Local drinkers have noticed some new names on beer tap handles recently. Blue Ocean Brewing, a startup based in Princeton, has delivered its first kegs to nearby Mezza Luna, Old Princeton Landing, and Breakwater Barbecue restaurants. Cricket Ale, named for one of the oldest fishing boats in the harbor, and FIJI IPA (Farallon Islands Juicy IPA) already have loyal fans.
After years of talking about starting a brewery, Coastsiders Rob Carpenter, Eddy Kalem and Tom McGuirk are almost ready to brew big, open their own taproom and create a new space for the community to enjoy the product of their investment and commitment. They expect to welcome guests at 313 Princeton Ave. before the end of the year.
McGuirk, Carpenter and Kalem come from different backgrounds but share a love of a nice evening enjoying a beer with good friends. McGuirk says two things matter most to him: “Fishing and beer.” He’s captain of The Moose, a vessel operated by Cowboy Fishing Co. out of Pillar Point Harbor. Carpenter is the chief technology officer for a financial firm “on the other side of the hill,” and speaks up when we discuss the business side of their enterprise. Kalem also has a day job in tech, but lately you’re equally likely to catch him tinkering with the shiny vats and complex network of conduits and controls at the Princeton Avenue brewery.
I sat down with the three men in the Board Room, a space next door to the brewery filled with surfboard racks and walls covered with photos of people riding waves and displaying fish they caught. McGuirk offers the Board Room as a place for friends to keep their boards, clean up after a day on the water and hang out. The idea of starting a brewery grew out of casual conversations the men had over the years in places like this, but until recently the timing in their lives and careers never seemed quite right.
Then in late 2018 things started to change. They purchased the future home of the brewery and a few months later incorporated Blue Ocean Brewing LLC. They acquired an impressive collection of fermenting tanks from a defunct brewery in Los Angeles. With all the pieces now in place, their excitement and the liquid in the tanks are beginning to bubble.
“We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we’re taking this effort seriously,” Carpenter says, capturing the spirit of their venture.
Kalem serves as brewmaster. He started brewing at home back in the mid-1990s relying mostly on ready-to-mix ingredients and not paying much attention to what happened between pouring liquid malt and drinking the product a few weeks later. After a long hiatus due to the demands of fatherhood, he got the brewing bug again a few years ago. This time around he’s much more interested in the science behind the suds.
He talks nonstop about the nuanced factors affecting the taste of beer: malt and hops varieties, mashing (a process that breaks down malt and readies it for fermentation) and brew temperatures. As co-owner of a brewery on the verge of reaching a large number of drinkers, he also emphasizes the importance of water profile for achieving a consistent taste.
The men envision Blue Ocean as a place where locals can gather, enjoy a drink and share stories. Almost every topic I ask them about inevitably leads to a story about local friends. They point to all the work locals have contributed to the floors, cabinetry, painting and plumbing in the taproom.
“The guy who did the heating is right over there,” McGuirk says as he gestures toward Harvard Avenue.
The centerpiece of the nascent taproom, a redwood-topped bar, also comes with a story. “A friend knew about a tree that fell on his friend’s property in La Honda over a decade ago,” Kalem explains. The others jump in to relate how a few conversations led to them acquiring the lumber. Even after they open the doors, they insist, creating a space for the local community is as important to them as crafting a great beer.
If all goes according to plan, Blue Ocean will soon join Hop Dogma and Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. as the third brewery filling glasses in the harbor area and eighth on the Coastside. With two distilleries as well, Princeton is quickly becoming a destination for craft libations. Meredith Kasyan, another Coastsider, recently founded SeaCider and hopes to set up a trailer with up to 10 taps for craft ciders in the neighborhood.