Danville Brewing Company gives East Bay beer fans a new destination

Cameron Stover,

The growing demand for craft beer has swept across California. Luckily for local hop and malt-heads, a new brewpub has popped up in the East Bay.

A line of beer enthusiasts wrapped around the block on Sept. 20 at the grand opening of the Danville Brewing Company, a new craft brewpub that brews its own beer on site and serves a full menu of gourmet bar food.

The new brewery features five house beers and also carries several guest beers on draft to fill out their 20-tap bar. Beer and cocktails such as the Danville IPA, Danville Donkey and 680 Martini were named to solidify the local pride that the brewpub aims to emphasize. The menu ingredients are supplied locally and the bread is baked fresh in the kitchen.

Marcus and Sara Maita, one of the families behind the brewpub, have been involved in the beer industry since the 1930s. For the Danville Brewing Company, the Maita’s partnered with restaurateur Randy Negi, who has no shortage of experience when it comes to working in the food and wine industry. Negi is the managing general partner of Bridges Restaurant and The Vine, a wine bar, both in Danville. He also owns four Cafe Venues in San Francisco.

The brewery covers 3,800 square feet and ferments its beer on site in a 10-barrel system that is showcased through a glass wall in the brewery. The head brewer, Matt Sager, is a UC Davis Master Brewers program graduate and has won several awards. Sager, who’s Czech Pale Lager just won the Amador County Fair competition for best European Lager, is known for his Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Ale that placed first at the American Homebrewers’ Association Club-Only competition in 2011.

The craft beer industry is growing feverishly around the country. According to the Brewers Association — a non-profit organization of brewers that aims to “promote and protect American craft brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts” — the United States craft beer market was worth $22.3 billion in 2015, a 16 percent increase in sales growth from 2014. Production of craft beer also rose by 13 percent in 2015.

Defining craft beer is difficult. There are certain requirements a brewer must meet to be considered “craft.” According to the Brewers Association, the brewery must be small in production with six million or fewer barrels made a year and economically independent, meaning less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.

Finally, the brewer must be traditional, meaning that the beer flavor is derived from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation.

California is at the forefront of the craft beer boom: 87 new craft breweries opened in 2015. That gives the state 518 craft breweries total, the most in the country, according to the Brewers Association. California is only second to Pennsylvania in barrels of craft beer produced per year.

As the craft beer scene continues to explode throughout the United States, the Maita family saw the Danville Hotel Town Center as a perfect spot for a brew pub. Negi also wanted to get his stake in the industry. “There hasn’t been a place in Danville that provides a high-quality dining experience with beer that is brewed on site,” said Negi. The closest brewery in the area is Schubros Brewery in San Ramon, which doesn’t offer food to accompany its house brews.

There are a limited number of breweries in the East Bay, with only a handful providing eats to go with their house-made suds. These include places like E.J. Phair in Concord and Drake’s Barrel House in San Leandro. There are also several taprooms around the East Bay, such as Schubros Brewing in San Ramon and Black Diamond in Concord. But while they serve their own beer, some of these taprooms don’t offer any food to complement their craft creations.

“There seems to be a lot of excitement, and as a restaurateur, I encourage a lot more restaurants,” Negi said. “We don’t see it as competition — it makes it more of a destination for people from Walnut Creek or Pleasanton or the outskirts of our town.”

The Danville Brewing Company is part of the $25 million Danville Hotel Town Center developmental project that is creating more retail opportunity for the city, according to Diablo Magazine reports. The brewery was given the largest space in the project.

“We’re gonna take it slow and feel it out,” Negi said. “Right now, we’re just focused on brewing a quality product. We like where we are at and we are very excited about the future.”