For longtime neighbors and friends Chris Coomber and Rob Lightner, it didn't take a lot of hemming and hawing to decide to open Richmond's East Brother Beer Co. "One day, we were having dinner, and Chris goes 'You want to open a brewery?' And I said, without hesitation, 'Yes,' " recalls Lightner. "The next morning, we got together and decided, 'Okay. Let's do this.'"

The two dads, both in their 50s, had spent decades in the corporate world, but they were looking for something more fulfilling—at a time when many of their peers might be eyeing retirement. Coomber had been homebrewing—what some would call "obsessively"—since 2009, and it only took his first batch of Cream Ale to convince Lightner that this beer was worth sharing. With hearty support from their wives and kids, the duo scoped out locations around the Bay Area, but both ultimately felt drawn to Richmond.


"There's something real about Richmond that really resonated with us. We're both pretty unassuming guys, and it's an unassuming place, but it's got this incredible history and strong working-class ethic," says Lightner. "We just wanted to make beer and have someone drink it and say 'That's good beer.'"


(Kristen Haney)


Led by head brewer Peter Landman, formerly of Deschutes and Fifty-Fifty Brewing, the brewery focuses on classic beer styles filtered for clarity yet still distinct in flavor. Its five core brews range from a pilsner to a red lager to an oatmeal stout, and you won't find any crazy experimentation or "hop bombs" on tap.


"Our beers really aren't fancy. I think they're a little more approachable. They may not be very sexy, but they're classic and done well," says Coomber. "I think people are always looking for that clean aftertaste that makes you want to take another sip."


Much like the nearby lighthouse from which East Brother gets its name, Coomber and Lightner hope that when the brewery officially opens on December 7, it will act as a beacon, drawing visitors from community of Richmond and beyond. The soft opening welcomed everyone from families with young children playing at the indoor ping-pong table to a group of guys from Chevron that usually frequent a local dive bar sharing pints. Hikers and bikers tackling the nearby Bay Trail have been popping by for weeks, eagerly checking in on the taproom's opening date.


(Courtesy of the East Brother Beer Co.)


From inside the taproom, housed in a soaring 12,000 square-foot warehouse, visitors have full visibility of the stainless steel, 20-barrel brewing equipment, where they'll frequently spy Coomber or Landman working on a new batch. The interior—and much of East Brother Beer Co.'s branding—pulls from the surrounding community and its industrial past, with primary colors and throwback lettering meant to mimic freighters and trains. These elements adorn the walls, taps, kegs, and palettes of cans stacked nearby for delivery. Even the bathrooms feature black and white photography of present-day Richmond, which evoke a vintage feel.


Currently, the five core brews are at select bars and stores available by the pint, growler, and flight from a front-facing tap system meant to encourage customer-server interaction. The team has designs on an additional five to 10 beers in the taproom. What's not on tap? Straying from their original mission of making straightforward, timeless beer.


"We both just love beer, " says Lightner. "It's so simple. It's nothing new or groundbreaking, but it's tried and true and we think we can do a good job with beer. The pursuit of perfection can be fulfilling." // 1001 Canal Blvd. (Richmond), eastbrotherbeer.com


(Courtesy of the East Brother Beer Co.)