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Drake’s Brewery Sold to Triple Rock

| October 8, 2008 | Comments (0)

SAN LEANDRO — Drake’s Brewing Co., one of America’s pioneering craft breweries, was sold Monday to the owner of Triple Rock Brewery in Berkeley.

The deal’s sale price was not disclosed.

The buyer is Triple Rock proprietor John Martin of Orinda and business partner Roy Kirkorian. The two also are partners in Jupiter, a beer pub in Berkeley, and the Bear’s Lair pub in UC Berkeley’s student government building.

They also were partners in another Jupiter pub in Walnut Creek that closed some time ago.

Martin said that the business will not change; it will remain committed to excellence. He said Drake’s will supply beer to Jupiter in Berkeley and will continue to sell to other customers as well.

The brewery sells a range of beers, mostly ales, and has earned a reputation as a producer of strong beers, many of them aged in barrels. Drake’s best-selling India Pale Ale won a gold medal at the professionally judged Great American Beer Festival. Other Drake’s beers also have done well in competition.

There has been speculation for months in the craft brewing world that Drake’s might be sold. Sales efforts have faltered and production last year, according the Brewers Association, the Boulder, Colo.-based craft beer trade group, fell 39 percent to 2,450 barrels. (A barrel of beer is 31 gallons.)

The sales drop was surprising, considering Drake’s reputation and the fact that craft beer sales rose more than 10 percentnationwide in 2007.

Victor Kralj, proprietor of the Bistro in Hayward, who sponsors a number of nationally known beer festivals, said the purchase is a positive one for the industry.

“I think it’s great that a local brewery is being sold to another local brewer with a great reputation. Drake’s beer is so good. It’s just a matter of marketing,” he said.

Drake’s was founded in San Leandro in 1989 as Lind Brewing by Roger Lind, a noted Oakland craft brewery. Lind sold the business to the Rogers Family Co., a San Leandro-based coffee roasting company.

Pete Rogers, the company’s chief executive, said Monday that the coffee roasting business is moving to Lincoln, in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento.

It was not practical to move the brewery to Lincoln and trying to manage the beer business from Lincoln would be difficult, he said. “It took me three hours in traffic the other day to drive from Lincoln to here,” Rogers said.

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Martin said he had been talking with Rogers for some time.

“We’ve got a lot of history with Drake’s,” Martin said. “Roger Lind first brewed for us at Triple Rock. We were customers at Lind Brewing and in 1999, Roger called us about selling the brewery,” he said.

“But we had just opened Jupiter in Walnut Creek,” he said. The Rogers Co. bought the business instead.

In a touch of irony, Rogers bought Jupiter Walnut Creek’s equipment and equipment from a Martin brewpub in San Francisco — 20 Tank — that closed.

“I guess I had to buy Drake’s to get my stuff back,” Martin said.

Rogers spiffed up the Lind Brewing’s image and changed the name to Drake’s Brewing.

Lind named his beers after the English explorer, who visited the Northern California coast, but missed San Francisco Bay, in the 16th century. A Lind relative devised the “sailing ship” labels and the brewery logo.

In another tie-in, Drake’s longtime head brewer Rodger Davis is now head brewer at Triple Rock. Josh Miner, Drake’s current head brewer, will remain in the post, Martin said. However, “Davis will also be part of the mix,” he said.

Drake’s is located behind Wal-Mart at 1933 Davis St. in San Leandro.

A Friday afternoon open house that has been a feature at the brewery for more than a decade will resume, but most likely not until after the rainy season, Martin said.

The weekly open house was canceled in August after a fight broke out at the well-attended event and San Leandro police complained to Rogers about crowd control problems.

William Brand writes the What’s On Tap beer column, which appears each Wednesday in this newspaper. Reach him at [email protected]

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