Oakland Gets Its First Whiskey Distillery Since Prohibition
It’s sweltering hot inside this nondescript warehouse building in West Oakland, and for the fifth or sixth time in the past twenty minutes, Daniel Wright hands me a glass tumbler full of freshly distilled brandy and asks me what I think. What I’m thinking about, really, is how to take as tiny a sip as possible so my throat doesn’t burn too badly, and I don’t have another coughing fit and lose face in front of this burly, thickly bearded tugboat-captain-turned-distiller-of-craft-spirits.
Also, as the afternoon wears on: that this brandy doesn’t taste half bad.
Later, I was told the liquor I took progressively tinier sips of had historic significance: It was what Wright and business partner Earl Brown believe to be the very first batch of brandy — or any craft spirit, for that matter — to be legally distilled in Oakland since the onset of Prohibition.
The two entrepreneurs are childhood friends who grew up in the same remote section of Humboldt County, and they’re the proprietors of Wright & Brown Distilling, a new distillery that they say is the first one to open in Oakland in nearly a century. Even though their still was producing brandy — a relatively low-risk product to make while Wright, the head distiller, is getting a feel for his equipment, because all that’s required is a supply of inexpensive wine — during my visit, their plan is to primarily manufacture whiskeys.