Carrie Orth’s Kitchenette 625 is a family affair. Her daughter and son-in-law, Vonnie and Scott Davidson, opened Ocean View Brew Works in 2017. Before Kitchenette opened in the same building, Vonnie Davidson used the space for artist pop-ups and to tutor students.
Some of the old-fashioned school desks remain in place as part of the décor, a reminder of Vonnie Davidson’s career as a teacher. Currently, she sits on the Albany Unified School District’s Board of Education and is a substitute teacher in another district.
During the pandemic, the mother and daughter team put a plan in place to convert the space into a pop-up kitchen. Davidson describes her mother as “an incredibly talented food creator.” For a decade, Orth was the deli manager at Andronico’s. Subsequently, she taught cooking and nutrition in the Berkeley Unified School District. They built Kitchenette 625 for Orth to cook, but also to support the brewery experience.
After COVID-19 permit and supply chain delays, Kitchenette 625’s final inspection was in January of this year. “Then my dad passed away,” Davidson said. “It’s our special thing that he left us all with, but it took that whole pandemic time for us to get it built out and ready.” The kitchen doesn’t have a hood, which limits the kind of equipment Orth can use. “We got creative. We have a panini press. (Paninis) are great to pair with beer,” she explained.
In case you don’t want to make the trek across town, Kitchenette 625 also serves Boichik Bagels and Kaveri Coffee. The paninis change every couple of weeks, but the jambon-beurre ($12) is so popular, it will likely remain a fixture on the menu. Davidson said they keep a vegetarian panini option too. This week it’s a veggie muffuletta ($12), with potato, portabella, provolone and artichoke hearts.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Ocean View Brew Works was already participating in several Bay Area farmers’ markets. They shut the tap room and beer garden for a year, but started doing deliveries, to-go sales, and increased their attendance at other farmers’ markets. “We slowly opened back up, but the best thing that happened was we were able to open the kitchen,” Davidson said.
The addition of Kitchenette not only brought a new element to the property; it allowed Ocean View to serve wine and cider as well. “We couldn’t have before under our licensing,” she said. “It made us a bona fide eating establishment that allowed us to have those other beverages.”
There’s a “Beer” tab on the Ocean View website that lists the tap room’s recent brews. Reluctant to commit to only one, Davidson said that her favorite one right now is “a really delicious Helles lager.” She loves it because it’s a light crisp beer that’s low in alcohol.
Although Scott Davidson rotates beers in and out of production, Vonnie Davidson said the Pink Convertible was an instant hit. They brewed a small batch of the beer flavored with hibiscus, in collaboration with Oaktown Spice Shop. “It was such a delicious beer, we immediately brewed a full batch of it,” she explained.
Davidson describes Ocean View’s operation as working fine but also as tiny. They would have liked to have opened a second location by now, but commercial space and brewing equipment are expensive—and the margins are small. Their business model has excluded distribution. The focus has been direct-to-consumer, meaning farmers’ markets and the tap room itself.
However, Davidson did say that they are planning to open a second location within the next year and a half. “It’s a project that we’re taking some steps on right now, part of which involves maximizing the brewing capabilities we already have.” The new location is still TBD.
Ocean View Brew Works, open Thurs to Sat 12–9pm, Sun 12–7pm, Mon 2–8pm. Kitchenette 625, open Thurs to Sat 10am–7pm. 627 San Pablo Ave., Albany. 510.280.5127. oceanviewbrews.com