Drake’s Brewing returns this year after winning past Audience Choice Awards at Fairfax Brewfest — welcome back!
Drake’s is an urban craft brewery operating from the former powerhouse of a long-gone Caterpiller plant in San Leandro, California.
Established in 1989, Drake’s Brewing is celebrating over 21 years of making exciting and extreme ales & lagers for distribution in the San Francisco Bay Area & Southern California.
Drake’s Brewing Company is one of the nation’s earliest urban craft breweries of the modern era. The Drake’s brewers have always been leaders in creating unique and extreme beers — from the early days of its original founder, right up ’til today. Here is some background on the brewery, and the people that have been a part of the history of Drake’s.
Drake’s facility inhabits the former powerhouse of San Leandro’s Caterpillar tractor company. The complex originally started out as a Dodge Motor Car assembly plant in 1946. Its construction was fueled by the huge demand for automobiles in the post-World War II era. For a time the complex made International Harvester big rigs as well. The Caterpillar company was the last big industrial user of the site.
As the years have passed, the Caterpillar complex has evolved. The earthmover manufacturer moved out in the late 1970s, and eventually a shopping mall was developed in the huge old building (now complete with The Home Depot, Starbuck’s and a Walmart store). The turbine generator machinery in the adjoining powerhouse was eventually removed, paving the way for an upstart craft brewery to move in.
Twenty Plus Years Of Brewing
The Drake’s Brewery was founded in 1989 by Bay Area bon vivant, raconteur, and all-around micro-brewing scallywag Roger Lind. Originally known as Lind Brewing Company, Roger established one of America’s earliest wholesale-only, keg-only, microbreweries of the modern era.
A one man-operation, Roger would brew, keg, and deliver all the Drake’s beer himself, as well as wear the many hats of salesman, bookkeeper, tour guide, festival crew, etc. It was a few years before he hired his first employee.
Roger was a fixture on the San Francisco Bay Area craft-brewing scene throughout that time, and his beers became known for their high quality and exceptional taste. Those that have been around craft brewing since those times, fondly remember the original Drake’s Gold, the Captain’s Porter, Sir Francis Stout, Raspberry Wheat, and especially the holiday seasonal “Jolly Roger” — plus the many other great styles made in those early days.
In 1998, Roger with his eye on getting his teaching credential, turned over the reins to the Rogers family that owned a coffee roastery next door to the brewery. Under the direction of some great brewers: Mike Manty, Chris Baker, Bert Boyce (of 20 Tank Brewery fame, and late of Sam Adams), Jeff O’Neil (Ithaca Brewing), Rodger Davis, Melissa Myers, and finally Josh Miner (Sequoia Brewing) & Brian Thorson, the brewery doubled in size and entering the bottle market for the first time. New styles, such as the India Pale Ale, Expedition Ale, Zatec Pilsner, Imperial Stout, and infamous Denogginizer Double IPA became renowned in the local market.
Head Brewer Rodger Davis, in particular, burnished the Drake’s reputation with his well-regarded ultra-hoppy ales and barrel-aged beers. Brian Thorson, along with Jeff Kimpe, Alexandra Nowell, and Kyle Wilson have continued and expanded Drake’s ever growing repute in the area of all things hoppy, unique and extreme.
Drake’s Joins The Triple Rock/Jupiter Family
In late 2008, John Martin, owner of Berkeley’s famed Triple Rock Brewery and Jupiter took over Drake’s operations, with his business partner Roy Kirkorian. John has had close ties to Drake’s over the years. Roger Lind actually started his professional brewing career at Reid & John Martin’s Triple Rock Brewery, back in 1987. The brewery’s equipment itself is also very well known to John. In daily operation at Drake’s are the mash-tun, hot liquor tank, grain system, and fermenters from John’s long-gone and lamented Twenty Tank Brewery (San Francisco). To top it off, Rodger Davis, now Head Brewer at Martin’s Triple Rock, is also back in the Drake’s fold.
So, twenty-plus years later, in the backwaters of this now “retail oasis”, Drake’s Brewing remains. It is still pumping out great beer from its cloistered and nondescript metal building. (Only until recently has there even been a “Drake’s Brewing” sign on the building). Few Walmart shoppers have had an inkling of Drake’s existence, just yards away …. as they shop to “save money & live better”.