Nearly 5,000 San Leandrans showed up the first week of the soft opening of Fieldwork Brewing Co.’s new taproom in its city, drawn by the brand’s reputation for excellent beer and airy, comfortable taprooms. Despite the success, it’ll be the last opening Fieldwork has for a while, unless something changes. The brand has hit its limit on locations as currently set by the state without building a new production facility into the back of any future taproom.
“San Leandro was our biggest opening ever,” Fieldwork Cofounder Barry Braden said. “We believe in meeting customers where they’re at, bringing them a community-centered space with great beer, but this will be as big as we get without some kind of change.”
Assembly Bill 2307 would be that change. The bill would increase the number of satellite locations a brewery could have from six to eight. Currently, only two of those locations can be a “bona fide eating establishment,” which means having a full restaurant kitchen and the ability to serve wine and other brands’ beer. AB 2307, authored by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), raises that cap to four.
There are twice as many craft breweries in California right now than there were eight years ago, when the existing law capping expansion was written. At the time, a six location cap might have seemed like a limit very few would reach. But now the industry is straining at the seams to meet customer demand for good beer and family-friendly gathering spaces and the legal limit is holding craft beer back. Fieldwork’s various locations serve 25,000 customers a week.
“We like this model that focuses on selling directly to the consumer because we can keep everything in house,” Braden said. “This way we make the beer our customers want and not the beer a distributor wants to sell. It allows us to be more creative and respond to on-site customer demand.”
Craft breweries are inherently local businesses and collectively, they pump billions of dollars into the state’s economy. Fieldwork alone employs more than 200 Californians. Brewery tap rooms function as community gathering places for adults with kids, and often dogs. Many tap rooms are the hub around which their neighborhoods turn. AB 2307 merely grants breweries the right to continue delivering for their communities. It passed out of the legislature with bipartisan support and awaits a signature on the governor’s desk.
Craft brewing is an industry that continues to grow — expanding opportunities for taproom locations will help out brewers whose businesses are still just a twinkle in their eye.
“It’s for the breweries that haven’t even started yet,” Braden said. “It’s for the brewers who are putting pens to paper, planning, and thinking about whether this is something they can make a living doing.”
This piece was put together by the California Craft Brewers Association, which is a 501(c)6 non-profit trade association representing the craft and specialty brewing industry in California. Formed in 1989, the CCBA is the oldest state trade association representing craft breweries.