2030 Fifth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
Daniel Del GrandeGrande, Owner and Brewer of Bison Brewing Company, asks beer drinkers nationwide to raise a glass in good cheer and to give thanks to Bison's founder, brewpub pioneer, Bill Owens.
Mr. Owens, along with Assemblyman Tom Bates (now Berkeley’s Mayor), introduced legislation in the 80's that legalized brewpubs in California. The legislation was replicated across the country. Brewing records show the first brew at Bison to be a Pale Ale on Sunday, February 26, 1989. Although Bill has moved on to other pursuits, we are still friends. "Thanks, Bill."
In 2003, after 14 years and 3 days, Bison closed the doors of one of the nation's oldest brewpubs. "I decided not to renew the lease because it was increasing from $4500 to $6222 per month. Not enough patrons = not enough cash." Bison instead focused on brewing its organic beer at the Berkeley brew house, leasing only the original 500 square feet of brewery space (photo below).
However, in 2008, the City of Berkeley found this out and revoked Bison's Zoning Permit; manufacturing in a retail district is a big "no-no" for city planners who worry about precedent setting. Owen's original brewpub legislation had allowed for a zoning exemption only when a pub was attached. The brew house was decommissioned, and the office was relocated down to Fifth Street in Berkeley.
Former patrons remember fondly Bison's brewpub as a funky place. Bill Owens had commissioned David Baker to build a wonderful, award-winning modern architecture building at the corner of Telegraph and Parker in Berkeley. When walking down Telegraph, some would describe Bison as "a place you heard before you saw." Music and local artists joined the tapestry of Berkeley life.
Beer lovers know Bison for its brewers, who have a long history of innovation, using unique ingredients such as honey, sage, basil, chocolate, cranberry and coriander to augment the characteristics of beers primary ingredients: malt, yeast, water, and hops. Bottle beer, cask beer, draft beer...always tasty.