In 1989, Northern California was leading the charge in the original era of the American micro-brewing movement. Early that year Drake’s founder Roger Lind, a former brewer at one of the nation’s first brewpubs Triple Rock Brewing in Berkeley, made the trip down to industrial San Leandro with the Triple Rock owner John Martin to check out a warehouse space for a new brewery.
They agreed, this former powerhouse of a Caterpillar manufacturing plant seemed like the perfect spot to scrape together Lind’s pioneering new draft-only production brewery. Lind put together a humble assortment of equipment including two stainless steel dairy tanks, a 15 bbl boil kettle, one fermenter, and a handful of British pub cellar tanks or “Grundy tanks” and starting making English-style ales. A bit of a privateer himself in this new and seemingly crazy idea to open a small production brewery, Lind decided to name his “Lind Brewing Company” beers after the English privateer Sir Francis Drake.
And so the journey began. Lind would brew the beer, keg it, do the books, deliver the kegs, schmooze with beer folks, and get ready to do it again the next day. Then, every Friday, he’d invite his friends over for some beers and a BBQ in the parking lot by the brewery office. These Friday BBQ’s eventually became the heart and soul of the operation, as friends and the local community stopped by to hang out, drink some fresh local beers, and often give their opinions freely about all things beer related. Eventually this tradition inspired Drake’s First Friday fundraisers every month as a way to give back to the community that has been stopping by and supporting since the beginning.
Over the years, the beers naturally moved from their roots in the English-style to being true West Coast style ales with an abundance of fresh Pacific Northwest hops, top quality malt, and a neutral California Ale yeast strain that allows the flavors and aromas of the top quality malts and hops to shine through and gives the beer a clean, dry finish. The people loved it all, and their increasing thirsts helped Drake’s to grow tank by tank.
Drake’s hit milestones along the way. In the late nineties, Drake’s began bottling its beers for the first time. Then in 2002, Drake’s IPA took Gold at the Great American Beer Festival for American IPA. In 2004, Drake’s created the now cult phenomenon of a monster Imperial IPA Denogginizer.
And in 2008, another milestone. Long-time friend of the brewery and co-op brewing partner, John Martin took over operations of the brewery with his business partner Roy Kirkorian. Drake’s was ready for its next steps; with the already stellar lineup of beers and a lot of trust, time, investment, and people, the brewery has grown by leaps and bounds.
Since 2008, Drake’s has been constantly expanding, growing in production by an average 50% each year and constantly working to create new and fascinating beers for the fans and fellow hop lovers. Some of the most exciting beers out of the brewery are the annual seasonals that the people crave months in advance like the intensely hop-forward Hopocalypse Double IPA and it’s younger bigger brother the Hopocalypse Black Label Triple IPA at 12.5% ABV. On the other end of the spectrum, Drake’s has pushed forward the cause of brewers and craft drinkers seeking session ales that fit their tastes with our satisfyingly hoppy and surprisingly low alcohol by volume Alpha Session IPA. Then of course starting in 2009, Drake’s took its exploration of hop aromatics to new heights in the seasonal double dry-hopped IPA, Aroma Coma IPA and later in Coma’s New Zealand hopped twin Aroma Prieta.
Also in this time, Drake’s has worked hard to grow and nurture its barrel-aging program from its beginnings with 6-10 barrels in 2007, to its current point with approximately 250 barrels of various origins including red and white wine, port, brandy, bourbon, whiskey, and rye whiskey barrels. Drake’s experimentation with barrel-aging has made the brewery a leader in this style in the Bay Area, and plans to bottle some of the best from the barrels are currently in development for sometime in 2015. Until that time, Drake’s fans have been finding their barrel-aged fix at Drake’s Barrel House, the brewery’s still relatively new tasting room, retail store, and craft beer home, built in June of 2011, where all Drake’s brews, including 3-5 barrel-aged beers are flowing regularly.
On the production side, the brewery has seen multiple expansions and upgrades over the past several years including a new, larger brewhouse, lots of new fermentation tanks, a high quality bottling line, and many other pieces of equipment and gadgets that perhaps only the brewers can truly appreciate.
Even still, as Drake’s grows, it is as apparent as ever that Drake’s greatest assets are the passionate and talented people here in San Leandro who meticulously strive to produce amazing and innovative craft beers every single day and the equally passionate Drake’s fans that have helped support this small brewery for over 25 years. It’s their pride and passion that helps Drake’s fill the tanks each day, and it’s is the heart of all success past, present, and future. Cheers.
If you would like to come see the brewery for yourself, take a look at our Brewery Tour page.