While SF Beer Week stumbled to a close, a new, unique brewery opened its doors.
Nick Armstrong, a biotech fermentation researcher and longtime home-brewer, joined forces with Pat Hinterberger to start Armstrong Brewing Co. almost two years ago. Ever since, the two have been slowly expanding from a humble, 3-gallon setup to their new 900-square-foot facility where they brew 60 gallons at a time.
There are plenty of small-batch producers around, but Armstrong and Hinterberger offer a unique take on the industry. While there will always be beer flowing at the tasting room and brewery in South San Francisco, the business is truly catered to their Barrel Club Members.
"What we wanted to do was have a side of the business that was much like a boutique vineyard," says Armstrong. "We want to be able to cater to a specific group of people. The model is already there, we're just doing it with beer." With an entry-level membership beginning at just $30 a year, there is a smaller barrier to entry than typically found at a winery or other "mug clubs."
Armstrong is producing extremely limited series, one barrel at a time. Currently, the chocolate cherry stout is on tap to be released next month, but the future will bring a rye whiskey porter in July, as well as a traditional lambic in May 2014. Once membership grows, the plan is to yield two or three varieties at a time, providing different flavors to the members first, and the general public thereafter.
Armstrong's and Hinterberger's offerings generally eschew the traditionally California hop-heavy taste in favor of more balanced brews. The Bitter and Withholding stout was robust and rich, but not overpoweringly sweet or heavy, and the Belgian Quad was malty, flavorful, and surprisingly easy drinking considering its high ABV.
The two brewers even have plans to begin canning in the very near future, starting with a singular offering, a gose beer (a German wheat beer brewed with salinated water and coriander), to begin distributing to stores around San Francisco.
Until then, meet Nick and Pat for a taste at the taproom on Fridays from 5 to 11 p.m. The short trip south is undoubtedly worth the quality beer and friendly atmosphere you would expect from such a small, personal operation.