first post, we interviewed John Martin of Drake’s Brewery. Drake’s just launched a new website and also can be found on Twitter and their blog.

Can you tell us a little bit of Drake’s history…how did you become a brewery?

historyDrake’s was founded in 1989 as a one-man operated draft-only production brewery, one of the earliest “microbreweries” in California (and the US).   Over the years we have grown a bit (but not too much) and sell both draft beer, and a variety of styles in six-packs. Our world is still mostly the East Bay, where 80% of our beer is sold and consumed. We self-distribute with the brewery truck almost all our draft product —  which we feel keeps us closer to our customers (bars & restaurants) and their customers (the Drake’s beer drinking public) … vs. using a beer distributor.  Drake’s is owned by East Bay locals Roy Kirkorian, and me (John Martin).

You used to operate 20 Tank Brew Pub in the city…Any plans for something similar in the future?

Nothing planning for San Francisco. I miss 20 Tank, but I don’t miss the commute to the City, and the high cost of doing business there. Right now we are in the midst of working on a new tasting room for Drake’s.

What is the story of your Jolly Roger beer (served at Chop Bar)?

Jolly Roger Holiday Ale is named for Roger Lind, the founder of Drake’s.  Drake’s Brewing itself was named for Sir Francis Drake, who many in that era saw as a pirate, and of course the Jolly Roger (skull and crossbones) was the flag of pirates.  “Jolly” works well for the Christmas season too!  We only made two batches of Jolly Roger this year, and are now sold out.  (Though…we saved a little for ourselves!)  We’ll have to make more next year. (Actually we plan to bottle some in 2010.)  Jolly Roger is an Imperial Brown this year (the recipe changes each year).

See their blog post for more info about the beer.

Can the public visit your brewery in San Leandro?

The tasting room is open for tasting and “dock sales” on Friday afternoons.  Tours can be arranged thru our website contact form.  Starting in February we will be restarting the “Drake’s Fridays” where we hold a tailgater type event outside the brewery.  These are planned for the first Friday of each month.


Are you preparing to brew any new beers in 2010?

We have been brewing and aging a number of beers in the last few months in oak barrels, that once held bourbon, port, brandy and red & white wine.  Look for a lot of interesting beers to be available later in 2010.  Also, on the more conventional side, look for our barley wine in late January, our Expedition Ale in the Spring, Zatec Pilsner in the early Summer, and a variety of “one-off” beers throughout the year (such as our “Hopocalypse” and “Aroma Coma” ales.)  In 2010 we are launching some of our specialty beers in 22 oz bottles.

How does Drake’s use social media to interact online?

We are finding Twitter to be a great way to get out news about the brewery and to interact with our followers and the brewing community.  We tend to get a lot of retweets and direct messages when we post a tweet.  Our blog is a great way to fill out the story of what is happening at the brewery that we can’t boil down to 140 characters!

Chop Bar is all about community…How does Drake’s give back locally?

Roy & I feel that sense of community when we visit Chop Bar.  It’s great to see Jesse & Lev and the crew interacting so closely with the Chop Bar patrons. I know every bit of Chop Bar has been labored over by Jesse & Lev.  The food & beverages, of course, plus the great design and atmosphere that they brought to the space.  (Love that Jesse’s dad was so involved!)  We are very happy that Drake’s ales are served at Chop Bar, and is a part of all that.

Drake’s donates lots of beer to charitable groups for fund-raising events, and attends and pours our beer at many more.  We also make the brewery available to local charity groups to put on events that we call “Drake’s Fridays”.  These are held (generally in warm weather months) on the first Friday of the month from 4-7pm, in the brewery and out in our parking lot.  Anyone can attend, and all the money raised from the “gate charge” ($5) and the profit from the beer & food sales goes directly to the charity.  Our plan for 2010 is to raise as much money as we can for San Leandro & other local area schools, through the Drake’s Fridays.

Drake'sYou drank all of the Jolly Roger! But still come in and try the Drake’s 1500 Pale Ale, just $3 every weeknight during happy hour (4:30-6:30 pm).

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