Fellow business associates and friends crowded into a newly-expanded outdoor seating area the other day to celebrate its official opening at the Hop Yard American Alehouse & Grill on Hopyard Road and to toast the pub's owner Otis Nostrand. I can't recall such a boisterous event before over a new patio, but then Nostrand is a lifelong Pleasanton enthusiast who always draws a crowd. With the added space, the Hop Yard, as it's most often called, can easily accommodate more than 200 patrons on Friday evenings when football fans from Amador Valley and Foothill high schools stop in for late night family meals. Although it's not a Sports Bar, the Hop Yard has television sets most often turned to sporting events and the place caters to both adult players and younger soccer, baseball and soccer players and their parents from the Pleasanton Sports Park players just back of the restaurant. It's the only food and beverage facility with a back door that leads to the Sports Park, including a spacious parking lot Nostrand shares with the fans.
Nostrand opened the Hop Yard in 1993 after trying his hand at commercial real estate. A graduate of Amador Valley High in 1981, he played the outfield when the Dons baseball team won the EBAL championship in 1980. That was 30 years ago and Nostrand has been an active booster of the school, and was on hand this year when the team did it again, although Nostrand wonders why it took so long with all the good teams Amador has fielded since he graduated. He went on to UC Berkeley, finishing in 1986 with a degree in social science with a business emphasis. He was lured to a real estate firm in Sacramento and plied the trade for several years in a market that was not much better than it is today, in other words terrible, he recalls.
He was at Berkeley when laws controlling brewing were lightened and microbrewers such as Triple Rock and Buffalo Bills quickly gained popularity. He not only enjoyed the varied tastes micro brewing offered, but he knew he could do better. With friends Barry Mori and Rob Hildebrand, he found the space he's now in and where the three are still in charge—Hildebrand as the food service expert and Mori as a partner. Hop Yard now offers 30 differently crafted beers on tap, the most of any alehouse in the Tri-Valley, and a full menu that has won numerous awards over the last 17 years. Although he hires high school students to help wait on tables, the Hop Yard's main appeal is to an older, sports-loving crowd.
It's also become a magnet for quasi-political get-togethers of all stripes, from gatherings of Democrats in support of Congressman Jerry McNerney to Republicans who supported former Dublin Mayor and state Assemblyman Guy Houston. A side room off the main restaurant serves the purpose with a television set tuned to election results for the jubilant—or sometimes disappointed crowds that fill the banquet hall. Although not a politician, himself, Nostrand is active in the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce's political action committee and in 2003 was chairman of the chamber. He's no longer on the chamber board although he seldom misses on of its government affairs and economic reporting committee meetings. He also was a member of the city's Economic Vitality Committee for several years.
After Nostrand and his wife Julie adopted two daughters in China—Carly and Maggie--he turned in his campaign shoes for more domestic interests after work. A few days ago, he was at a party for their dance club and he's also a regular at swim lessons and their soccer games, usually, and conveniently, played just out the back door from the Hop Yard.
Now 47, friends keep pressing him to seek a spot on the Planning Commission or run for City Council. That's not likely this year with six candidates already n the race for mayor and City Council, but he doesn't rule out the possibility sometime in the not-too-distant future. Seeing the crowd that turned out for a patio opening, he might have a supportive constituency already.