It happened to be a big day (one of many more to come, I’m sure) when I arrived at Armistice Brewing, Richmond’s newest brewery.
The giant French doors leading out to the beer garden were going in, the last step before their final Alcoholic Beverage Control inspection the next day.
“Can’t open the doors if they aren’t there!” said Alex Zobel, who along with Gregory Zobel make up the sister-brother team behind Armistice.
Other inspections are still to come, of course, but once they get their ABC sign-off, they can finally start brewing. [UPDATE: they did, and they are.]
The first batch will be a pilsner, a clean beer with few ingredients that will help them detect the idiosyncrasies and dial in the specs of their new (to them, via Mill Valley Beerworks) three-barrel brewhouse, shoehorned in the back of their smallish space at the end of a business park in the Marina Bay district.
The Zobels have done a clever job of allocating what remains into three distinct areas.
The front door opens to the main taproom, which incorporates wood planks reused from a now-razed barn on the family’s former Napa property, where the siblings bonded over homebrewing while caring for their ailing mother.
The rest of the wood used throughout, both inside and out, is sustainably harvested and locally sourced. Uber-locally sourced, as in El Sobrante.
The bar top will be made from long oak planks “with rustic, uneven edges because, you know, that’s less work for us,” they say. And the communal tables will likewise be made of similarly milled and finished cedar and redwood.
All that wood, along with the exposed ductwork, concrete floors and pendant lighting (with LED filament bulbs, no less) will give the main bar area a sort of rustic/industrial vibe. According to Gregory, the taproom “will be the most ‘bar-like’ of the three spaces; dark, high top stand up bars, TVs, loud music, etc.”
A three-barrel system equals very small batches, and with 15 taps, expect a lot of them, rotating often (their license doesn’t allow for guest handles). They will run the gamut of styles, although Alex and Gregory are self-admitted hopheads so at least three to four will be of the hoppy variety.
“We’ve won a lot of awards for our Saisons and we are really excited and actively working towards starting a cask ale program with beer engines and cellar,” says Gregory. “Eventually we’d like to get in to Brett beers and other sours, but we will have to wait until we obtain another unit so that we can keep the clean beer separate.”
If the bustle of the taproom isn’t your scene and you want something a bit more subdued, head upstairs to what the Zobels call the Framily Room, a brighter, more relaxed space with wood floors, expansive windows, and a mix of lounge and communal seating. You can read, work on your laptop, or simply enjoy the fresh beer you just ordered along with views of Point Richmond from the redwood standing bars along the outer walls.
Back downstairs, through those giant French doors to the right of the bar, is the outdoor beer garden, which “will be filled with communal redwood tables and also features an ordering window so you don’t have to go inside to order,” says Gregory. Since he and Alex are the only two employees for the immediate future, there ain’t no table service. But good craft beer patrons are a patient lot, as it is usually well rewarded.
Sustainability also reigns in the beer garden, as the outer walls are made from repurposed plastic pallets “that we’ve attached plywood over and filled with soil. We are drilling holes into the side of the wall and planting succulents to make a living wall,” says Gregory.
Although they won’t have a kitchen, nearby food choices will be plentiful. Food trucks should be a common sight as a cooperative kitchen is elsewhere in the complex, or you can grab some food to-go at the shopping center across the street.
The generosity and collaborative spirit of the craft beer industry was in full-effect during my visit, as the guys from Benoit Casper stopped by say howdy to check on their progress, crowlers in hand. They, along with Armistice and East Brother Brewing, form the now-trifecta of the Richmond brewing scene. (Perhaps we’ll see a Richmond Ale Trail in the not-too-distant future?)
Armistice Brewing Company is beyond easy to get to, just off the Marina Bay Parkway exit off I-580, so check them out once they open the doors. Assuming all goes smoothly with remaining construction and permits, they hope to have the taps flowing sometime in the early Summer.
I bid my adieus to Alex, Gregory, and the Benoit-Casper crew as the shop talk continued. May it be just one of many, many collegial gatherings to come.