I’m a beer girl. I always have been. Not to say I don’t appreciate a nice glass of wine, or a well mixed cocktail; but when it comes down to it, a pilsner in a cold glass is always going to be my go-to drink. At the start of the year I attended an Oakland Urban Path walk through the area of town once known as Brooklyn. I learned that Oakland has a history full of lagers and porters. From Oakland Brewery to the longstanding Golden West, our town was overflowing with producers of “steam beer.” Sadly, this part of our history fizzled out completely in the 1960’s as doors were closed and buildings were demolished. 50+ years later it is coming back. Linden Street Brewery carved the way, with respect for the working man roots of our past. Paying homage to old favorites, and reviving Oakland’s brew laden past, with a modern twist.
The primary players in this part of our city’s history were Oakland Brewery, Anchor Brewery (no affiliation with Anchor Brewing Co. in SF), Brooklyn Brewery, and Washington Brewery, which later became the longstanding operation know as Golden West Brewery. Oakland Brewery was the oldest, started in 1852. Washington followed in 1856, Brooklyn in 1870, and Anchor in 1895. As the Gold Rush and the Transcontinental Railroad brought the working class to California in large numbers, breweries were cranking out thousands of barrels of steam beer, which is historically known as a beer produced with lager yeast without the use of refrigeration. Who brewed the best and the tastiest? According to the author of an article in the Oakland Tribune from January 1888 about the local brew scene, it was Brooklyn Brewery.
Of the Oakland breweries, it was Golden West Brewery that held on the longest, going through several owners and names over the years, eventually becoming Golden West Brewery in 1910. The brewery’s final home in Oakland was a brick building at 5th in Kirkham in West Oakland, which stood until 1964, at which time it was demolished. Construction workers raised pints in honor of the building’s past. Known for their Golden Glow Lager Brew, Golden West was the last man standing in our cities production brewing history, until 2009.
Close to fifty years after Golden West Brewery came crumbling to the ground, Linden Street Brewery opened its doors just a half mile away. Founder Adam Lamoreaux not only decided to bring production beer brewing back to Oakland, he decided to do it in a way that honored the traditional methods and flavors of California steam beers. The name “steam beer” was trademarked by San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Co. in 1981, the category of beers is often now referred to as California Common.
What started as a one-man shop has now turned into a well-known name on taps throughout the Bay Area restaurant scene. Collaborations with local names such as Tartine Bakery, Hawker Fare, and RoastCo Coffee have created unique beers on par with the experienced palate of Bay Area diners. Adam has expanded his success in recent years, partnering with chef James Syhabout to open The Dock at Linden Street just next door.
What brought me to Linden Street was a nostalgia for Golden Glow. As I mentioned at the beginning, I am a pilsner fan. Hand me a Trumer Pils or a North Coast Scrimshaw and I am a happy camper. As my research on Oakland’s beer making history kept bringing me back to Linden Street, I decided a trip was in order to sample their Glow Pilsner, an ode to Golden West Brewery’s namesake beer. I was lucky enough to be offered a chance to peak around their operation and historic digs.
What resulted was a family trip on a VERY rainy Saturday afternoon to the tasting room at Linden Street Brewery. Only open on weekends from 12:00-5:00, and tucked under a covered patio strung with lights, Linden’s tasting room is certainly ideal for a warm summer afternoon. However, we made the best of it, snacks, stickers, and coloring packed for the kids.
Assistant Brewer Alec Hill was kind enough to show me around, even giving me a spare bottle opener he had from the original Golden West Brewery. With a taster in hand, we popped back and forth from the brewhouse to the office so he could show me the combination of art and science that come together to create their selection of beers, and to chat about the historic building they occupy.
The building Linden Street Brewery is located in was once a factory for the Standard Underground Cable Company, producing electric wiring that became a hot commodity as the country transitioned from gas to electricity. The age of the building predates the Oakland-Alameda Estuary. Alec showed me how the current floor of the building was once actually the second floor. You can see tops of the brick arches of what were once the 1st floor windows on the exterior of the building. Aged wide plank wood floors that made me envious, and a touch of Golden Glow in the window, and exposed beams and brick were all signs of Oakland’s history.
Since a batch of Glow Pilsner was on the schedule to be brewed in the coming week, I was lucky enough to pop back in just yesterday to see the process in action. While I was only able to stay for the first couple of steps, it was an experience to see the art and science of craft brewing come together. I watched as 70 pounds of German malt barley fed through a grinder, crossed the brewhouse in a tube into the mash tun, then mixing with hot water pumped in at 169 degrees to create the mash.
We then waited for the mash to sit before being recirculated and then for the wort to be drained out into the kettle. The wort is the extracted liquid that holds the sugars which is then mixed with fragrant hops. While we waited I wandered around a bit more, checked out the trains going by, and chatted with Linden’s new head brewer Shane Aldrich about his history and growth plans for the business. I then popped back in for a quick chance to see a pound of hops being added into the draining wort, and it was time for me to head home, a growler of Glow Pilsner in hand.
Once again, Oakland history, and the people choosing to pay homage to it, has fascinated me. I’ve learned more about beer in the past week than I ever knew, and my appreciation for the craftsmanship behind it has grown. Maybe some day my constant desire to make things from scratch, to craft things myself, will send me the way of the home brewing supply store; for now I think its probably unlikely, and I am just going to head back to Linden Street Brewery with my empty growler in hand.
I want to thank Alec Hill of Linden Street Brewery for his help, kindness, and generosity of time as he showed me around on both of my visits. He went above and beyond and I owe him many thanks, especially for my now coveted Golden Glow bottle opener :o)
For more information about Linden Street Brewery, please visit www.lindenstreetbrewing.com
A list of restaurants where their kegs can be found on tap is found here.
Linden Street Brewery does not currently bottle or can their beers, you can visit their tasting room on Saturday & Sunday from 12:00-5:00 and growlers can be purchased for $5 for the growler + $10 for the fill.
NOTE: Children are welcomed at the Linden Street Brewery Tasting Room! :o)
Photo & Image Credits:
Oakland Brewery Image: photo by Adrienne Schell of Oakland Tribune, July 23, 1961
Oakland Brewing & Malting Company Image: photo of letterhead by Adrienne Schell, letterhead is Courtesy of Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room
Oakland Brewery Elevation: photo by Adrienne Schell of Oakland Tribune, September 15, 1906
Image of Golden West Brewery Building: photo by Adrienne Schell of sheet in Oakland History Room Clippings File
Image of Golden West Brewery Demolished: photo by Adrienne Schell of San Francisco Examiner article Death of an Oakland Brewery, January 29, 1964
Image of Golden Glow Advertisement (left): photo by Adrienne Schell from Oakland Tribune Yearbook 1927
Image of Golden Glow Advertisement (right): photo by Adrienne Schell from Oakland Tribune Yearbook 1931
Three Images of Golden Glow Labels: sourced via Tavern Trove, copied with approval.
All other images by Adrienne Schell