Speakeasy Ales & Lagers is a San Francisco craft brewery and tap room. The company has been defiantly brewing small batches of beer in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood since 1997. It was recently acquired by Hunters Point Brewery, and the brand just celebrated its 21st anniversary.
We got a chance to meet with Speakeasy’s General Manager, Sam Cappione, in September 2018.
Let’s start at the very beginning. How did Speakeasy get started?
Speakeasy was started by Steve Bruce, Mike Bruce, Eric Chang and Forest Gray in 1997.
They started with a single iconic beer, Prohibition Ale, that is still made today. It is a hoppy amber beer and embodies the spirit of bootleggers and gangsters who persevered when America’s taps ran dry.
The brewery quickly gained a loyal following with its striking 1920s imagery and bold, complex beers.
During the early years, Speakeasy would open the brewery to family, friends and beer lovers on Friday nights, with live music and fresh beer flowing. But as the brewery grew, the party space dwindled, and our Tap Room opened in 2013: the idea is to step back in time and relax with a beer, or dip into the medicine cabinet and grab a six-pack to go. The tap room now serves thousands of thirsty followers.
The humble beginnings delivering hand-filled kegs out of the back of a van are long gone. Speakeasy now works with more than twenty distributors across the West Coast and throughout the US.
Our original 15-barrel brewing system was also replaced in 2015 during a major expansion, including a 60-barrel brewhouse, a centrifuge, a malt handling system, a canning line, and an additional 1,200 barrels of fermentation capacity.
In 2017, the Speakeasy beer brands and brewing equipment were acquired by Hunters Point Brewery, a company founded by former beverage distributor Ces Butner.
How are things going along since the company was acquired?
Things are moving forward well for Hunters Point Brewery. We have made significant upgrades to the Speakeasy brewery on both the building and taproom as well as the brewing and packaging side.
Additionally, we have invested in manpower and will continue to brew your old favorites as well as a few new styles.
Under the new ownership, Speakeasy will grow by leaps and bounds. As we like to say, Speakeasy’s trademark eyes, ubiquitous and cryptic, beckon you to join our mob, no password required!
How did Ces Butner make the decision to acquire Speakeasy?
Ces Butner is a local Bay Area businessman. He had recently sold his Beer Distributorship which carried Speakeasy beers and felt that “it would have been a shame for a brand as iconic as this to just go away,” as he mentioned in a recent interview. “We want to keep it being a San Francisco-born-and-bred brand.” Ces tapped me, his long-time VP and GM, to run the brewery’s day-to-day operations.
What are your major beers today?
As mentioned earlier, the brewery started in 1997 with a single beer, called Prohibition Ale.
In 1999, Big Daddy IPA was added to the lineup and became San Francisco’s best-selling IPA. The beer is still our kingpin and now represents 40% of the brewery’s sales among a wide array of beers, from session ales to bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts.
Our flagships, Prohibition and Big Daddy, will continue on, however the buzz in the brewery is definitely the new beers we’re brewing and releasing!
What’s new at Speakeasy?
We just celebrated our 21st Anniversary with lots of local collabs, live music, food, and of course, beer! We released our Gilded Ale, a golden stout with Dandelion Chocolate nibs, coffee, and gold glitter as well as 22oz bottles of Syndicate No. 04, a barrel-aged blended vintage ale.
We also invited other SFMade members to join the party. In addition to Dandelion Chocolate, Humphry Slocombe, Etta & Billie and Regrained were here, among many other friends.
We’re also very excited to drop a new series this fall. Beginning the first week of October we’ll be releasing the Hunters Point Fresh Series: a draft-only, exclusively allocated series of varying IPAs that will hit the city every first week of the month. We’re showing our city, our true love for hops.
The first release, in October 2018, will be Admiral Haze: a juicy, hazy IPA, made using California-grown grain malted by our friends at Admiral Maltings – hence the name. With tropical, citrus and melon aromas, it’s a taste of the summer SF is endlessly searching for!
We’ll also be releasing a 100% Admiral Maltings Fest Bier this October! Stay tuned – you’ll hear all about it on Speakeasy’s social media channels.
What should we look forward to from Speakeasy?
We have a new Head Brewer joining our team, Phil Cutti, who serves on the Board of Directors for the San Francisco Brewers Guild and co-founded Headlands Brewing. We’re working on lots of upcoming special releases for our taproom and local accounts, while keeping production of our core brands for wide-scale distribution.
Why did you join SFMade?
We feel it is important to stay connected to our city, and what better way to do that but join a group that focuses on helping to keep manufacturing alive in this great city.
An interview by Pierre @ SFMade
Thank you, Sam & team at Speakeasy!