Good Beer Hunting

EP-194 Dave McLean of Admiral Maltings

EP-194 Dave McLean of Admiral Maltings

Photo by Clara Rice

When Dave McLean moved to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood after college, he was chasing one particular thing: the Grateful Dead. McLean was a small part of a wave of hippies, idealists, and rock mega fans who came to the city at the same time for a similar reason, but unlike many of the others, Dave actually stuck around. And then he built a business here: the Magnolia Brewing Company.

With the nearly 20 years Dave was at the helm of Magnolia, he became part of the fabric of the modern Haight District. For a neighborhood that is synonymous with counterculture and the “summer of love,” turned out Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin, that’s something. Magnolia was, and is, a stalwart brewpub in a historic neighborhood of a rapidly changing city.

But no one is immune from the effects of a changing economy. An investment in a difficult property in another evolving neighborhood proved too far ahead of its time, and Magnolia faltered financially. As a last resort, Dave called Kim Jordan and sold the business to New Belgium, Dick Cantwell, formerly of Elysian, and Oud Beersel of Belgium.

It was a deal that was deeply personal for Dave. Ultimately, on as good as terms as possible, he left Magnolia, but not before setting out on a new venture: Admiral Maltings.

The founder of another longtime brewery in San Francisco, Ron Silberstein of ThirstyBear Organic, knew Dave’s affinity for quality malts, and tapped him to help him establish a new craft malt house in Alameda —- the first of its kind in California.

Brewers flocked to it because the offer was notable: local farm grown barley, sent to a local malting facility, sold to local brewery to be purchased by a local drinker. I’m not sure Dave would regard it as a renaissance for himself, but all things considered, it’s an incredible next step.

And don’t count him out for any new breweries down the line. The Bay is, after all, the home to progress and reinvention.