SAN FRANCISCO —Homebrew competitions, spacious wooden tables in a large warehouse and award-winning beers are a little bit of what you will find when you walk inside one of SF’s newest breweries, Barebottle Brewing Company.
Lester Koga, Michael Seitz, and Ben Sterling — co-owners of Barebottle — met as graduate students in New York. Though all were following different paths in different jobs, the three came together before having the idea of owning a brewery.
Seitz was working in Cincinnati when he was first exposed to homebrewing.
“Cincinnati has this like really rich brewing history and culture, and it was there that I met a homebrewer and he told me you can make your own beer at home, like high quality beer,” said Seitz.
“It blew my mind… so the next day I went out and bought all the ingredients and materials and started feverishly brewing, and then I got Lester into it and I also got Ben into it.”
This is when they had to idea to come together in San Francisco, bring in a head brewer, Cortlandt Tocyzlowski, and start Barebottle.
The brewery had been in the works for about seven years while Seitz, Koga, and Sterling transformed from homebrewers and their competitions into certified beer judges,leading up to Barebottle’s opening in July of this year.
“Barebottle represents brewing innovation and experimentation,” said Seitz.
Before going on to win a Great American Beer Festival award, Barebottle had already racked up recognition in the homebrewing community by winning awards for their beers, such as Scurvy Fighter, Galaxy Dust and Espresso Macchiato.
Barebottle won the bronze award at GABF for their Coastal Red Imperial Amber Ale. An 8.3 percent alcohol and 43 IBU beer described as “spicy banana bread in a glass,” the brew was perfected over time by head brewer Tocyzlowski. The fact Coastal Red won the award at the shocked the three owners because they had only been open for about four months.
This beer is made with two different kinds of yeast both English and a West Coast Ale, influenced by Costal Redwood trees with fig and black currant flavors in addition to the banana bread resemblance.
“We’re honored to receive this award, and excited that our model is generating early results,” said Koga. “As homebrewers and BJCP certified beer judges, we use a competitive method and local inspiration to develop our beers, and so far, it looks like it’s working well.”
Building on the idea of experimentation, Barebottle focuses also on brewing competitions, not just as a brewery, but hosting competitions within the homebrew community.
“When people submit bottles to be judged, they are bare bottles so that’s where the name Barebottle comes from is our judging background where you basically get bare bottles and judge them.”
Their first competition worked with the San Francisco Homebrewers Guild to create an IPA dedicated to the Muir Woods National Monument.
Barebottle received 26 entries that were judged blindly.From there they narrowed those 26 entries down to three.
Out of that came Muir Woods, a 6.2 percent alcohol IPA with an IBU of 54 for a 16-ounce glass, with flavors of pine needles and oranges.
Beekeeping and local products
Local ingredients can also be found in Barebottle’s offerings. C’s Summer Bees, a honey brown ale on tap at the brewery, is made with over 100 pounds of Oakland hills wildflower honey. The beer itself is a fitting offering, as Tocyzlowski is a beekeeper as well.
Seitz spoke about this importance of using local products, such as in their Espresso Macchiato, which is a milk stout, mixed with a cold brew from Paramo’s Stargazer Coffee.
“The way that we develop all of our beers here is we start with an idea and a style and we basically iterate on it until we come up with something that we like.”
As for the future for Barebottle, Seitz spoke about how they chose to go big with a 20-barrel system that can match demand and allow the brewery to stay for the long haul.
The brewery plans to bottle Muir Woods and Galaxy Dust onsite soon for visitors to enjoy.