Fieldwork makes success look easy. The brewery, which has three taprooms—in Berkeley, Napa and Sacramento, plus one on the way in Monterey, and another in San Mateo in 2017—is barely two years old. It’s not just the growth pace that’s impressive; it’s the diversity and popularity of the beers, which rotate constantly.
Owners Barry Braden and Alex Tweet credit a tight division of labor in which each focuses on what he does best. “I worry about making the beer; he worries about making it profitable,” says Tweet, the head brewer. The duo brings serious brewing and business chops to the table: Braden worked in California’s tech industry for 20 years and invested in bars and breweries, while Tweet previously brewed at Modern Times and Ballast Point (thank him for Grapefruit Sculpin and Indra Kunindra, the homebrew that turned into a year-round release and won him a job at Ballast Point).
“Sometimes you make your own luck, but things have gone our way, too,” Braden says, explaining Fieldwork’s impressive first two years during which it roughly quadrupled production. “The people we’ve met along the way, the great support from the state of California. … We’re not wanting for anything, really.”
Least of all for creativity. Braden estimates Fieldwork tapped 120 distinct beers in its first 15 months, spanning IPAs, DIPAs, lagers, sours, farmhouse ales and Brettfermented ales, among others. “I look at our brewery like a TV program,” Tweet says. “Every few months is a new season.”
Walk into any of Fieldwork’s taprooms and find 16 to 17 beers on tap, likely a totally different lineup than the previous week; on the bar, Tweet’s tasting notes provide some guidance.
Tweet is an exacting brewer. “I’m not a very good collaborator and I want to be in a position where I get to make all the decisions and not have them be influenced by the business side,” he says. “Fieldwork is a chance to really brew the beer I want to brew without compromise. I’m not cutting costs or skimping on anything; if anything, I’m making really expensive beer. That’s why I’m in business with Barry: I knew he would let me do what I do best.”
And fans clamor for it. Fieldwork’s beers are available on tap, in crowlers, during brewery-only can releases and at select bars in Northern California. That controlled ethos was a day-one decision, and it’s not likely to alter. When it comes to the beer styles, though, everything is subject to change.
“I don’t want to make consistent beer,” Alex says. “I want to make better beer every time.”
Tweet’s tap list
“We have about five to six that we rotate between; at any time, you’ll see Pulp, Ripe, OverRipe!, Orchard Street, Saint Thomas, Hazy Train or Galaxy Juice. They have to be the sum of all of their parts: You have to find that perfect balance of getting the esters from the yeast in harmony with hops. I want the flavor profile to so closely resemble fruit juice without using any fruit [in the beer]. If you taste it and say, ‘Did Dole open a brewery?’—that’s a success.”
Highly aromatic lagers
“Shower, Hammock and Sushi, which are in this series, were inspired by my three favorite shitty beers from around the world: Bud Light, Pacifico and Sapporo. They’re very low bitterness, very low in hop flavor and very much true in flavor to their inspiration beers, but they have these massive hop aromas. So they give you that hop fix, but you’re able to drink copious amounts of them.”
Tiki-inspired kettle sours
“Tiki drinks are flavor bombs, whether you love them or hate them. A lot of them are too sweet, and I turn into an absolute child when I drink liquor, so I figured let’s turn tiki cocktails into kettlesoured beers. So I brew this super fruitjuicy kettle-soured beer merged with the tiki drink’s flavor complexity. The main cocktails I’ve pulled from lately are Zombie Punch, Fog Cutter, Hurricane and Mai Tai.”