The Banks Vault is a new wine and craft beer bar that also serves small bites and Sunday brunch. This is the place that got me into Campfire Stout, so I decided to stop by and chat with Joe Banks, the owner, and pick his brain about all things beer and wine related.
Sarah Browne: What made you decide to open The Banks Vault?
Joe Banks: I’ve been super passionate about beer and wine since I moved to California. I lived in Utah for ten years and went to school there. I moved out here, living in wine country, decided I wanted to take advantage of that. I love it so much that I wanted to share that passion with other people. I like to travel—I’ve been to Healdsburg, Paso Robles, all around wine country, and I bring what I like back to share with people in Livermore.
SB: Was there any particular winery or brewery that inspired you?
JB: The first winery I went to was Concannon, because it’s like the core one in Livermore, but then what I found was that a lot of the boutique winemakers have a lot of passion. It’s an art, it’s a craft, same with the beer. You have a lot of cool breweries further north like Lagunitas, but then there are also a lot of good local breweries like Altamont and Eight Bridges. I really like the artistry of wine and beer making, and the talent that goes into that. Everybody has a different take on it, so you can have the same type of beer or wine (like a red or an IPA), but it can have so many different flavors based on the person who’s making it.
SB: How did you think of the name?
JB: Two ways: We have an old bank vault in the back of our store that was a secondary vault for the Bank of Italy [now The Independent building], and then my last name is Banks, so we came up with The Banks Vault.
SB: How did you decide on the location?
JB: I was looking for a place for about a year. I knew I wanted to be in a downtown area, I didn’t know if that was going to be in Pleasanton, or Danville, or whatnot, but personally, I always come out to Livermore. Livermore is an up-and-coming spot, so when I really wanted to focus on my area search I chose Livermore. Then this opportunity sort of fell into my lap where all the wheels were in motion and I was able to step in and take over from the previous owner and put my spin on it.
SB: Do you have a favorite stout?
JB: Yeah, there are a lot of good stouts out there! Right now, we have Velvet Merlin, we have Belching Beaver, we’ve had Campfire Stout. There’s so many good beers out there, I can’t say which one’s my favorite.
SB: How about IPA?
JB: I love what breweries are doing now with revolving hops—trying different hops in the recipes. You can have two beers of the same type but they’re completely different based on the ingredients that go inside them. So it could be passionfruit inside of it or it could just be really hoppy, so I can’t say which one’s my favorite right now.
SB: Is there any drink you’re really into lately?
JB: Actually, we’ve had a lot of people come in and taste us on rosés, and I’ve started to really dig the rosé scene now so we’ve bought some to share with our guests and I think that’s kind of the trend—it’s hot outside. You have a nice glass of rosé, transfer that into a nice glass of red, so that’s what I’ve been feeling right now.
SB: Oh, cool! Any brands in particular?
JB: No particular brands right now… we’ve had some good ones here from local wineries, as well as the ports from France and we’re going to start doing flights so we can have our guests come in and say, “Ok, great, try a rosé from France, a rosé from Livermore, and a rosé from Napa or Sonoma”, and then you guys get to figure out which ones you like the best vs us telling you this is the best wine, you should try it.
SB: I noticed some of the pictures on Yelp of the mimosa flights.
JB: Yeah! We’ve done that every Sunday, and it’s a rotating series. We don’t have the same flight every week so we keep it fun. Kaitlyn is our mimosa specialist. On Saturday she comes in here, she creates what she wants our flight to be, we post it on Instagram and Facebook so that people know what the flight’s going to be that Sunday. We’ve done things from sorbet, to different flavors. For Valentine’s Day we did a chocolate mimosa flight, which was interesting, but it was awesome.
SB: That’s all my questions. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JB: I did financial advising for sixteen years, so I’m a really good numbers guy, but the best decision I made (and that Kaitlyn helped me make) was creating a good staff. I feel like my staff is hands-down one of the best staff in Livermore right now—super friendly, super experienced. I surrounded myself with people that had other specialties so that I could delegate to those and then focus on what I do best and I let my team focus on what they do best. Our guests are really appreciative of the service that we provide and we try to go the extra mile for them.
So, what do you think? Will you be giving The Banks Vault a try? Let us know in the comments!