By Jack Seymour
Fieldwork Brewing Company is a craft brewery founded in Berkeley, CA by Barry Braden and Alex Tweet with a focus on exceptional, honest beer-making. Fieldwork brews are served in their five taprooms located in Berkeley, Monterey, Napa, Sacramento and San Mateo. The newest Taproom and Beer Garden in San Ramon’s City Center Bishop Ranch is scheduled to open in 2018. I sat down with Barry to discuss their journey from a facilities standpoint.
SEYMOUR: Tell me about how Fieldwork brewing came to be…
BRADEN: Alex and I met in San Diego in 2011, and we got to be friends through a mutual interest in beer. We met at a friend’s house where we were doing a bottle share. At that time, he was working for Ballast Point. We hit it off and over a period of time I began to plant the seed in his brain that he should be doing his own thing. It took a little arm-twisting to get him there. My background is in sales and biz-dev within the tech space. I worked in the early stage startup space for some time.
The combination of Alex’s skills on the brewing side and my experience on the business side was the catalyst for convincing him to give it a shot. He wanted to make sure he didn’t have to do the things that I now take care of and I didn’t want to have to do the things he takes care of.
SEYMOUR: How did Berkeley become the birthplace for Fieldwork Brewing?
BRADEN: I’m from the Bay Area, this is where I grew up. I wanted to come home once we decided that we might make a go of it. Alex was onboard with that, so we began to look for space in December of 2013. We looked up and down the entirety of the East Bay. We must have looked at hundreds of properties and eventually ended up coming back to the very first space I looked at.
At the time, this neighborhood was a little sketchy. This building had been empty for four years and there was nothing really around us. It was a place you might not want to be at night. We knew it had all the bones that we needed from power and gas to loading docks but our big question was: Is anybody ever going to come and visit us?
SEYMOUR: Once you had the location nailed down, were there still hurdles to jump?
BRADEN: We signed the lease in March of 2014. We spent the better part of 2014 building the space out. We were ready to go in December but during that time, the Oakland port was having some serious issues with labor disputes that resulted in a stop-work. The port was jammed up and we ended up waiting for our equipment that was sitting at the dock for two months. There was week after week of our truck driver being turned away at the gates. We were piling up trucking fees and not having anything to show for it. Our equipment was literally sitting eight miles away for over two months. We eventually got the equipment in, began brewing and were able to open February 2015.
SEYMOUR: How long were you operating a single location before deciding to open the next Fieldwork taproom?
BRADEN: The type of license that we have (Type 23 small beer manufacturer) allows us six satellite locations. We knew that it was really important to our business that we were able to deliver fresh beer as close to the consumer as possible and not have beer sitting on shelves somewhere. We also didn’t want to be dependent on distributors to get our beer out there to the market. Pretty soon after we opened, we began the search for the next spot.
SEYMOUR: Was there a specific process you put to work?
BRADEN: We started by building out a list of target locations and cities. We were listening to our customers. We ended up in Sacramento because we had such a vocal following that would come all the way down here. We ended up signing a lease in Sacramento in January of 2016.
At first, I hated the idea. I had a preconceived notion of what I thought Sacramento was from growing up here in The Bay. Alex was persistent and said that we should at least go and take a look. I eventually agreed and we ended up finding a great broker up there who spent days with us just teaching us about Sacramento. Once we really started looking at property and immersing ourselves, I realized how great the city is and how far it has come! We ended up opening in August of 2016.
SEYMOUR: Do your other taprooms fall under a similar zoning?
BRADEN: I wish it were that simple. Each city and county has specific hoops that need to be jumped through. Here in Berkeley, we are zoned for light industrial/manufacturing, and our taproom is an accessory use. Part of what we had to do when we built our list was suss out what was going to be the clearest zoning for that particular operation. That was one way we cut down our search. For example, as a function of our license, of the six locations, only two were allowed to serve food.
SEYMOUR: Some final words for others looking to replicate Fieldwork’s success?
BRADEN: If I were to give some advice to other budding brewers, or people wanting to open their own operation, I would say that first and foremost make sure your zoning is totally worked out and that you have gone to the planning department and told them exactly what it is you want to do. Find a champion in the department. Actually front-up to the desk and make yourself known. Do the homework!
Jack Seymour is a leasing associate at Transwestern’s San Francisco office, Jack’s primary role is to serve as an analyst and communicator on major projects working alongside the established office leasing team of Jeff Moeller, Peter Conte and Zac Monsees. He is also responsible for developing relationships with and serving the needs of local and/or national prospective clients as well as providing diverse marketing support for leasing services.