To me, the brewery scene is supposed to be about a more relaxed approach to life, a way to take time and enjoy the finer things. Having a few good pints instead of a 12 pack and shots. Going out with family and friends to a brewpub or an afternoon in a tasting room instead of partying late with 5 bands playing. Long nights are a thing of the past – and then there was this week.
After last week’s big night in the city I’ve gone to three more shows in the past 7 days, about two more shows than I normally go to in a year. Each of them proceeded with a visit to a brewery nearby.
Last Saturday our friend Fern posted that her band Deathgrave would be playing a hardcore Metal Fest in Oakland. 20 bands from all over the world playing 15 minute sets in rotating rooms. I was the one who suggested to the wife that we should go. Usually it’s the other way around. I figured a night of hardcore metal wouldn’t be so bad in 15-minute chunks.
Both the kids were with friends so we left pretty early in the afternoon. The first stop was the new Oakland location for Ale Industries. This brewery had been the previous weeks guest on my longtime favorite brewing show “The Session” That particular show was about “sustainable methods they employ for the resource-intensive process that is brewing.” The show is much more fun to listen to than it sounds. When they interview breweries I like to hear how they operate business wise more than their brewing methods. The stories about running a brewery are much more entertaining and much more impressive to me than the art of brewing itself.
In the years after the economy crashed in 2007 several brew pubs never recovered and closed down. Part of the reason that I originally wanted to visit all of the breweries in Northern California was because I was afraid some of them wouldn’t be around for long. Ironically, the crash ended up helping the brewing business. Previously dysfunctional cities such as Oakland changed their attitude towards beer. Before that time every story I heard about people trying to open a brewery involved thousands of dollars and thousands of hours invested only to sit idle for months at a time dealing with zoning laws and waiting for permits to come through. Since then it seems the process has become, I don’t want to say streamlined, but it seems to be less of a nightmare than it used to be to get a craft beer business operational.
Today a brewery can be found close to just about any destination in California. One exception is the Hwy 120 Hwy 108 corridor. If you leave the Bay Area to go camping up in the Sierra’s there are no longer any cool brewpub stops or growler fills on the way. The most disappointing loss was Kelley Brother’s in Manteca. That was a really cool old style brewery. It sucks that it’s gone. Lumberyard Brewing was also a big loss, but at least the location reopened as Standard Pour. It should be your last stop for a sit down meal if you go camping in the area -great tap list and menu, friendly, good for kids etc.
When I started to write this I didn’t intend to start writing about dead breweries. I’ll have to
save the Brewz Newz from my other two nights out for later posts. That’s the problem with leaving the house. It gives me too much to write about and I get easily sidetracked. Anyway, back to Ale Industries, from my memory, I think Ale Industries was one of the first new breweries to open that only brewed non-standard beers. They didn’t do the regular line-up of pale ale, stout etc. Their first bottled beer didn’t even use hops. They bottled a Rye before it became popular and I think they were one of the first breweries to have a session IPA and everybody does that now. They also had more interesting stuff on tap at the “Jingletown Jazz Room” I made a mistake and ordered a pint of “This Is the Shit That Killed Elvis” If I would have realized earlier that they sold it there in bottles I wouldn’t have done that. It was the only high alcohol beer on the menu and I should have realized I was in for a long drinking day.
Thankfully the brewer Steve tipped us to the fact that the Oakland Brewing Company did not actually close down as the Internet had told me. It just changed names to the Independent Brewing Company so that was our next stop. Great place, a very laid back warehouse setting. In fact, Keri recognized it right away as a warehouse space where she saw a show a few years ago. It’s located a short walking distance from the entrance to Jack London Square where the now famous Beer Revolution is located.
Just another two blocks from Beer Rev is where the show was at the Oakland Metro Operahouse. Unlike the venue from a week earlier, this place had a better selection of beer and the prices were good. We kept drinking. At the very moment we were at that show, BJ, the Hamm’s drinkin’ head of the San Jose Drunks, as well as crust punk vinyl collector, 6drinking6celebrity6 on instagram posted a photo of the Reina Aveja 7” and likewise, that will be the YouTube selection for this Brewz Newz post.
Speaking of failed businesses, my greatest failure ever is that I quit doing Probe Records before I finished putting out the Reina Aveja full length. The band flew out to California to play some shows and record with Billy Anderson. The tracks were all recorded and the covers were done. Around that same time I realized that my time was done too. The Internet had replaced my usefulness as a publisher. My attempt to reboot the distribution for the record label was a complete failure. I covered the money to get the tracks mastered at Fantasy Studios and then another label was to to take over from there. Then…. I don’t know who to blame other than myself so I’ll avoid the details but basically, not only did the full length never get released, but it disappeared. It’s just gone! The recordings don’t even exist to put on bandcamp. I would say it was infuriating, but that would undermine how the band must have felt.
So this YouTube recording is not actually that recording but from the aforementioned low budget 7” recorded in 1998. It was Jessica bass, Becky drums, Margaret guitar (in the YouTube photo below Margaret and Becky had switched instruments.) It’s Jen’s amazing vocals that make this recording remarkable. I’ve seen over a thousand bands play in my life and I’ve never witnessed anybody as powerful as Jen.