Editor’s Note: The following story first appeared in Cal State East Bay Magazine. Read the most recent magazine, The Food Issue; view more photos; and check out back issues online.
Michael Peasley’s love of beer brewing began 20 years ago as he stirred pots of porter on a stove at his girlfriend’s house.
“There wasn’t a lot of craft beer available,” says Peasley ’09 (who is now married to that girlfriend). “You almost had to make it yourself, if you wanted dark beers.”
Peasley soon discovered that he was good at both the science and the creativity of brewing. “I entered some competitions, and the judges liked it and said they’d be willing to pay for it.” That led to a year of formal brewing training at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago.
Peasley’s first brewing job during the 1990s was at the Pleasanton Main Street Brewery in Pleasanton. With that experience on his resume, he went on to work at larger breweries such as Gordon Biersch and Berkeley-based Pyramid Breweries, where he helped open two pubs in Walnut Creek and Sacramento over six years.
Two years ago, he returned to the Pleasanton Main Street Brewery, where he and owner Matt Billings craft the beer together.
The pub offers six beers on tap, including a pale ale, an India pale ale (IPA), a porter, and a strawberry blonde. He rotates seasonal brews including lighter summer ales and bigger style IPAs in winter. As a small brewer, he makes about four to five batches of beer a month, or about 80 kegs.
Peasley says the brewery caters to local families and beer aficionados with tastings and appearances at the local farmers’ markets. “Our regulars are our best marketing source,” Peasley says, noting the locals aren’t shy about sharing feedback on a new beer. “They will tell you if they don’t like it, and if (a type of beer) varies, they notice.”
A CSUEB business major, Peasley says the entrepreneurship classes he took were “phenomenally helpful” to him. When assigned to create a product in class, he built a business plan for a brewery. Beer isn’t just fun, he says, it’s a business. “A lot of brewing is getting people to know and drink your beer,” he says. “You can have the best beer in the world, but if nobody knows it’s good, you will be out of business.”
While many brewers are nomadic, moving around the country to work, Peasley, who lives in Livermore and grew up in the East Bay, says he is here to stay.
Next up? An idea for a winter ale he’s been kicking around for three months. “That’s probably the most fun part of my job,” he says, adding that this one, to be called the Cogitator, will be a mix of Imperial stout with porter and Belgian qualities.