Oakland craft brewery pushes the limits of what beer can be

OAKLAND (KGO) -- Starting a brewery in the middle of a worldwide hops shortage is probably not a good idea.

But that is exactly what Morgan Cox did back in 2009 when he founded Ale Industries in Concord.

"We had put all our money into a business and we did not have access to one of our key ingredients," said Cox as he sat at the counter of his tap room, which the company moved to Oakland's Fruitvale District several years ago.

Cox and his co-founder, Stephen Lopas, got creative. They looked for inspiration from beer makers from the middle ages, before hops were used to balance out the sweetness of the malt in beer. Those brewers used gruit, a concoction of bitter herbs and flowers.

HOODLINE: A guide to Oakland's neighborhood craft breweries

Cox and Lopas created a gruit of chamomile, coriander and orange peel. The beer they created, Golden State of Mind, is still their most popular.

"You have this really silky, full-bodied, lower-alcohol beer that has a bit of biscuit and cracker notes to it. It's one of those beers that once you taste it, you need more of it."

That experience left a mark on Cox and Ale Industries.

"We are always looking to figure out how do we keep craft beer weird."

The taproom offers small-batch seasonal beers like Sour Kush, with fresh cherry juice, Fruitvale Grind, which uses Red Bay Coffee that is roasted next door, and HopzenBerry Milkshake IPA that includes raspberries and cream.

Even though Ale Industries is now Oakland's largest and oldest beer producer, it is still very much a craft brewery that pays homage to its surroundings.

The brewery placed a map of BART for its East Bay IPA and teamed up with a local clothing store for the label of its Beast Oakland beer.

"This is where we live. This is where we raise our families," said Cox. It's a little bit on us to represent that. It allows us to put a little bit of Oakland and put it out in San Diego. To take a little piece of the Bay Area and put it up in Portland. It is almost part of our duty."

Ale Industries has several events planned this weekend as part of San Francisco Beer Week 2018, including stand-up poetry, tricycle drag races and guest chefs. A complete list is on their website.
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.