April 1 is known for April Fool's Day pranks but to those who live in Marin County and love a great pint of locally made beer, they know it for something else, the birthday of Marin Brewing Company.
It was April 1, 1989 when the Larkspur brewpub opened it's doors to the public and founder Brendan Moylan's passion for beer is just as strong as it was 25 years ago.
He made his first homebrew in his (future) wife's dorm room. “I had already graduated, she was still finishing up her last year and we got a big pot from the kitchen and started boiling up, it was probably a pale ale,” Moylan said.
A successful first batch led to his second although the location moved to his parent's house. “My mom and dad were going what the hell is he doing in the kitchen? Of course it makes a mess. I was only able to do it once there. Then I did a batch at my new home. I remember doing a batch there. The flames came off and bounced off the pot and burned the formica and there was this big burn mark. We kept going (making sniffing sounds) what's that smell? (laughing) So that's where I got the gravity fed outdoor brewery stand. I had to move it outdoors. Too many kitchen accidents,” Moylan said.
Even though customers didn't have April Fool's jokes played on them Brendan had one played on him by his old co-owner Craig Tasley. “My brother-in-law gave me a pewter mug that was engraved. Sure enough it came up missing halfway through the day. He (Craig) put it back out sometime the next day.”
Moylan mentioned when Tasley and him opened Marin Brewing Company, each had expertise in different areas. “Craig had that restaurant experience and so he handled the kitchen and restaurant. I handled the brewery and the bar when we opened the brewpub. It worked out pretty good.”
The original size of the brewpub was smaller when it first opened as was the number of beers on tap. “In the old days we would have two, three, four beers, maybe five. Now we usually have about seven or eight beers on tap. It's still not enough, I'm a huge variety guy. If you notice Moylan's (the Novato brewpub he also owns) which we built six years after we opened this place, we usually have about 20 beers on tap. We built a little extra expandability when we built that one,” he said.
Business was good from the start and bottles and kegs were being sold a year after they opened. “We started with the Mt. Tam (Pale Ale) and then then Marin Weiss filtered wheat, Old Dipsea Barley Wine. We were the first brewers to put barley wine in a 22 ounce bottle. (Moylan said it wouldn't surprise him if they were the first ones in the nation to do this.) Breakout Stout, Point Reyes Porter and the Albion Amber. Those were all of our early, popular beers.”
Moylan remembers starting out with four fermenters which are behind the glass window at the bar. He said they added a fifth before later adding five more bringing the number to their current total of 10. The big tanks that can be seen on the left when entering Marin Brewing are brew kettles. Each kettle holds a different beer. Over the year a lot of beer can be made.
Although people may think about beer coming in kegs, the unit of measurement for breweries is the barrel. Each barrel is the equivalent of two kegs. The brewpub makes a little under 3,000 barrels a year. As of March 25, 2014 their Barrel-O-Meter sign over the front door displays a total of 358 barrels made this year and since opening a total of 61,655 barrels produced.
The man responsible for brewing the beer is brewmaster Arne Johnson. Moylan leaves it up to him as to which beers will be made. “I trust him, he makes good calls. We make about 40 beers in a given year. We kind of have this flow where in the beginning of the year we kick in all our super strong beers and then we kick in with a bunch of Belgian stuff, then we kick in with the summer months,” Moylan said.
Repeat patrons to Marin County's first brewpub will not only see the regular favorites available but will also find new beers. “There's always new stuff all the time. We have Broken Cherry on right now which is a sour brown cherry beer. It's brand new, first time ever.
“We've got the Brass Knuckle (Imperial IPA) on tap, we've only made that three times before. We just did a new beer called If 6 Was 9 using some of the new hops. There are all sorts of new hops out right now (he said excitedly). There's a lot of advancement in the hop industry with putting new varieties of hops that have new, unique flavors. It's amazing, it's really pretty cool,” he said.
Looking back at their 25 years of business, Moylan has a heartfelt message. “Thank you everyone. A lot of help from a lot of people, that's what really made this thing work, it wasn't me, it wasn't Craig, it was Frank (Moylan's father-in-law) and Jim (Craig's father) originally. They were good mentors and got us off to a really good start.”
Marin Brewing Company's celebration of 25 years happens on Tuesday, April 1.
Address - 1809 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur www.marinbrewing.com