It’s all about the craft (and a little about the bocce, too) at the popular Bay Meadows beer garden
The first job of the day for any Fieldwork Brewing Company general manager is to update the website’s current beer list. It’s a task that cannot be skipped.
That’s because any of the 16–17 offerings at Fieldwork’s five Bay Area locations can change by the day. “We’re creating a bunch of new beers all the time,” co-owner Barry Braden tells us. “We like it to be about the craft and the craft is being able to create new things.”
In 2015, Braden, who handles the business side, partnered with brewmaster Alex Tweet (previously at Ballast Point and Modern Times in San Diego) to create a brewing company that focused on community and exceptionally fresh beer. Their game plan: brew beer from a central location (in their case, Berkeley, CA) and open up nearby taprooms for local patrons to enjoy. Fresh kegs are delivered every three days to the taprooms and there’s no bottling of Fieldwork beer outside of the crowlers and growlers that can be filled on-site.
“[The taproom model] is a way for us to bring the freshest beer possible to our guests in a way that is representative of who we are,” Braden says. “We try to be knowledgeable about the beer and try to create a gathering place for a neighborhood where people like to come and hang out.”
Fieldwork’s latest location in San Mateo is the company’s largest yet. Nestled beneath SurveyMonkey’s HQ in the Bay Meadows development, the taproom (or really, beer garden) spans 10,000 square feet and is entirely outdoors. Sleek picnic tables, a bocce ball court and fire pits give patrons even more of a reason to gather.
Of their five locations, Braden says San Mateo is especially family- and dog-friendly. He recently spotted three dads holding their infants with pints on the table on Instagram. The local Labradoodle group also meets there regularly.
“[Beer gardens are] a very European idea,” Braden explains. “That’s where families go and it becomes a very natural thing. It’s not about the hyper-consumption of beer.”
Once you taste a Fieldwork brew, however, holding back can be hard.
Tweet, known in beer-lore as the man who first put grapefruit in Ballast Point’s immensely popular Sculpin IPA, seems to be operating on a higher level than most of his craft competitors. Tweet isn’t just adding fruit to a beer and hoping for the best. He’s creating harmonies of flavor with extremely dry hops and ingredients like blueberries, strawberries and raspberries that are added on the “cold” side after the beer has finished fermenting.
Tweet’s also opening up a whole new world with beers he calls parfaits. Milkshake (or New England) IPAs gained popularity over the last couple years but were named such just because of their cloudy bodies. Fieldwork’s parfaits are actually brewed with lactose (milk sugar) and taste fruity and creamy with a hint of tartness. Braden calls it “dessert in a glass.”
Beers can be ordered as a taster (3.5 oz), a fuller pour (7 and 14 oz) or a sampler flight, which lets you try six of Fieldwork’s finest. Some of our favorites the day we visited were the Finer Things (a mosaic light lager that held true to its description, “infinitely refreshing and deliciously pungent”), the Mutants at Table 9 (a Belgian Table Beer with peachy and grapefruit notes) and Selective Disobedience (an IPA that won’t knock you down and is brewed for a good cause — the Berkeley Humane Society of which Fieldwork is a regular sponsor of their annual “Pints for Paws” event).
If there’s a beer you didn’t get to try or if you wanted to double down on something you loved, Fieldwork offers crowlers (32 oz cans) or growlers (32oz and 64 oz bottles) to enjoy at home.
The San Mateo beer garden has a small, but tasty food menu that they partnered with the Mexican restaurant Comal in Berkeley to create — tamales and grilled cheese sandwiches, mostly. Be sure not to pass on the tortilla chips which are thick, salty and perfectly greasy.
Braden says his team isn’t worried about customers bringing outside food to the tables and hopes to partner with Roam Burger when they complete their Bay Meadows location later this summer. “People can bring in whatever food they want. They can order pizzas from their seats and have it delivered,” Braden explains. “We make beer — that’s what we do.”
Brewing beer is indeed what they do — 2,700 barrels in their first year in 2015 and on pace for 17,000 barrels this year. One-third of that beer will go towards their tap rooms and two-thirds will go to the over 600 restaurants and bars around the Bay Area featuring Fieldwork on tap.
Even with the early success, Braden vows that Fieldwork won’t stray from their current approach and doesn’t see his team ever distributing their beer to grocery stores across the country.
“We don’t want to be a big huge brewery. We want to be a local Northern California player that provides a very predictable experience where you can come in, always find something new on the tap list that’s always super fresh. We don’t need to aspire to anything greater than that.”
Fieldwork Brewing Company // 3030 S Delaware St, San Mateo
12–9pm daily; open until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
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