You could say Wondrous Brewing Company’s founder Wynn Whisenhunt is “all-in” on Emeryville. Since signing a lease two years ago to open Emeryville‘s first modern craft brewery, he’s moved to Emeryville, he’s immersed himself in its local history and he’s spent every waking hour and dollar he has on building out his brewery.
Neighbors will soon be treated to the fruits of Wynn’s labor as Wondrous expects to open their doors in mid-May. A two year journey that has been an absolute roller coaster ride with some twists and turns that nobody could have envisioned.
We last interviewed Wynn in mid-2019 shortly after signing a lease at the former warehouse space on 65th that was a “blank canvas” for his brewery vision. He had to first endure a nine month design review process with the city.
“Everything took a bit longer than expected. During the early part of the pandemic, we had to shut down construction which set us back a bit.” Whisenhunt noted. “The city was very proactive. We had to do a soil test at one point to make sure there weren’t any toxic substances in the ground prior to drilling. It was definitely an anxious time waiting for the results but fortunately things came back clean. If not, this could have really set us back.”
Since the use of the building changed from warehouse to factory, the entire building had to be brought up to code including a new gas line and meters, water line and fire sprinklers. Replacing the water main required the replacement of two trees which created another headache. “I’m on a first-name basis with the local arborist,” Whisenhunt quipped.
Other unforeseen delays include an aluminum can and CO2 shortage.
Whisenhunt is hoping that his investment in new infrastructure will pay off in the long run. “Brewers are known for having a scrappy, DIY ethic and used to making it work with what we have. We decided to made an investment up front and I think we’re set up for growth deep into the future. We foresee being here for a very long time.”
One of the primary reasons Whisenhunt settled on Emeryville and was willing to absorb some of the expected difficulties was because of the quality of the tap water. “The quality of the water is crucial to the brewing process and this location is blessed with some of the best in the nation,” Whisenhunt explained noting that East Bay MUD has some of the highest-rated water in the nation. “When Trumer chose to expand to America, they chose Berkeley partially because of the local water.”
Wondrous initial line-up of beers will feature favorites including an IPA, a Double-IPA, a Dark Lager and an unfiltered “Hell” traditional German pale lager beer.
He’s also working on a Belgian blonde ale, a special collaboration with Alameda’s Faction Brewing and has a barley wine currently aging.
Wondrous will have its own canning line allowing locals to take their beer to-go. “The first few months are going to be a steep learning curve as we figure out which brews the local community enjoys the most.”
When they’re at full-operation, Wondrous’ brewing capacity will be comparable to nearby Novel Brewing Company just across the border. “If we can sell most of our beer here out of the taproom, we’d be very happy.”
The taproom’s interior is immaculate with modern, natural materials and clean lines. The aesthetic is reminiscent of of an upscale wine bar.
When Covid restrictions are eventually relaxed, the interior will be able to accommodate 48 people and about the same on their patio. He’s also working on an efficient bike storage solution to accommodate travelers of Emeryville’s popular greenway which is just a block away.
Wondrous does not have a kitchen and will instead rely on neighborhood eateries like Los Moles, Jasmine Blossom & Rotten City Pizza for bites. “I’m looking to partner with some of the other local restaurants and hoping we can all grow together,”
And while everything has been a bit tougher than expected, Whisenhunt is thrilled with the result and happy he settled on Emeryville. “We’re stoked to be in Emeryville and we will strive to be your local community brewery. I can’t wait to have a full patio of people enjoying our beer!”
Correction: The article originally referenced EBMUD drawing from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir but this was pointed out as inaccurate and deleted.