As beer culture in the Bay Area has grown, Oakland has been slow to gain a brewing culture — the two concepts being symbiotic and parallel but different, according to Ale Industries cofounder Morgan Cox. “It’s easy to confuse the two, but they’re actually different,” Cox said. Beer culture involves a love of beer and the enjoyment of experiencing the beer, bars and shops that cater to beer aficionados, such as The Good Hop, Hog’s Apothecary and Beer Revolution. Brewing culture is about the craft of beer production.

“The beer culture in Oakland has moved further along than the brewing 2015-03-09 14.13.37culture has, but we’re catching up,” said Cox.

For comparison, Cox highlighted Portland with its stellar reputation for local brews and copious numbers of independent breweries.

“Portland happens to be approximately double the land mass of Oakland and also double the population of Oakland, so it’s about equally densely populated,” Cox said. “I asked a couple of people who were in the industry how many breweries are in Portland proper. Fifty-seven. Not in the outlying areas, just in the city limits. I think Portland’s a little bit saturated beyond what is really viable, but not overly saturated.”

Meanwhile, Oakland has roughly a half dozen production breweries.

“Maybe 57 is too many for Portland, but you cut that in half and that would give you what would be equal here — let’s say 28, if you’re going to make it equal to Portland, right? So even if it’s 15 here in Oakland, that would still be great. I think we could get away with having that many.”

2015-03-09 14.21.59 (2)The beer at Ale Industries avoids the West Coast tradition of trying to out-hop competitors. Two of the best beers on tap, in fact, are hopless.

The two gruit-style ales —“Golden State of Mind,” which is brewed with chamomile, coriander and orange peel, and “Cherry Kush,” which is brewed with fresh cherry juice — are both crisp and complicated.

Hops or no hops, the diversity of American beer can be traced back to Europe, but the relative youth of America and its breweries have allowed the brewmasters here to transcend tradition. Recently Cox was talking with a contact from Ireland who was lamenting that the bars in his country generally serve about four different styles of beer.

“It’s so funny because what we’ve become has been because of the European influence. People went over to Europe and travelled around and went, ‘Man, there’s like 30 or 40 different styles of beer,’” said Cox. “But if you look more myopically at the European countries, each of them just have their own individual styles that they’re drinking. Here in the U.S., we don’t have that tradition of ‘This is what we brew, this is what we do.’ Here, it’s like, “Hey, let’s do a Belgian sour and let’s do a German lager and let’s do an English pale and let’s do a Bohemian pilsner.’ We kind of adopt everything.”

2015-03-09 14.19.27

This prototype filter by Porifera in Hayward seperates post-brewing waste into water and solids. The water gets used to for cleaning and the solids are sent away to be converted into ethanol fuel.

Beer continues its heyday here. Like wine, coffee and cheese, people have moved beyond wanting a red or a white, black or with milk, cheddar or a Swiss. When looking at beer, people look beyond the distinction of a lager or IPA and might consider their meal in relation to a beer’s flavor profile.

“I know I’m biased, but I think beer pairs better with food [than wine],” said Ale Industries cofounder Stephen Lopas, who began brewing his own beer 16 years ago because, as he noted, he was “spending way too much money on beer.”

The latest trend in American beer is a return to sours, and Ale Industries is on the same page with their latest batch lining the wall in oak barrels.

“It’s sort of like the next frontier. It’s not the new frontier; it’s just the next one. People have been making sour beers for longer than they’ve been making clean beers [without the souring yeast]. It wasn’t very long ago that we didn’t know what yeast was. The actual term of the grey stuff on the bottom was “God is good.” Because they knew that if you took some of that and put it into your new batch, it made beer. If you didn’t take some of that and put it into your new batch, it didn’t make beer.”

Whatever your views on religion, I think we can agree that “God is good,” and Ale Industries is a fine place to find religion in the shape of a pint glass.

Ale Industries
3096 E. 10th St.
Oakland, CA 94601
Currently the taproom is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, but starting in the next few weeks they will be open on evenings, seven days a week.

About The Author

Katie is the Music Editor at OL. She's a music geek, culture junkie, massive A's fan, and Oakland native. When she was six, she stood for five minutes with a felt pennant stuck under Chris Mullin’s armpit. Check out her Oakland music listings at www.oakampd.com, follow on twitter/instagram as @craziesthawk, or contact at katies@oaklandlocal.com

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