Exciting Times at Drake’s Brewing Company

By Kelsey Williams

At Drakes Brewing Company there’s plenty of things going on and plenty coming up, so I thought I’d share some highlights with you.

Drake’s Jolly Rodger 2012

On Saturday, November 10 at 12pm at Drake’s Barrel House, this year’s incarnation of our always bold Jolly Rodger will emerge from the tanks to greet craft beer fans on tap and in 22 oz. bottles.

Fans of Jolly Rodger will know that this brew has taken many forms and styles over the years. Now, after years of scallywagging about and dallying with any style that caught its fancy, good ole Jolly Rodger is returning to its original form, an American barly wine.

Jolly has all the warming powers of malt and alcohol, minus the strange holiday beer ubiquitousness of overpowering pie spices, and finishes with the open-handed smack of bold Northwest American hops. 2012 Jolly Rodger is full-bodied with rich caramel malt undertones and mild biscuit malt character. Sufficient additions of West Coast hops balance the malt with pine needle aromatics and satisfying bitterness.

Drake’s Black Robusto Porter Now Available in 22 oz. Bottles

Our long time, year-round style is finally available in 22 oz. bottles throughout California as of November. We have been making this beer draft-only for several years.

Drake’s Black Robusto is a deep, dark “Robust Porter,” a beer style known for being darker, fuller-bodied, and stronger than a standard Brown Porter. Each pint goes down smoothly with flavors of bittersweet chocolate and slight roast from Crystal and Chocolate malt. A touch of spicy, herbal hop character from Willamette hops balance out the finish. Enjoy a pint, and now a bottle, with dark lingering satisfaction.

With it’s malt backbone, chocolate, and roasted flavors, the Black Robusto also plays an exceptional role on the table as it pairs well with smoked meats, BBQ brisket, traditional mole, chocolate, and much more.

Drake’s Hopocalypse Double IPA and Hopocalypse Black Label Triple IPA Returning February 2

We have set the date for our annual Hopocalypse Day to be Saturday, Feb. 2, one week before the annual Bistro Double IPA Festival in Hayward, Calif. during San Francisco Beer Week.

Last year our Hopocalypse Day was a record release party here at Drake’s. People were lining up early to get their hands on our very popular annual seasonal Hopocalypse DIPA, and to get the very limited bottles of the new Hopocalypse Black Label Triple IPA. We had roughly 72 cases of Hopocalypse Black Label Available, and we sold out in just five hours.

More details about the event and beer availability coming soon.

Brewery Expansion

This past Saturday, Nov. 3, marked the anniversary of what has been a huge milestone in the growth of our humble brewery. Four years ago on November 3, John Martin and Roy Kirkorian walked into the Drake’s Brewery as the new owners. There they found a 19-year-old boil kettle, thirteen 15-barrel fermenters, one driver, and two brewers who were putting out just under 1,000 barrels per year of some of the best brews in the Bay Area.

It was the beer that drove them; both John and Roy knew the potential that Drake’s had with each taste of the beer. The small brewery just needed the extra push and investment to grow, and it certainly has.

In 2008, Drake’s was brewing 2-3 times per week and producing just under 1,000 barrels (1 barrel= 31 gallons = 2 standard American kegs) of beer per year. Now, we are brewing 4-5 times per day, running a 24-hour daily schedule Sunday-Thursday, and aiming to brew approximately 13,000 barrels of beer by the end of 2012 (20,000 barrels for 2013).

The brewery has expanded to fill the entire 6,100 square foot space with three 80 barrel fermenters, seven 60 barrel fermenters, four 30 barrel fermenters, seven 20 barrel fermenters, six 15 barrel fermenters, a new 20 barrel boil kettle and brewdeck, and a brand new 16-head bottling line. The cold-storage, barrel-aging program, admin offices, and tasting room were moved into the building next to the brewery, and new storage space was acquired. Drake’s now inhabits 22,000 square feet in San Leandro. The only pieces of equipment that still live in their original spaces are the silo, mill and mashtun.

In June 2011, we opened Drake’s Barrel House Retail Store and Taproom beside the barrels of aging beer where we have the ability to showcase up to 22 beers on tap including a rotating selection of our small batch barrel-aged beers.

With all the growing, the work load has increased to accomodate over 32 full- and part-time employees, all of whom have a deep and abiding love of great beer.

Next Projects

Our new full-size silo will be arriving in November. Three 120 barrel tanks (our largest tanks yet) will be arriving in January.


Kelsey Williams is the Community Manager for Drakes Brewing Company located in San Leandro, Calif. After twenty years, Drake’s Brewing is still pumping out great beer from its cloistered and nondescript metal building. (Only until recently has there even been a “Drake’s Brewing” sign on the building). Few Walmart shoppers have had an inkling of Drake’s existence, just yards away…as they shop to “save money & live better.”  Learn more about Drakes by keeping up with the Drake’s blog at DrinkDrakes.com.