In a rather shocking development that could threaten the entire future of one of California’s most popular producers of India pale ale, the head brewer and co-owner of Berkeley’s Fieldwork Brewing Co. is facing felony assault charges after an alleged road rage incident that occurred back in September. Alex Tweet, the 37-year-old head brewer at Fieldwork, was arrested by Albany police according to the San Francisco Chronicle, who charged him with beating up a man after a road rage incident. He was charged in January, and has pled not guilty.
For Fieldwork, the news is potentially devastating, and not just because they’d potentially be losing a brewer and co-owner. If Tweet is convicted of a felony, the brewery’s very right to sell alcohol could be stripped from them, thanks to California liquor laws. Tweet’s name is on all five of the company’s liquor licenses for Fieldwork’s various taprooms in Napa, Monterey, Sacramento, San Mateo and Berkeley, and it’s within the rights of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to “suspend or revoke licenses held by convicted felons.” Thus, if convicted, the entire brewery could find itself unable to sell beer.
Tweet, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, seems very nonplussed by the charges in speaking with the Chronicle, saying that “it’s going to be a complete nonissue after next week,” in reference to a pretrial hearing occurring on April 5 in Alameda County Superior Court. He gave no further comment to the Chronicle, except saying that he was “extremely” confident about the outcome of the case.
The September incident reportedly began after a near-collision at a stoplight, after which an angry Tweet tailed the other driver’s car. When the car pulled over, the drivers emerged and after an argument, Tweet allegedly assaulted the passenger, who was the driver’s brother. The passenger described being brought to the ground by Tweet and hit in the face “approximately five to 10 times,” sustaining injuries to the ear and lip. To quote the Chronicle again:
On March 1, Tweet pleaded not guilty to the charge of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury. In addition, he faces a special allegation of causing great bodily injury, and has denied it. If convicted of the charge and the special enhancement, he faces up to seven years in state prison.
It certainly does beg the question of why Tweet would now be so confident. At the very least, any observer should be able to agree that the brewer’s actions were monumentally stupid—especially if he was aware of the ABC’s ability to strip Fieldwork’s liquor licenses as a result of such actions. It’s truly a shame to see one of the west coast’s most promising breweries put into such a predicament for such a stupid reason.
Fieldwork has grown explosively since its opening in 2015, creating four additional taprooms in only three years and expanding production from 2,700 barrels in 2015 to almost 20,000 in 2017. In terms of beer, they’re known for a swiftly rotating series of brews, especially focusing on bombastic, sometimes punishingly hoppy IPAs. We’ve had a chance to sample a number of these at Paste, and Fieldwork beers have performed very impressively in a number of our blind tastings, including a top 10 finish in session IPA and a top tier performance in DIPA.
Regardless of the outcome of this case, we hope that Fieldwork finds a way to keep making good beer.