Among all the specialty beers Golden Road brewery has ever offered on draft, Trouble Ahead Red may have been its most prophetic. The L.A.-based brewery has faced much opposition in Oakland since March of this year when it filed a zoning design review application with the city to construct a beer garden in Temescal. The original plans called for the installation of seven converted shipping containers occupying 320, 322, and 330 40th street, currently a parking lot behind Clove & Hoof.
After an initial public comment period, Golden Road decided to scale back plans. The newest proposal reduces hours of operation, retains three existing parking spaces, installs a 12-foot driveway to give access to Broadway businesses, and includes a substantially smaller footprint, paring nearly 4,000 square feet off the original 8,606 square foot plan. The changes were so significant as to require a second round of public comment and review.
“The public has provided very constructive feedback,” Mark Kamarauskas, the general manager at Golden Road wrote in an email. “We have taken them to heart and put together a project that has evolved with this feedback in mind. The city planning staff has been helpful in making sure we are thinking about the project from all directions. This has truly been a collaborative project.”
The Temescal beer garden actually marks the second attempt by Golden Road at opening an Oakland location. The first, “didn’t end up panning out,” said Kamarauskas. The hope of this second round is to address the failings of the first as well as to work with the city and neighborhood on a mutually agreeable plan.
“We knew that if we wanted to be successful that we needed to make a few important changes,” said Kamarauskas. “We’re really excited with the result, and based off the feedback we received, the public comments were more favorable this time around.” Of the 12 comments submitted by the public, only two were unambiguously in favor.
One of those two came from Matt Branagh, owner of The Mia, a 47-unit apartment complex currently under construction at 41st Street and Broadway. He wrote, “We are in support of the concept and excited about the Golden Road Brewery, we think it will be a great asset to the surrounding community and the Mia residence.”
The location on 40th Street feels like a favorable fit for Golden Road’s brew culture. “Temescal is like looking in a mirror of our current employees and patrons,” wrote Kamarauskas. “We’re coming to Temescal because we believe in the neighborhood. We aren’t out there in an attempt to differentiate ourselves.”
But a pressing question for some locals is why Temescal even needs another beer venue in a neighborhood already well saturated with local and independent bars, breweries and brewpubs. Golden Road’s proposed location is catty-corner from The Hog’s Apothecary, around the corner from George Kay’s and Underwood, and a short walk to Cato’s Ale House, Temescal Brewing and Roses’ Taproom. As well as the threat to local businesses and neighborhood identity, parking and noise were two other concerns raised by commenters. Not to mention, there is the added point that the multinational beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev acquired Golden Road in September of 2015. Many who are opposed to the proposed beer garden expressed resentment at corporate intrusion in Temescal.
Sam Gilbert, the owner of Temescal Brewing on Telegraph Avenue, a half mile from the proposed Golden Road location, has been a vocal opponent of Golden Road ever since it was first proposed. In an email Gilbert referred to Golden Road as, “part of a larger, deliberate attack on local, independent beer by a multinational beer conglomerate that does not share the values of us or our customers.”
Members of the East Bay Beer Runners often gather at Temescal Brewing. Meeting up every Tuesday for a run and a round of beer, the Beer Runners rotate between establishments in a group of 50 or more people, beginning and ending each run from that week’s bar or brewery. Organizer Ramon Valle prefers to work with bars that can meet three requirements: good beer, plenty of space and not too far from a park.
Valle lives in San Leandro but hosts the majority of meetups in Oakland because the terrain is more varied and there are more breweries to choose from. With its open plan and proximity to Mountain View Cemetery, the proposed Golden Road beer garden would seem a natural fit for EBBR. But Valle has no plan to bring the group there.
“We’re not anti big beer,” said Valle “but we wouldn’t go out of solidarity with the breweries we have relationships with.”
Valle is more opposed to the business dealings of Golden Road’s parent company AB InBev, than to the practices of the LA-based brewery itself. Valle cited InBev’s history of hop hoarding, or buying up an entire year’s harvest of South African hops and refusing to supply the beer additive to any but its own brands. Monopolizing a resource purely to put the squeeze on competitors is antithetical to the spirit of craft beer, according to Valle.
There are ways to thread the needle. As evidence, Valle cited beer giant Sapporo’s acquisition of San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing. Sapporo is a private company with few holdings outside Japan. Anchor is the first US-based brand the company would hold. “If Sapporo opened a beer garden we would probably go,” said Valle. “But Sapporo has a good reputation.”
That good reputation may rest on the fact that Sapporo’s main distinction when it comes to international beer has been that it is ‘not InBev.’ At least, not yet.
“Independent is more important than craft,” said another East Bay Beer Runner, Mike Seliske. “I can’t support a large corporation masquerading as craft beer.”
Kamarauskas is nevertheless hopeful that once built, Golden Road can win over skeptics with the quality of both its beer and its business.
“In Oakland you will see the face of Golden Road, a team who are as passionate over beer and innovation as any other craft in the industry,” he wrote. “This is a Golden Road project and although I will have a hard time convincing some of the doubters otherwise, I will always be glad to sit down over a beer and have an open conversation.”
The City of Oakland is currently in the process of reviewing all submitted concerns. After its review, it will submit a recommendation to city zoning manager Scott Miller, who will publish a written decision, followed by a 10-day appeal period. Unless there is an appeal, Golden Road will be free to break ground. Though a successful appeal would defer the project to the Oakland City Planning Commission, where it would undergo further review. Public commenters — as well as all neighborhood residents within 300 feet of the proposed project — will be kept abreast of all developments.
Although the second period for public comment ended officially on August 21, an acoustic review of the project has yet to be conducted. Those interested in submitting noise-related concerns are encouraged to contact Oakland City Manager Rebecca Lind via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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