Cleophus Quealy Beer Company in San Leandro, CA is a sour beer haven.
Not that they don’t brew anything else, but this 7-barrel operation specializes in barrel sours and barrel-aged brews. I’d say it’s pretty rare in this area (probably due to contamination risks), and it’s quite refreshing to see. The brewery is tucked away in the industrial part of San Leandro in a warehouse, but they did an amazing job at making it cozy with woodsy walls, boardgames and hip accessories.
Cleophus Quealy? The two founders, Peter Baker and Dan Watson, were trying to come up with a cool name for the brewery and struggling a bit. They eventually made up a combination of Dan’s great-great-grand-father’s first name and Peter’s mom’s maiden name. Great combo! The duo met at their work in the tech industry. Peter had been a home brewer for many years and definitely transmitted his passion for brewing to Dan, who eventually became even more hands-on than Peter. Dan ended up taking his home-brewing to a whole new level by attending the Master Brewers Certificate Program at UC Davis. After all that, it was time for the pair to go pro.
I sat down with Jessica Clare, General Manager, who gave me the lowdown on all things Cleophus Quealy. Jessica met Dan and Peter while working at Anchor Brewing back in 2013. She first started working at Cleophus Quealy on weekends but saw a real opportunity and eventually came on full time. She has passed the first two levels of the Cicerone certification program and is quite savvy about beer. Test her! I dare you… Although the brewery has a full-time brewer, Reuben Gensler, she is often involved in that process as well. The Reuben-Jessica-Dan trio bounce ideas off each other and come up with rather creative concoctions.
So what about all those great sours? Jessica said that barrels were part of the plan from day one. Dan had lived in Zurich, Switzerland for some time and took frequent trips to Belgium. His time there influenced his taste in beer, and he wanted to bring the craft back home. They have absolutely no plan in moving away from that. In fact, they want to add more barrels and expand their operation. Jessica said they used to run bigger batches of certain beers but are now favoring small batches that are more experimental with different ingredients. Good. More for us to try! The tap list changes weekly with an almost complete makeover every two to three weeks.
“Sours are becoming more popular,” Jessica said. “We have people coming in who have never had them before.” She said it’s an opportunity for them to educate the customers and let them realize that there is a lot more than IPAs or… Budweiser out there. Mmmh yeah I’d say so…
What’s brewing? They are coming out with two Game of Thrones-related brews the first week of May. The first one is a Norwegian Saison called The Norse Remember. The second one is a blood-orange/tangerine Milkshake IPA called Milk of the Poppy. I’m not a big GoT fan, but I’m sure you guys get the references… hopefully!
You know what else is exciting… Cleophus Quealy is looking into becoming employee-owned. They’ll have to wait a bit for the brewery to grow some more, but Jessica seemed very excited about this move. She said that the brewery has always wanted to take care of its people. “The group of people that are here are invested so we want to take care of them,” she said.
All you sour lovers out there, are you still reading or you are already on your way to the taproom?! (Don’t answer that, you’ll offend one of us. Ha!)
PS: Try to enter and exit the parking lot slowly… The curb is pretty high and the ramp a bit steep. Ha!
More pics from Cleophus Quealy Beer Company: