Along with the boom in local breweries comes a boom in cool places that serve them. Here’s a few I’ve checked out recently.
Perdition Smokehouse, Berkeley
Fortunately, they deliver.
I got there right at opening time on a Saturday, so I had my run of the place. Had some time to study the menu, and the staff cheerfully answered any questions.
Selections made (Pulled Pork Sandwich, Cowboy Beans, and an Almanac IPA), I ventured to the back patio, which I understand is kickin’ in the evenings. Found a shady spot under an umbrella and thoroughly enjoyed lunch.
Everything was wonderful. The pork was smoked just enough to be rich and tender. The Cowboy Beans, nearly chili-like and made with Beef Brisket burnt ends, could be a meal in themselves. And the IPA washed everything down beautifully.
I also finally enjoyed my first HenHouse beer — their Lil’ Chicken California Common. Tangy and light-bodied, it was the perfect finish to the meal. I need to get up to Petaluma soon, to visit them and the 50 other breweries running up there.
The road to Perdition is easy — just a few blocks from Downtown Berkeley BART on University. You’ll likely need the transportation if you get too far into the 40-tap beer list.
The Good Hop, Oakland
Add The Good Hop to the list, opened by industry veteran and brewer Melissa Myers in transitioning-by-the-second Uptown, about a five-block walk from 19th Street BART.
Pro-tip: if you want to try some extra-special beers but hate the crowds at tap-takeovers, stop by the next day. Most likely there will still be some great stuff left from the event, which you can enjoy in relative peace.
Such was my great fortune at Good Hop. San Diego’s Coronado Brewing held an Anniversary event the night before, and there was still lots of great Coronado brews to be had.
The 18th Anniversary DIPA was smoooooooooth. Well balanced and too easy to drink for its 10% ABV. And the Barrelman’s Brown was one of the richest, smokiest, most robust Brown Ales I’ve ever had. A great beer to ponder as it constantly evolved in the glass.
Oh, and since I donated to their fund-raising campaign, I got my name in, well, concrete.
Eight Bridges Brewing, Livermore
Pop-up restaurants? Passé. The hip places to be these days are industrial parks. Just follow the food trucks, and you’ll inevitably find yourself parked outside a recently-opened tap room.
Eight Bridges is in one such park, not far from the airport in Livermore (which seems only slightly behind Petaluma in the number of breweries flinging open their doors).
And what a great hangout. All sorts of people, from bushy-bearded tattoos to families to 20-somethings, were enjoying the brews. And of course, the brick-oven pizzeria was smoking away out front. They also encourage you to bring your own bites if they don’t have something available.
Oh, and the beers are good, too. I especially enjoyed the Golden Nektar Pils, with that great grainy pilsner finish and a touch of hop spice, and the smooth and rich O’Beardsley’s Stout. Nicely done.
Seabright Brewery, Santa Cruz
Venturing out of the Bay Area, Seabright is just as funky and comfortable as Santa Cruz itself. Open since 1988, it’s a granddaddy of the brewpub scene, and it has that slightly worn, relaxed, lived-in feel. I hadn’t been there in a good 20 years, and I can’t imagine it’s changed much. Which ain’t a bad thing.
On cask during my visit was their Hoppy Saison, which pulled off both the fruity yeastiness of the Saison with a hint of spice and bitterness from the hops, without muddling either style. And the cask mellowed it out nicely.
If you’re not worried about your caloric intake, go big and get the Seabright Style French Fries. This heart-attack-in-a-basket comes piled high with grilled onions.
And nacho cheese sauce.
And chipotle ranch dressing (you know, for dipping, since it’s so bland).
I survived, although I’m afraid to go back to my doctor.
Green Flash Thirsty Thursday, Extreme Pizza, Hercules
Finally, back home, I sampled some great Green Flash brews at my local Extreme Pizza.
My favorite from this San Diego-based brewery was the Le Freak Belgian DIPA. If you’re gonna do something that specific, you’d better do it well. And they do. It’s got that fruity Belgian yeastiness with a nice punch of hops. The more I try these, the more I enjoy the marriage of Belgian yeast strains and West Coast hops. Great stuff.
The East Village Pilsner was also good. I love a good, snappy finish, but this one almost clamps shut a little TOO quickly. You gotta love palate-scouring finishes to appreciate this one. Fortunately, I do.
Next up at Extreme — Drake’s. You KNOW I won’t miss this one.