Serious Eats: Drinks
Behind the Scenes at Linden Street Brewery in Oakland, CA
The brick warehouse where Linden Street Brewery is housed was built in the 1890s, and one of the brewery's focuses is on making what they call 'old California lagers'. The all-draft brewery offers a California common—a style you may know as the now-trademarked 'steam beer' which was once produced by most California breweries—plus a black lager, a red lager, and a 'Town lager,' and easy-drinking beer that only gets delivered to local spots by bike.
Why the focus on lagers? Though owner Adam Lamoreaux happily drinks California IPAs, "it's been done," he says. "We wanted to do something not everyone else is doing, not just bring more sand to the beach."
The four-man Linden Street team also works on special collaborations with local restaurants. Curiosity about San Francisco's native yeast population led to a project with baker Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery in the Mission. Could beer be brewed using sourdough starter's native yeast population?
"Chad didn't think it could be done," says Lamoreaux. They gradually fed the yeast with a stronger and stronger sugar solution to build up its strength, until it could successfully ferment a 4% alcohol brew. First there was a 5 gallon batch, and then eventually they managed to make 60 gallons of the Daily Bred for Tartine. "Every generation of that yeast starter got wiser and more hungry—it's really become ravenous," says Lamoreaux. The starter can now ferment a Biere de Garde at over 9% ABV, and they recently brewed rich, tangy version adding in some of the Flavor King apricots that Tartine uses in their summer apricot soup.
On the day we visited Linden Street, they were brewing a batch of Superfly to go on tap at Oakland's Hawker Fare, made with malted barley and forbidden rice. "The rice gives it a nice nutty character," noted Lamoreaux. After the boil, they steep shiso and smashed lemongrass in the wort, "just like a tea bag," said Lamoreaux. "When we do it, it smells like Froot Loops in here."
The small brewhouse—which quickly did begin to smell like Froot Loops—is a 10-barrel system for now, but production is doubling every 4 to 6 months and they're in the process of expanding into the space next door, plus they hope to add a restaurant into an adjoining space in coming months.
For now, you can visit the tap room Tuesday-Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays often include a visit from the Fist of Flour mobile pizza oven. Brewery tours are available by appointment only.