our story

from naval base to brewery

the island

Named by General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Mare Island soon became home to the first U.S. Naval shipyard on the West Coast. Today, a cadre of pioneering breweries, distilleries, wineries, artisans, and craftsmen are writing the next chapter.

An old photo of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo


island of the mare

Legend has it that in 1835, a sudden storm capsized the ship carrying General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo’s prized white mare. When the storm subsided, General Vallejo found the mare on the island, having survived by swimming ashore. He named the island “Isla de la Yegua” – Island of the Mare – in her honor.

An old lithograph of the Mare Island Strait


Mare Island Naval Shipyard Founding

David Glasgow Farragut was sent to oversee the construction of what would become the West Coast’s first US Naval shipyard, and eventually the premier port for shipbuilding and repairs on the West Coast.

An old photo of the Saginaw Ship


First ship Built: USS Saginaw

The first ship built at Mare Island, the Saginaw, is a paddle-wheel gunboat constructed of white oak from Petaluma. Over the next 137-plus years, 513 numbered vessels will be built. Another 1,227 will be repaired or overhauled at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard.

an old photo of shipyard workers


30 days or bust

Mare Island saw major shipbuilding efforts during WWI, and set a shipbuilding speed record that still stands with the launching of the destroyer USS Ward in just 17 ½ days.

An old photo of a shipfitters show.


WW2: 40,000 Shipyard Workers

When WWII broke out in 1941, the working ranks on Mare Island swelled almost overnight from 5,000 to over 40,000  civilian workers. Pipefitters, torpedo makers, welders, and Rosie the Riveters worked around the clock 24/7 to build the ships needed to win the war.

An old photo of submarines


entering the atomic age

Mare Island entered the atomic age in 1954 by building the first nuclear submarine on the West Coast, the USS Sargo.

an old photo of the golden gate bridge


“Ivy Bells” and the Cold War Era

"Ivy Bells” was one of the most highly classified and important programs in the history of the U.S. military. The mission sent the USS Halibut nuclear sub deep into the Soviet’s Sea of Okhotsk, where at 400ft down, two covert divers attached a recording device to the Soviet Navy's key communications cable. For the next 20 years, subs made the top-secret journey to and from Mare Island to swap out the recording tapes.

An old newspaper clipping of the Mare Island Naval Shipyard closing


mare island naval shipyard closes

After 143 years of shipbuilding, Naval operations ceased and the island was decommissioned on April 1, 1996. Today, Mare Island is home to many historical landmarks and buildings, residences, parks, businesses and artisans.

our founders

Kent and Ryan, both formally trained on the wine side of fermentation, first met and struck up a friendship on a crushpad in Napa during a winegrape harvest over a a decade ago. A move to Mare Island, a transition from grapes to grain, and a chance meeting a few years later, and Mare Island Brewing Co. was born.

Mare Island Brewing Co. Founder Kent being excited


The Seed is Planted

The seed for Mare Island Brewing Co. was planted when our Founder Kent Fortner bought and restored the historic officer's "Quarter U" on Mare Island in 2007. Inspired by the rich history of the island, he started working on plans for a brewery.

A photo of Mare Island Brewing Co founders Kent and Ryan cheersing a beer


two friends reconnect

After years working in winemaking, Co-founder Ryan Gibbons had made the jump from grapes to grain. He was working at Lagunitas Brewing Company when he bumped into his old pal, and fellow winemaker, Kent. A few beers later, Ryan was on board, and Mare Island Brewing Co. began.

the brewery

Our first taproom opened its doors in 2014 at the Ferry landing on the Vallejo waterfront. The rest is history...

a photo of Saginaw Golden Ale, hops, and Barley


Founding and first brew

We brewed our first beer in 2013, and named it after the first ship built at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Saginaw Golden Ale is still part of our core line-up to this day.

A photo of Mare Island Brewing Co. Founders Kent and Ryan


ferry taproom opens

Our first location, the Ferry Taproom opened its doors in 2014 on the Vallejo waterfront. Back then we were only open a few days a week, with just four beers on tap.

a photo of a box of beer for yardbirds


yardbird Beer club launches

We launched our Yardbird Beer Club in 2015, along with our very first Yardbird exclusive – General Order No. 99 Barrel Aged Porter.

A photo of the Mare Island Brewing Co. Regatta


First Victory in the vallejo whaleboat regatta

Our rowing team, "The Torpedoes" took home our first championship trophy in the Vallejo Whaleboat Regatta. We still compete in the race each fall during Vallejo Waterfront Weekend.

the coal shed brewery patio and beer garden


Renovating a Historic Navy Coal Shed

In 2016, we began renovations on the historic Navy coal shed that would become our Coal Shed Brewery. Originally built in the 1890s, our Coal Shed Brewery was formerly used to store coal that fueled Navy steamships.

inside the coal shed brewery


Coal Shed Brewery Up and Running

We began crafting beers on our brand-new, state-of-the art, 15bbl brewhouse in 2017.

a photo of a keg of beer being delivered by boat


Whaleboat keg delivery

To celebrate the launch of our Coal Shed Brewery, we delivered the very first keg (of Shipwright's Porter) produced at the new brewhouse by rowing it across the strait to our Ferry Taproom.

A photo of the Mare Island Brewing Co canning line


Coal Shed brewery Gets A canning line

We said bye-bye to 22oz bombers, and started canning all of our brews in-house on our shiny new canning line in 2020.

the coal shed brewery patio and beer garden


Coal Shed Brewery Taproom Opens to Public

In June 2020, the taproom and beer garden at our Coal Shed Brewery officially opened to the public. We added our "Pie Wagon" food truck not long after.

a photo of the whaleboat room


whaleboat room at coalshed brewery opens

The Whaleboat Room, a dedicated private and special event space, at our Coal Shed Brewery, opened in October 2021. The Whaleboat Room commemorates the rich history of monomoy whaleboats that have plied the waters in front of our brewery.

A photo of the First St Taphouse


First Street Taphouse Opens

We opened our third location, the First Street Taphouse in downtown Benicia in July 2021. During renovations to the historic building, we discovered an ancient (and enormous) cistern below the floor. We decided to turn it into a time capsule, and filled it with hundreds of contributions from the local community before sealing it up.

the story continues...


the history

you know the story. now learn about the beer.

our beers- Or check out our historic taprooms -