Luke Janson and Hillary Huffard originally met in art school in New York City.
Hillary Huffard and husband Luke Janson, both Alamedans, choose to create a lighthearted, approachable brewery.
Hillary Huffard and husband Luke Janson, both Alamedans, married their talents and turned their vision of owning an Oakland brewery into reality. The union of their backgrounds and interests made for the perfect recipe to open their own taproom, and six months or so after opening Roses’ Taproom, they couldn’t be happier with their homegrown Temescal neighborhood bar.
Tell me how Roses’ Taproom is different from most breweries.
First and foremost, I would say that our core mission was about creating a non-intimidating space of inclusiveness. We aimed to design a brewery that is built on a sense of community, a neighborhood pub where all can congregate. With this vision in mind, we deliberately softened the physical decor of our space to include round edges everywhere, living plants, a soft paint color, good lighting … This idea came from mimicking the aesthetics of the large, round vessels of breweries. Every design decision was intentional. And in the spirit of community, the tapas-style or small-bite food that we serve is produced from local restaurants including Duende and Pizzaiolo, where our beer is also on tap. It’s wonderful to be a part of the supportive food community in the Bay Area. On our menu, we always have seasonal salads and fruits as well as charcuterie platters, cheese, bread/crackers, and lots more satisfying, high-quality food to enjoy while drinking beer. We plan to soon serve kombucha and ginger beer, and we always have soft drinks available. As for our beer, it stands on its own.
What about your beer?
Our beer is awesome. We are drawn to lesser-known, esoteric kinds of beer of the earth while also always offering the tried-and-true recognizable beers. We definitely walk that line of playful styles with classic styles. On tap at Roses’ you’ll always be able to get a light pilsner or Belgian-style beer, which may possibly be my personal favorite. I love the full body, aromatic fragrance of this beer with its higher ABV (alcohol by volume). Our most popular beers are probably the IPAs or our $4 lighter short pour and our Belgian beers. We don’t repeat recipes often, as we love to try new things every time we brew. My husband, Luke, is passionate about the process and the craft and is always tweaking the formulas to offer new experiences to our customers. We love exploring the wide spectrum of what’s possible with beer, but again, we will never completely depart from the familiar go-to beers.
How did you and your husband go from being art students to brewery owners?
After meeting at The Cooper Union school of art in New York City, we moved to Oakland and dabbled in our own interests, which were all creative in nature. My husband is a finish carpenter and a longtime self-taught beer aficionado who also had experience working in breweries. To call his beer-making obsession a hobby would be an understatement. While he was doing his thing, I delved into my gardening and worked at fabulous restaurants learning skills from the best. With our degrees in art, our varying but complementing talents, and our hunger to bring our interests and experiences together, we decided that a local, friendly, beautiful taproom was our answer. At heart, our taproom is a true collaboration—an art piece in our minds. We designed (and my husband built) every inch of our bar. I think the black walnut tap handles are pieces of art in and of themselves. The whole endeavor was a labor of love on so many levels. The road to get there was long and challenging at times, but we kept coming back to our vision, and we’re so glad we did. It took 2½ years from having the idea to opening the taproom.
I’m sure you learned so much in those planning years.
I learned more than I could imagine about what it takes to open a business. A good idea isn’t enough. Early in the process, I turned to the nonprofit organization Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center in San Francisco for starters. There I took business-planning classes as well as classes on women in small businesses and completed a thorough business plan. This was a critical step for us. It was then that I could approach lenders and be taken seriously. I found the right people and I was always asking for help. I built relationships with gatekeepers in the industry who could tell us how to do things right. We got a Kiva loan and had a micro-community lending platform. It was all an enlightening and humbling experience to say the least.
After all that, you guys look like you’re having a lot of fun now.
We really are for so many reasons. First of all, we love what we do and are grateful to so many— so that’s huge and makes for a happy vibe. And we’re committed to maintaining a friendly, unpretentious environment, which is also uplifting. On top of that, we have a terrific staff, and we invite them to bring their own personalities to the job, and they do a great job of engaging not only with the guests but with each other. Another element that adds to our fun and sense of community is our Mug Club. We have commissioned artists from the Bay Area and from New York City to create stoneware and ceramic handmade mugs that are available for purchase but that stay at the taproom. Once you own a personalized mug, you get free beer once a week and discounts on beer and growlers ($2 off of every beer) for $30 a month. I’d like to think that our really good beer combined with our lighthearted, approachable atmosphere make for an inviting place for folks to just kick back and relax.