A whole lot of beer, really. But before I get into that, let’s talk about this whole shadow puppet thing.
After running several potential brewery names by his lawyer, Brian Blackburn, founder and CEO, settled on Shadow Puppet Brewing Company. He had originally thought of Blackburn but that’s already taken by a future winery. No dice! One day, he was playing with his daughter Bailey in her room and they came up with Shadow Puppet. Doesn’t that sound like a winner to you?
Shadow Puppet Brewing Company opened its doors in October of 2016 after many years of preparation. Brian was a home brewer for about eight years and belonged to a local home-brewing club. He won a few awards and started thinking about what it might take to open an actual brewery. He met brewmaster Craig Danielson when Craig was also just a home brewer himself. Brian’s home-brewing club (out of Livermore, CA) and Craig’s home-brewing’s club (out of Walnut Creek, CA) joined efforts to create a sour challenge. The two met there. Brian made a mental note. He said Craig was like a “home brewer on steroids.” When his plan of opening a brewery finally came a little more to fruition, he contacted Craig. And here they are!
Brian said that he did planning for about two years, including crafting a business plan, business model, etc. He also toured a lot of breweries in the area to understand what works and what doesn’t. “I was pretty underwhelmed and thought there was an opportunity.”
Most craft breweries start off on a very limited budget and Brian made the most of it. He said that they made all that was legally possible in-house. That includes all the woodworking, metalworking, etc. Craig is a welder, which made things a little easier in that department. But it’s a family affair. Brian’s wife helps out behind the bar, and his daughters… well, they are a bit young to partake in the whole brewing thing but have beers named after them: Marley Wine for Marley and Bailey’s Brown for Bailey. Sweet! Oh, and did I mention? Brian’s dad is “The Ambassador”?
Talking about beer… Brian said “the vision was to offer something on tap for everyone regardless of their experience with craft beer.” He said they get a lot of wine tasters in Livermore. They tend to like fruitier things like Tart Break. They rotate the taps multiple times a week depending on inventory and events. Nice selection! Brian’s fave, you ask? It’s the same as mine: Needle tip, a spruce IPA made with 30 pounds of fresh-cut spruce tips from Colorado. It’s very piney and it’s got that little je-ne-sais-quoi. I’ll go back just for a pint of that!
Like a lot of the breweries, they are located in an industrial/business area of Livermore. The space is very nice. They even have a kids room, where adults can enjoy a nice beer while making sure their kids keep busy in a fun way. It’s a cool concept. The taproom is in the front, the brewery in the back, pretty standard setup. What’s not so standard is the woodsy/steel decor. The taproom extends to the brewery during larger events and features tons of broken and repurposed bikes salvaged by Craig and his son. It’s a very nice touch. In the back, they have equipment to produce about 620 gallons per batch (20 barrels), and they currently keep about half for their taproom and distribute the rest to local clients. That’s a total of about 150 barrels a month. Nice work!
My beer recommendations: Again, give that Needle Tip Spruce IPA a try. You won’t regret it! Other than that, I tried a very nice nitro cream ale by the name of Cinch. They also have a nice selection of sours/weisse and stouts/porters. A little bit for everyone. Oh and if you want something a little more tame, try their bestselling Lush Nectar IPA. Delicious!
More photos from my trip to the brewery: