Jason Cardoso, co-owner and Marketing Director at Armstrong Brewing Co., was one of the very first people to know about the @ABelgiansBeerDiary Instagram when it all started back in October of last year.
First, I want to thank Armstrong for their support and their tremendous sense of community. I live a little ways from South San Francisco and can’t go to their taproom very often, but I always feel welcome when I do. And I’m not the only one! “Our regulars have a sense of ownership and welcome strangers right away,” Jason said. “We’ve done a really good job at making this an inviting place where you can come in a big group or by yourself and feel as part of the community.” I’m super biased because I love these guys, but they do have a pretty cozy taproom.
Armstrong opened its doors almost 4 years ago in November of 2015. “We chose South San Francisco because all the partners live in SF or close by,” Jason said. He also mentioned that of all the cities they had contacted, South San Francisco was the most cooperative as far as working with a small business. Also, I’d add that their underground location is quite perfect and adds to the modern speakeasy concept.
Now, the name is cool and all, but why “Armstrong”? Well, it’s quite simple. Armstrong is the last name of one of the 4 partners invested in the brewery. “It also represents our willingness to be an underdog and compete by making really good beer in the area.” You got that right, Jason!
Talking about beer, head brewer James Rodriguez said they’ve created more brews this year to date than in all of 2018. Keeping the taplist fresh and ever-evolving seems to be their MO. They release a new beer about every two weeks and come up with some of the coolest/strangest flavors in the area. Props to that! “We consistently rotate our taplist, which works well because I like doing off-the-wall and crazy ideas.” James said they’d probably need to eventually go back and brew some of the more successful ones.
James started working at Armstrong in March of 2018 and had only been drinking craft beer for about a year. In July 2018, James started shadowing their then-brewmaster and learning the ropes while being a manager. You could say the guy is a fast learner since the brewmaster left about a year ago and James has become their dedicated brewer pretty much overnight. “A year ago, I didn’t know where to start and so I started with the grain bill and went from there,” James aid. He and Jason seem to have a preference for sweeter-finish brews with higher ABVs, and the taplist speaks for itself. “Dryer beer is not as complex or interesting,” James said. Jason’s current favorite? Banana Pancake Brown Ale. James’? Well, don’t ask a dad who his favorite kid is…
I tried six of their current brews (see photo) and picked out a couple of my personal favorites: Banana Pancakes and… Strawberry Lemmynade Sour (a collab with Pedro Point Brewing located just over the hill in Pacifica). But hey, their Mango-a-Co-Co Milkshake IPA was also quite flavorful and I’d have it again in heartbeat. They really make the most of their 4-barrel system! The beer is super fresh and weird… in a good way!
So what’s brewing at Armstrong these days? Jason said they just got some whiskey and rye barrels from Bull Run Distillery in Oregon and that they are in the midst of growing their barrel-aged beer program. Nothing wrong with that! James said there aren’t too many breweries playing with wild yeast and making barrel-aged sours in the area. I’d say he is probably right… although the East Bay has a few really good ones.
All right Armstrong. I can’t wait to see what you guys will be coming up with next! 💪
More photos of Armstrong Brewing: