LIVERMORE -- Hoping to cash in on a booming craft beer industry, Livermore is making it easier for small-scale brewers -- who are linking up in a spirit of cooperation -- to take up residence in the city's plentiful empty industrial warehouses.

City officials say they're foregoing special licenses for taprooms and breweries and working with operators to keep water and sewage costs down. Brewers are in turn taking advantage of the friendly climate in an effort to turn the city -- already a hot spot for wine tourists -- into a "destination" for craft beer enthusiasts.

"We definitely see a benefit of having craft breweries in the community," said Livermore's economic development manager, Catherine Ralston. "They pair very well with our wineries. We would certainly like to be known as a destination city."

Justin Beardsley, brewmaster at Eight Bridges Brewing Company, draws out a sampler of the Twisted Red beer from the Brite Beer tank in the brewery in
Justin Beardsley, brewmaster at Eight Bridges Brewing Company, draws out a sampler of the Twisted Red beer from the Brite Beer tank in the brewery in Livermore, Calif. on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (Jim Stevens/Bay Area News Group)

The craft brewing industry is exploding, with America reaching a milestone of 3,000 microbreweries in June. California has the most in the nation, with nearly 400 breweries that produce 3 million barrels of beer annually.

Livermore is ripe for a beer-making renaissance and has welcomed four microbreweries since early 2013. Veteran-owned Uncle Sam's Misguided Brewery opened in March, joining other newcomers Eight Bridges Brewing, Working Man Brewing Company and Altamont Beer Works.

Josh Laine, Uncle Sam's co owner, said he's inspired by the camaraderie with other local brewers, sharing tips and discussing their latest creations. He's hopeful they can soon create an association to promote the area.


Advertisement

"We're expecting more innovative people to come in, people who are getting off the couch and doing things for themselves," Laine said. "We've got a new generation with an energy, and it's great to see."

When it opened in February 2013, Altamont was the first Livermore brewery since Prohibition. As trailblazers, co-owners Steve Sartori and Greg Robles faced a more uphill climb than their counterparts, requiring months of meetings with city officials.

Nestled in the heart of wine country across from the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Altamont's taproom has benefited from tourism generated by the four wine tasting rooms located within a stone's throw, Sartori said.

"The more people they're bringing in, the more we're bringing in," said Sartori. "If you're a wine tourist, you're probably going to stop by and try some beer."

Up the road at Working Man, founded in May 2013 by two guys with day jobs, co-owner Paul Torres envisions the new taprooms as first stops for wine excursionists.

"You can come in for a flight, the whole experience lasts 10 to 15 minutes, and you can go on to the next tasting room," Torres said. "It goes hand-in-hand with the wine country. We think we can grow the business and put Livermore on the map."

Justin Beardsley, brewmaster at Eight Bridges Brewing Company, holding a handfull of the barley grain used in the beers in the brewery in Livermore, Calif.
Justin Beardsley, brewmaster at Eight Bridges Brewing Company, holding a handfull of the barley grain used in the beers in the brewery in Livermore, Calif. on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (Jim Stevens/Bay Area News Group)

Far from seeing the new kids on the block as competition, Livermore's wine industry is supportive.

"People come to wine regions for different reasons," explained Chris Chandler, executive director of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association. "Some people prefer beer and some like wine; here, they can do both. The more things there are to do or offer in the Livermore Valley, the better it is for everybody."

At Eight Bridges Brewing -- named for the Bay Area's eight bridges -- Justin Beardsley, a paramedic who chose brewing over medical school, tends a larger-scale version of the system he had in his Pleasanton garage. His father, George, who handles the business side, predicts Livermore will be a craft beer mecca in a few years.

"When a limo comes from San Jose, Livermore has discovered that half will go wine-tasting and half will want to try some craft beer," George Beardsley said. "They've figured it out."

Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.

---