“From the beginning, this has always been about challenging ourselves,” says Chris Bell, co-owner of Call to Arms Brewing, which opened late last week in the back half of a refurbished building at 4526 Tennyson Street, in the hot Berkeley neighborhood.
And challenged themselves is exactly what Bell, Jesse Brookstein and Jon Cross have done. The three friends, who have a combined twenty years' worth of experience in the brewing industry, all quit their jobs at Avery Brewing in early 2014 – with the blessing of Avery founder Adam Avery — in order to strike out on their own and to do things in their own way, a desire that led to the name of the brewery.
And they have stayed true to that goal.
The taproom itself, in a bright, garden-level spot that opens up to the parking lot via two large garage doors, was designed more in the style of an old English pub than the more modern, reclaimed-wood-and-materials look that is popular now.
The beer menu – featuring almost all beers at or near the 5 percent ABV “session” beer level – also takes a very different spin. The opening lineup included the owners' take on a fourteenth-century smoked German ale recipe; a Belgian-style wit made with pink grapefruit and cardamom; a Cascadian black IPA; a pale ale and an oatmeal porter.
It also included two lagers, which is unusual for a new or small brewery because lagers typically take about twice as long to make as ales – something that can tie up tank space and make things difficult for brewers who are often dealing with thirsty crowds. The first of those is a classic Vienna lager. The second is a dry-hopped dark lager, called a zoiglbier, which is based on a very old German style.
“From day one, we wanted to have at least one lager on tap all the time,” says Cross, who is the head brewer for Call to Arms. “In fact, we built that into our tank capacity when we were doing our planning.” Call to Arms uses a ten-barrel brewing system and has five ten-barrel fermentation tanks and five ten-barrel finishing tanks.
And then there are the flat-screen menus from Digital Pour: a useful staple in Oregon, where Digital Pour is based, but almost non-existent in Colorado. The screens show what beers are on tap, the style and details, the prices, how much is left before the keg blows, what is on tap next – and they offer social media feeds so people can mention the brewery.
Another unusual trait: Call to Arms is open every day of the week, which many breweries, especially new ones, aren't able to do. But hard work is something that all three partners learned at Avery, Brookstein says, whether it was cleaning kegs, mopping floors or working long hours on their feet in the taproom.
“You can't teach passion,” Brookstein says. “It's something we all have.”
The building, located next to a fire station, used to be a city truck garage and later a private motorcycle museum and home. Call to Arms is located in the back area. The owners of Kaos Pizza and Uno Mas Taqueria will open a combined space in the front later this year; Uno Mas currently has a food truck stationed at Call to Arms.
Call to Arms hopes to add a 600 square-foot game room to the back of the building sometime later this year or next.