Oak Barrel Winecraft, 64, Has New Owner With Big Ideas
For 50 years – since the age of 15 – Homer Smith has provided invaluable advice to home brewers and amateur winemakers in the Bay Area at Berkeley’s Oak Barrel Winecraft. During his five decades at the store, which opened in 1957, Smith has seen it through many changes, including five different owners. Most recently, longtime home brewer and former digital marketer Stacey Stevenson took over as head of Oak Barrel, with a plan to increase the store’s longtime social media presence, open a store. bottles and launch courses for the next generation of aspiring beer and wine producers.
Winecraft in oak barrel
1443 San Pablo Avenue (near Page Street), Berkeley
Stevenson took over the business in November 2020, buying it from Bernie Rooney, who bought Oak Barrel in 1992. At the time, the business was going through a tough financial patch, but the craft beer trend was just beginning. . Rooney took a gamble on the business, which has paid off for decades. He told Nosh that he still enjoys the beer and wine business – which he essentially learned from Smith after an early career in commercial real estate – but was ready to move on and move on. feel the pressure of online retailers.
But Oak Barrel has two things that no online vendor can beat: a sense of community and Smith’s vast experience.
“Everyone who has opened a brewery in Northern California has learned about Homer’s home brewing,” Rooney said on a recent phone call. “And no one can outshine it in wine.” You may have heard of some of his students; they made a career out of what they learned from Smith, founding notable companies like Rosenblum Cellars, V. Sattui Winery, Triple Rock Brewing, and the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Equally important to Oak Barrel are retail customers, many of whom have been shopping there for decades. “People who come here, they don’t leave,” Stevenson told Nosh from her Oak Barrel office, where she continues to work on event plans once rates of COVID-19 cases drop in. the region. She hopes to start in-store classes on beer brewing, wine making and cheese making when it is safe. Ultimately, she said, the store will host wine and beer tours around the neighborhood during which attendees can learn about the local beverage makers Smith influenced.
Looking further, Stevenson wants to open a bottle store inside Oak Barrel, which will sell drinks produced by past and current customers. Next fall, conditions permitting, an Oktoberfest celebration is in the works.
At the moment, these event plans are on hold. Despite this, Oak Barrel is still attracting new customers, many of whom have taken advantage of the extra time at home over the past 18 months to embark on a new brewing hobby.
Curt and Susan Schooling started brewing beer in June 2020 after Susan, a teacher, bought Curt a starter kit at Oak Barrel.
“They’ve been very patient with us,” Curt, a tech professional, said over the phone. “They are so sweet and really walk you through.” They’ve brewed seven batches so far and enjoy sharing the fruits of their labor with friends in the yard of their Oakland home on the weekends.
Meanwhile, their son, Bryce, 24, began his own Oak Barrel-based adventures with brewing when he started dabbling in mead in early 2021. “I’ve always been fascinated by this because that it is one of the first drinks created by humans, ”he said. . Mead is not for those in a hurry. “I’m still on my first batch, it’s cleaning up. “
Susan says it brought them all together. “It’s a hobby together as a married couple and family,” she said.
“It’s just a beautiful afternoon. When you are brewing, you can sit back and read a book and enjoy the day, ”Curt added.
Oak Barrel classes will begin when COVID-19 case rates permit, and will be led by Smith, Stevenson and visiting teachers. Follow Oak Barrel on Instagram for more details and a schedule. Meanwhile, stop by the store for their starter kits, which include recipes; basic to advanced equipment; varietals on order; bottles, barrels and barrels; and more.