A Brewer You Should Know: The Bay Area’s 21st Amendment
Brewery Name: 21st Amendment Brewery
Brewmaster: Shawn O’Sullivan
Locations: 2010 Williams St. San Leandro & 563 2nd St, San Francisco, CA
Beer most known for: Brew Free or Die IPA
We asked the Co-Founder and Brewmaster of 21st Amendment about west coast brewing, pairing, & much much more:
21st AMENDMENT History
In 2000, Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan opened the doors to the 21st Amendment brewpub in San Francisco’s historic South Park neighborhood with Freccia managing the restaurant and O’Sullivan spearheading the brewing process. In addition to quickly becoming one of the city’s favorite pubs, 21st Amendment began expanding beyond the Bay Area by helping to pioneer the movement to canned craft beer. They offer year round selections, as well as seasonal offerings and their infamous ‘Insurrection Series’, a once-in-a-while limited edition release. Today, 21st Amendment operates out of its new San Leandro brewery headquarters and is among the top 50 craft beer brewers in America and is sold in 26 states.
Why’d you start Brewing Beer?
Back in my 20s I was living in the Los Angeles area and I was working at a law firm to pay the bills. My real passion was photography and I shot a lot of punk rock and political photos for a local weekly and also a brief stint at CNN. I thought I was destined to attend law or business school, but become fascinated with brewing beer at home and that propelled me into seeking a career change and moving to the Bay Area to become a brewer. My first position was as assistant brewer at Triple Rock in Berkeley, CA. It was a great place to start with a lot of responsibility. Triple Rock was where a lot of brewers began their careers and many have gone on to open their own breweries I also met my business partner Nico Freccia there and that set the stage for us opening our 21st Amendment brewpub in San Francisco in 2000 and eventually expanding the business by distributing our beers.
What’s your favorite beer and food pairing right now?
Ceviche or fish tacos and our brand new beer “El Sully” a new-world Mexican lager. There is nothing like it. El Sully is what Modelo dreams of when it sleeps at night.
What’s different/special about “West Coast” brewing?
West Coast brewing to me is a term where the hops are more forward and the beers a tad dryer. You see that with IPAs for the most past. But, truth be told as the industry of craft beer has grown up and brewers have moved around the country and tastes evolve you see more and more West Coast-styles as part of other regions both here in the US and across the globe.
“you see more and more West Coast-styles as part of other regions both here in the US and across the globe”
Favorite beer drinking activity?
Beer has clearly approached the status of wine as it should with it’s complexity and flavor spectrum and endless for pairing capabilities, but to me the best place to enjoy beer is with friends at a great beer bar or homebrew where the beer itself is secondary to the discussion and community aspect of the gathering. In this industry and as brewing professionals we analyze and deconstruct beer, but sometimes beer is just that, beer and part of the social process.
Favorite place to drink beer (in bay area)?
Zeitgeist to me epitomizes the Bay Area craft beer ethos and passion. Here is place with an outside beer garden with too many taps to count, great burgers and an edge with punk rock and the scent of questionable tobacco in the air. This is the Bay Area!
Where do your brewing influences come from?
Having my career start 21 years ago in Northern California, my influences are related to the cast of characters and breweries in this region. Breweries like Marin Brewing, Lagunitus and Anchor Brewery heavily influenced my direction. Grant Johnston a former brewer for Marin with his attention to detail and interest in unique ingredients to Sandy Savage the Head Brewer from Triple Rock and Scott Meyer from the old Bison Brewery all showed me that anything was possible. To me brewing is a marriage of science and cooking and that’s always been my approach. It’s a great time to be in craft beer with all the new hops and technology and information whether you are doing it on your stovetop or a large 100 barrel automated brew system.
“It’s a great time to be in craft beer with all the new hops and technology and information whether you are doing it on your stovetop or a large 100 barrel automated brew system”
Any advice for those aspiring brewers out there?
For the aspiring brewery that wants to open up their own place you can never have enough capital. If you are not good at something in your organization then find someone who is able to add value. Also be prepared for the rollercoaster ride, it’s not for the feign of heart. There are ups and downs and you need to be dynamic and move, adapt and roll with the changes. If it were easy, everyone would do it and it’s not easy, but can be rewarding.
Anything new and exciting coming out?
With our new production brewery in San Leandro in a former Kellogg factory we are excited to be putting out new and interesting beers like ”Toaster Pastry” an India red ale in a 19 ounce singe serve can which is an homage to the Pop Tart. El Sully with it’s lighter refreshing quality is another new beer.
We offer regular tours at our San Leandro Brewery when our tasting room is open Wednesdays through Sundays.
2010 Williams Street San Leandro, CA 94577.