Brothers John and Reid Martin (then ages 25 and 28), established Triple Rock in 1985. Triple Rock is the result of John and Reid's love for beer and brewing, as well as the love of classic American taverns (and dive bars). For Triple Rock, their idea was to create a place that would be simple and accessible to craft beer and classic tavern aficionados like themselves.
Before there could be a brewpub, the City of Berkeley had to approve it. The Martin brothers, starting in 1984, had to convince the City that a small brewery should be allowed in a dense commercial district. City bureaucrats had never heard of a "brewpub" and there was neighborhood concern about a "factory" being allowed to operate in Downtown Berkeley.
The Martins were repeatedly advised to abandon their chosen site and to locate their brewery in the industrial area of Berkeley. They tried to explain that they weren't planning to make "industrial" beer, but with little success. Finally, after undergoing a series of meetings and city hearings, they received the seven variances necessary from the Berkeley zoning codes and were able to commence construction, which started in September of 1985.
Both homebrewers while in college, the Martin brothers brewed their first batch at the new brewery on Christmas Day of 1985. The second batch followed on New Year's Day 1986. "Those were the only days the construction crews weren't in the way" recalled John. The first brews "didn't taste great," says Reid, though he added, "the carpenters and painters didn't mind doing their share of the product testing".
Today, a micro-brewery can hire a trained brewer, but it was different in 1985. "Being one of the first brewpubs in the country, there weren't any experts to turn to, so we just had to figure out how to brew on a larger scale ourselves." says Reid. With experimentation and practice, they were able to create a line-up of terrific beers in time for the grand opening.
So finally, with the beer recipes set and the pub shiny and ready, Roaring Rock Brewery, as it was first known, opened its doors to a thirsty public on March 14, 1986. "We had 30 people waiting at the doors when we opened," recalls Reid, "and actually ran out of beer three days later!" The Rock barely made it through that first St. Patrick's Day before the tanks went dry. "Those were heady days," agrees John. "For many beer lovers, coming to Roaring Rock was like a pilgrimage, because brewpubs were so few and far between."
More than 25 years after brewing their first brew, John and Reid Martin are considered "founding fathers" in the brewpub industry, and have gone on to build a small empire of award-winning brewpubs and bars in California and Washington State (Twenty Tank Brewery in San Francisco, Big Time Brewery in Seattle, Drakes Brewing Co. in San Leandro, and Jupiter in Berkeley.) Still, Triple Rock remains their favorite. "It's where real brewpub beer began in the Bay Area," says John. "We feel lucky to have been there at the beginning of the craft brewing renaissance". Some say that you can see a little of Triple Rock in almost every brewpub.
When John and Reid started out they wanted to name their fledgling brewery something unique and memorable. As they threw potential names back and forth, the word "rock" kept coming up. They liked the solid sound of "rock", and the implication that a brewpub named rock would be "substantial" and "reliable." But they also wanted something in the name that would give it the sense of fun and energy that they imagined their brewpub would have. Eventually they settled on the name "Roaring Rock Brewery", with the "Roaring" alluding to the excitement.
They decided to add "& Alehouse" because of all the explaining they were having to do about what their brewery actually was (a micro-brewery and a pub). After opening people told them that the Roaring Rock name fit, due to the roaring crowd and the roaring rock 'n' roll music on the old jukebox! Interestingly, today there are more brewpubs in the nation that have the word "rock" in their name than any other word, (though "big" and "creek" come close).
All was going along well until they received a letter from the lawyers of Latrobe Brewing Co. in Latrobe Pennsylvania, the makers of Rolling Rock beer. They were told the daughter of the president of the large conglomerate which owned Latrobe Brewing was a college student going to UC Berkeley. She mentioned it to her father that she had been to a new brewery-pub called Roaring Rock. Suddenly trademark attorneys were swarming.
John and Reid had never once considered that there could be a problem with Roaring Rock as a name for their brewpub, and of course, they would never have wanted to be confused with Rolling Rock. Unfortunately, when the legal battle in Federal District Court was over, Rolling Rock had won, and the Martin brothers were given a short amount of time to change the name.
"Triple Rock" Brewery & Alehouse was the new choice, after a lot of input from staff and customers and deliberation by John and Reid. A few rejected names: "Foamy Rock" and "Roaring Duck"! "Triple Rock" was selected to honor the three regular beers served at the time: Pinnacle Pale Ale, Red Rock Ale, & Black Rock Porter. Though they were disappointed to have to change the name, John and Reid eventually decided they liked the name Triple Rock even better than Roaring Rock!