Looking for Design at the Bottom of a Pint Glass, Part 2

A couple months ago (yeah, I'm lazy) we went on a trip to the Bay Area in search of good interior design. You might remember Part 1 of our saga, which was just riveting.

if you have a difficulty remembering that far back, a few members of the Humble Sea crew (Nick, Frank, Jacob, and Ben) headed to The Greater San Francisco Bay Area in search of inspiration for interior design for our upcoming taproom on Swift Street in Santa Cruz. We hit up Sightglass Coffee, City Beer StoreCellarmaker, and Toronado.

Without further ado, here's the much anticipated conclusion to our adventure:

Black Sands Brewery

This place wasn't huge, but the open-air quality, and simplicity made it feel more than ample

This place wasn't huge, but the open-air quality, and simplicity made it feel more than ample

A friend recommended that if we are looking for great interior design inspiration in the context of breweries, we would definitely want to stop into Black Sands Brewing

As it turns out, the owners and brewers are a friend of our brewer Ben's long time friend from New York City. Friends of friends in the same industry? We'll take it!

The brewhouse was the most telling part of the space. Everything was small, purposeful, and had it's own place. 

The brewhouse was the most telling part of the space. Everything was small, purposeful, and had it's own place. 

We met Cole Ende at the back of the tap room, in the middle of their small, but obviously efficient brewhouse. You get the sense that everything at Black Sands was selected carefully, and not before figuring out what the big picture would look like. If the brewery need a wort grant, it had to fit into the brewhouse like a stainless steel puzzle piece.

These guys are serious design nerds, and the simplicity in the details was what we took away from this space.

These guys are serious design nerds, and the simplicity in the details was what we took away from this space.

With a skull mosaic in the entryway, and black sails draped across the ceiling, the tap room's aesthetic is distinctly Metal with an obvious inclination towards swashbuckling. It's simple, refreshing and effective in creating a distinctive brand without being anywhere close to overwhelming. 

What we loved about the space was the use of small, simply designed surfaces in order to make use of a small space. Every wall had a bar not much wider than the width of a pint glass, which created places for patrons to stand when the tap room was busy, but it also maximized the open space in the center of the room, and in walkways.

Woods Island Club

Like the name implies, this place feels like a club in a beach resort. Only the beach is in a parking lot.

Like the name implies, this place feels like a club in a beach resort. Only the beach is in a parking lot.

We got a little lost looking for this one, even with the help of Google's navigation. Tucked away on the backside of some nondescript warehouses on Treasure Island, Woods Island Club is an extension of Woods Beer Company in Oakland. Originally just the site of their barrel program, the Island Club recently opened to the public. The only sign that we were near a tap room was the group of people who appeared to be partying in a pile of sand in the middle of a parking lot. 

This place seems like an exercise in minimalism. No outdoor signage, no heavy outdoor furniture, no walls, decoration. But it felt right.

This place seems like an exercise in minimalism. No outdoor signage, no heavy outdoor furniture, no walls, decoration. But it felt right.

There was no sign over the door to their barrel house/tap room, so we just followed the steady stream of happy looking people filing into a large bay door and leaving with plastic cups in their hands.

Inside was a simple warehouse, with a large walk-in fridge on one side, and several racks of barrels on the other. In the center was a very simple, wooden bar with two beer tenders. The selection of mainly barrel aged and blended ales were clearly marked with pastel colored tags above the tap handles. The staff eagerly offered their preferences, and we were immediately flush with beer.

The beach aesthetic seemed incredibly effortless to execute, but it created an ideal beer garden

The beach aesthetic seemed incredibly effortless to execute, but it created an ideal beer garden

It seemed that very few people prefered to stay inside the warehouse, where you could set your glass down on an upturned barrel amongst the stacks of currently aging beer. Not that the atmosphere in the tap room was uninviting at all, but the alternative option was too good to pass up.

The outdoor seating was freeform: grab a few folding chairs, plop them in the sand, form a circle with friends and party. 

Beer garden games galore! Frank and Nick have been competitive since daycare.

Beer garden games galore! Frank and Nick have been competitive since daycare.

Of course, the open sandbox format for a tap room left plenty of room for outdoor games. What pairs better with beer than friends and cornhole?

We couldn't get over how laid back this place felt. We were having a blast, and it was accomplished with nothing but sand, folding chairs, and some bean bags.

We felt that a place like this needed to be represented in Santa Cruz.

The most important thing is that the patrons felt comfortable. Very comfortable.

The most important thing is that the patrons felt comfortable. Very comfortable.

Fieldwork

For our next trick, we magically teleported from Treasure Island to Berkeley. where we paid a visit to some friends at Fieldwork Brewing Company. They're more like big brothers and sisters, to be honest.

When walking into a space like Fieldwork Brewing Company, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the the size and the open air quality of it's taproom. In fact, when you compare it to our humble little tasting room-to-be, you realize that their couldn't be two spaces more different than each other.  

That is, until you consider the details.

And the details are what we are concerned with on this trip, right? So we found ourselves sitting with our sampler flights, regarding the concrete bars, the white walls, planter boxes, and reclaimed wood trimming, and we were reminded of a lot of key lessons that we learned on this trip.

We noticed that even in this huge space, Fieldwork takes advantage of narrow bars and tables in order to put more surfaces in a space without making it feel cramped. We saw this method used at almost every other stop on our design trip, but most effectively used here and at Black Sands Brewing Company. 

Fieldwork also kept things minimal and clean, in order to prevent their space from feeling too busy. While we won't be working in a large warehouse, the same concept applies to a space that is small and enclosed. You want to give the impression that you are in a larger room, and not stuffed inside a shoebox full of trinkets in Grandma's closet. 

What made us most excited about Fieldwork was their incorporation of high design. If you didn't know already based on our fancy boat logo and super cohesive font selections, we have an in-house designer, Frank Krueger, who is also one of the three co-founders. He's had some ideas for the ways in which our customers can interact with our beers, and visiting Fieldwork was an opportunity to see how a graphic designer can communicate directly with beer consumers.   

Our favorite was the beer card booklets left lying around the tap room. Each page appeared type-written, provided a story, and gave away all the vital information for every beer on tap. It was the ultimate in beer-nerd engagement; aside from perhaps a virtual reality game that lets you experience adding the Nelson Sauvin hops yourselves.

The booklet, above all else on this trip, felt intimate. It made us feel like someone had really considered our experience with their beer in our hand, and they wanted us to be happy.

Isn't that nice?

Our designer considering the designs of other designers.

Our designer considering the designs of other designers.

Temescal

At this point, we were pretty plastered on great beer and great design, but we had to make it to one last tap room. So we made our way (via a designated driver, of course) over to Temescal Brewing in Oakland. 

Temescal itself is very new to the brewing scene in the Bay Area, but the Head Brewer, Wade Ritchey, is definitely not a newcomer to the brewing scene, or even the Bay Area. Before venturing out on his own, Wade was Assistant Brewer at Cellarmaker. He was also associated with Hill Farmstead Brasserie Thiriez in France, and Birrificio Italiano in Italy. We definitely wanted to get some of this beer.

Temescal is also graphic design oriented, and their branding has a similar feel to ours. We wanted to see how that translated to their tap room experience.

What we found was a pretty nice summation of our trip so far.

The inside area was minimal, with bright colors, white walls, and light wood that made the space feel larger than it would had it been cluttered and dark.

The overall feel was reminiscent of a concession stand at a public pool (in a cool way) or the diner on Saved by the Bell.

That is to say, it was trendy, light, and inviting. Familiar, even.

Elaborate cinder block structures, complete with planter boxes, benches and end tables.Probably the most inventive thing we saw this whole trip.

Elaborate cinder block structures, complete with planter boxes, benches and end tables.Probably the most inventive thing we saw this whole trip.

The outside was a more impressive feat. It was large. There was enough room there for a few Twenty-Something birthday parties without Millennials overlapping each others aesthetic, or sharing the same meme within a 15 foot radius.

A colorful mural covered the far wall and added a nice accent to the wood and cinder block dressing.

Oh yeah, that's right: they made outdoor furniture out of cinder blocks! How minimal and thrifty! But they pulled it off with the look and feel of the rest of the place. We were digging it.    

And we'll leave you with Ben's perspective shot from the empty kiddie pool at Temescal. He got home safe. 

And we'll leave you with Ben's perspective shot from the empty kiddie pool at Temescal. He got home safe. 

At this point, we knew we had a lot to think about, but we were to sloshy to put it all together, so we just gave in to the night and slow danced with each other until an adult took us home.

We've had some time to reflect, and we've even seen a few of these concepts manifest themselves in preliminary designs from Stripe Design (don't forget to vote for your favorite here)

With a taproom building permit in hand, and a finishing carpenter as a founding member, we're confident you'll get to see the fruits of our rigorous research session in person early on in 2017.

Cheers to beer and design!