OAKLAND — Co-owners and married couples Ryan Frank, Caitlin O’Connor, and Max and Margie Silverstein recently opened Original Pattern Brewing in Oakland’s Jack London neighborhood – but don’t mistake them for amateurs.
Ryan was former Director of Operations at 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco’s South Beach neighborhood. Before that, he and Max were busy studying craft beer in Europe in 2009. You could say that craft beer is in their DNA.
A Fateful Trip to Prague
Ryan and Max were classmates studying at the World Brewing Academy – Siebel Institute in Munich, Germany. The World Brewing Academy – Siebel Institute offers a unique learning experience dedicated to craft beer from an international perspective. Courses begin at Chicago’s Siebel Institute and then conclude at Doemens Academy in Munich. During their time, they decided to visit Prague as part of their studies. That is where Ryan met his wife and business partner, Caitlin.
Caitlin was studying abroad as an undergrad taking international business classes for a semester. But her love for craft beer actually began before she met her husband. “I was always drawn to it. So, a lot of it actually came from my dad I think being from Ireland and just sort of the pub culture and his love for Guinness,” she explained as she happily reminisced with a slight chuckle.
While in Prague, she noticed that the craft brew experience was much different from what she was familiar with in the States. The tradition and rich history of craft beer in Prague runs deep. The first brewery in Prague was U Fleků. It was established in 1499 and still operates today. The oldest brewery in San Francisco is Anchor Steam and was established in 1896.
“When I was there it wasn’t really popular for local young people to drink beer.”
“Back when I was there, it was a little bit ago… it was definitely very different. It’s very old there… the tradition of beer. When I was there it wasn’t really popular for local young people to drink beer,” continued Caitlin. “They were actually really surprised when they heard about craft beer in America. It was definitely more towards spirits and wine. In my experience, [beer] was kinda what the old people drank back when I was there in 2009.”
An Undeniable Passion
After moving back to the States, Ryan and Caitlin dabbled in homebrewing. Ryan began homebrewing back in about 2005, but Caitlin joined after she returned from Prague in 2009. When they were dating, she quickly learned the craft through Ryan. It became an intoxicating shared experience. No pun intended.
They were drawn to the old brewing styles they experienced abroad. They experimented and, perhaps unknowingly, were honing skills that would later be applied to Original Pattern. Harking back to her roots, Caitlin was inspired to feature an Irish Dry Stout on draft at Original Pattern
that she made sure was available opening day. Her family came to visit, so it was important to feature a strong signature Irish beer. And what’s more Irish than a frothy dry stout? In fact, Guinness happens to remain the most popular alcoholic beverage in Ireland. Just saying.
“Original Pattern comes from the original pattern from which something is made or sort of the first mold. It’s kinda a way of us being like brewing culture is our original pattern, as well as each beer is its own unique original pattern. It’s kind of a mix of old and new,” Caitlin explained.
“We definitely chose Oakland because of the culture, and the people and the community.”
Caitlin moved to Oakland fresh out of college. Ryan was working at a brewery in Kansas at the time. He followed suit once Caitlin made the move. Max and Margie came soon after. Not before long, it was unanimously decided to start a brewery. Years of experience and collective passion made it possible.
“We definitely chose Oakland because of the culture, and the people and the community. It’s definitely a vibrant sort of art and community driven place, so that’s really what drove us to Oakland specifically,” said Caitlin.
Original Pattern primarily functions as a tasting room, but a canned release made its debut on June 23rd. In fact, three cans were released that day in limited supply. An ambitious decision was made to release the three newest beers all at once. The point? Variety.
“Three just was a manageable number. I don’t think we could have done anything like seven,” Caitlin acknowledged with a laugh. “It was the max we could do in the time period. But again, we wanted to have that variety.”
To maintain momentum and engagement with their beer, Original Pattern plans to release new styles and dabble in barrel-aging brews. Introducing events in the tasting room has also been a strategy to garner a mass following. Fun pairings with local food vendors and a summer BBQ series involving brining chicken with Original Pattern’s “Are You Not Entertained” Double IPA are among the events mentioned. It might be worthwhile to mention that the “Call of the Void” BBQ sauce is made with Original Pattern’s Belgian Dubbel.
“Fermentation is really kinda what’s exciting for us, more so than just the ingredients.”
The focus is on fermentation and quality. “Fermentation is really kinda what’s exciting for us, more so than just the ingredients – nothing really over the top. Subtlety is kinda our specialty; we really like those sort of subtle flavors,” mentioned Caitlin. “Nothing is over-fruited or over-hopped. We appreciate other ingredients, but we really at the end of the day want it to be about our beer first… and those kinda enhancing the experience of our beer rather than it being about the different things you can do with it.”
Woven into the Community
Community, specifically in the Jack London neighborhood, is important to the identity of Original Pattern. It adds character. It creates a persona. It defines the brand. Providing a space where locals and tourists alike can feel comfortable is part of the mission. Another goal is to educate patrons and have them be part of the process.
“I think that’s something people have been really hungry for – as well as craft products and local products in general. People really want to feel a part of where they live.”