In the midst of this waterlogged winter, another San Francisco Beer Week has washed over us. Here’s where I dipped my toes into this year’s raging currents.
I Need A Miracle DIPA Release, Pacific Standard Taproom, Berkeley
With the ever-increasing supply of beers from an ever-increasing industry, the problem of where they’re going to sell this stuff is becoming more acute. There are only so many taps and shelves, right?
One solution — create your own taproom.
Sierra Nevada has the Torpedo Room in Berkeley. Firestone Walker’s new space in Venice Beach recently opened. Wood’s Brewing has four locations in the Bay Area — three in the City and one in Oakland. Not to mention Fieldwork’s outposts in Napa and Sacramento, with more to come in San Mateo and Monterey.
Into the fray comes Pacific Standard, Half Moon Bay Brewing’s new taproom just around the corner from Downtown Berkeley BART.
I got there not long after the event started at Noon, and while there were a decent amount of patrons, the vibe was nice and relaxed. A chill way to start off Beer Week, and a great opportunity to dive into some not-so-common HMB offerings.
The best part, all tap selections are offered in 5-oz. pours. Much easier for sampling.
Which came in handy, ‘cuz who knew I’d wind up winning the lottery? The taproom was gearing up for a release event later in the evening, so I got to try several fresh kegs that were tapped as I sipped:
Everyone’s Doing It Hazy Pale Ale — yes, there’s much wringing-of-hands over hazy beers. Brewers chasing fads again. For me, the bottom line is, is it good? This one is. Tangy, juicy, bright, quenching. Haze away!
Crazy for Coconuts Porter — with toasted coconuts, which tempers the sweetness and adds nuttiness. Nice!
Belgian White — this collaboration with Richmond’s Benoit Casper was spot-on, with a floral quality that lingered on the finish.
I Need a Miracle DIPA — another collaboration, this with Peter Hoey of Brewer’s Supply Group. Solid as DIPAs go, but this 8.8% brew drinks too easily. Could be trouble, so be careful.
BTW, a tip. They do have a bottle shop, but due to license restrictions, they can only sell their own brews to go. Any other brewers’ bottles must be consumed on-site.
Triple Rock Mister Stout Imperial Stout Flight, Berkeley
Around the corner and up a few blocks is the venerable Triple Rock, which opened back when the beers were still called microbrews (they’re coming up on 30 years). They recently expanded into the space next door.
The best thing — they didn’t try to replicate the nearly 30-year-old original brewpub. Cuz let’s face it, there’s no way to recreate decades of beer-soaked happiness without it looking like Disney Goes To Portland.
In fact, they did the opposite.
Sleek. Modern. Concrete. Bright. Complete with a roll-top window opening to Shattuck Avenue. Now, everyone can be happy. The regulars have the patina of back-in-the-day, while the hipsters can see-and-be-seen.
Plus, instead of hiding the fact that any new construction in the Bay Area has to be earthquake-proofed to infinity, they made it a design feature. Several massive pillars anchor the space, complete with gigantic slip-plates that can allow the upper floors to surf over the space if they need to. A not-so-subtle reminder that the East Bay is overdue to crumble. So drink up.
Which I definitely did. But, had I known the quantity of the flight, I might have limited my samples at Pacific Standard. Yikes.
The server placed the tasting sheet on the table. A four-pour Mister Stout vertical, ranging from the last 2015 barrel-aged keg to the freshly-brewed 2017. I figured, just four tastes, right? A few sips of each one to get an idea, and I’m good to go.
They had to be eight ounces each, ranging in ABV from 10.2 to 11.5%. Oy.
BTW, to my wife — no, I did NOT finish them. Got maybe 1/2 to 2/3 through each pour. Which was bad enough, I know. Thanks for driving me home.
Anyway, without getting too deep in the woods, my fav was the 2017. I know, blasphemy to you barrel-age enthusiasts. I enjoyed the freshly roasted coffee flavors and aromas, and the energetic acidity. The ’16/’17 blend gave a bit of softness, which I also enjoyed.
But the 2015? Too much caramelly sweetness for me. Sorry. When the barrel obliterates the beer, I’m just not a big fan.
Molina “Tavern” w/Headlands Brewing and Magnolia Brewing, Mill Valley
Yes, Marin can have a precious, bubble-like atmosphere at times. But they also have some damned nice restaurants, and the beers ain’t bad, either.
Anyway, this being my first experience with Molina, I can’t tell you about the normal mode of things. However, I did hear one regular ask “Why is it Ten after Six and the bar’s already full?”
For this event, they kept to a small-plate “tavern” menu, with recommended pours for each plate. But, for “drink what you like with the food you like” me, I chose just to try some nice beers and eat some good food.
Check on both counts.
My wife and I shared Crab Jambalaya and Poutine with Mushroom gravy. Both were outstanding. Plenty of crab and pulled pork in the just-right-spicy jambalaya, and the hearty fries held up to the rich poutine gravy. And I hate mushrooms, so if that’s not a recommendation right there, I don’t know what is.
The beers? Top notch, of course, especially the Light My Fire Smoked Helles, a special collaboration for Beer Week with Headlands and Santa Cruz’s New Bohemia Brewing. Smoke was evident, but only enough to enhance the crispness and dryness of the Helles. Tremendous.
BTW, the Magnolia Smokestack Lightning Imperial Stout with the Chocolate Stout Cake wasn’t half-bad, either, The black-licorice component of the stout seemed heavy-handed on it’s own. But with the cake? Verrrrry nice.
East Bay Beer Festival, Drake’s Dealership, Oakland
Um, I realize if I’m supposed to maintain some modicum of credibility, that I should keep a bit of detachment from my subjects, and not gush on endlessly.
But holy cow, was this event awesome!
Yes, I just said “awesome.” I don’t care.
Even more impressive, this is the inaugural event (and they even knew to use “inaugural” and not the fingernails-on-the-blackboard “first annual”).
I must admit, my euphoria about this event might have resulted in large part from plain ol’ Vitamin D.
You folks in the Midwest and Northeast probably have little sympathy, but this winter has been so saturated for us Northern California folks that we keep expecting the Arc to show up any day now. We’ve probably had rain at least 3/4 of this year so far, and most of that has been of the sideways variety.
This day, the sky turned an unusual shade of brilliant blue, and the warming rays came down upon us. Add to that some top-notch brews, and a DJ spinning some fine tunes (how is it not a party with Beck’s “E-Pro”?), and you have one fine event.
The East Bay, as the kids say, was representin’. (Do the kids still say that?)
And Drake’s Dealership was a great host. The Hive’s interior parking lot was the perfect space. Just enough room for all breweries, plus a few food options, while still keeping the complex open for patrons to visit the other businesses.
I’m too lazy to take notes on the beers I had, and who wants to work on day this nice? But I can tell you of a couple of standouts I tried.
Newcomers Gilman Brewing, out of Berkeley (natch), offered a wonderful Smoked Chipotle Porter called Speak of the Devil. Now, I’m a sucker for anything chipotle (I even kept going to the restaurants after their troubles), and saying Smoked Chipotle might seem redundant, but this was a tasty beverage. Chipotle smokiness, check. Porter foundation in evidence, check. Result — one fine beer.
The other was a Black IPA from Eight Bridges Brewing in Livermore. I know, the IPA category’s getting played out, and Black IPAs may be one of the earliest to jump the shark, but this straddled the line well between coffee-roastiness and hop-sharpness. Kind of changed with each sip, which to me equals balance.
Overall, though, I don’t remember a beer that wasn’t at least good. Maybe a bit too savory here, perhaps not malty-enough there. But overall, some fine brews were poured on a Chamber-of-Commerce day. Spring can’t some soon enough, but we had a taste of it on a stellar, beer-soaked afternoon.
Bottom line — stumble around pretty much anywhere in the East Bay and you’re bound to come across some fine local brews. Go out and get some, and be thankful for our local bounty!