Once upon a time, not very long ago, West Contra Costa County was a vast beer desert.
Aside from BevMo and maybe a restaurant here and there with a couple of interesting taps, it seemed the craft-beer boom was destined to pass us by.
Thankfully, those dark days are gone and many great beer destinations are now a reasonable Lyft ride away from Beerverse HQ.
I’ll detail my recent visit to Martinez soon. But first…
Richmond is now home to three breweries, each with its own distinct personality — playful and quirky, laid back and cozy, spacious and bustling.
What they all share in common, of course, is great beer.
They are summarized below, including food and to-go options.
Benoit Casper Brewing Company was the first of the new wave of breweries to call Richmond home, in 2014.
Red letters on the door are the only things distinguishing it from its neighbors in a small industrial park in the northern end of the Iron Triangle.
A DIY aesthetic abounds once the large roll-up door is opened to the long, narrow space. Built-in tables fold down from one wall, opposite the tiny bar, where you can sit on stools made from old yardsticks.
Like I said, DIY.
The 3.5-barrel brewery is tucked in the back, and most every other square-inch of space, including rafters, is occupied by barrels.
Fittingly, the “this is what my brewery would be like if I built one in my garage” vibe is completed by the smell of buttered popcorn wafting from the machine next to the bar. You can help yourself.
They offer up to eight beers on tap, and it’s all good. They’ve racked up all sorts of local awards, including a Gold Medal at the State Fair, 1st place at the Fairfax Brewfest with their Catahoula Coffee Stout, and very recently, a 1st place at the Triple Rock Firkin Fest with Trending Pumpkin, a pumpkin-spiced vanilla latte stout.
FOOD: none on-site, but you can bring your own, and they occasionally have food trucks. They do offer some snacks and, of course, the popcorn’s always free.
TO-GO: Cans/bottles — yes, but selection is often limited. Crowlers — yes. Growlers — yes, clean ones.
HOURS: Thu-Sat 3-8pm, Sun 3-7pm. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave.
If there is a brewery positioned to be a regional player, East Brother Beer Company is it.
The cavernous space, in back of an industrial park just north of the Port of Richmond, has loads of room for expansion. The seating area is polished, if unadorned. Plenty of dark-wood, picnic-style tables are spaciously arranged for families and large groups.
There’s even plenty of room for ping-pong, pool, and corn-hole. In fact, they have their own Rec League.
Marketing is on-point here. A giant “RICHMOND” is spelled out in block letters above the hanging sign at the entrance. Branding is carried through to the merchandise, tap handles, cans, and signage. All top-notch.
They’ve also been deliberate in terms of beer. While they’ve recently expanded into specialties like the Seasonal Lager Series and the 100-Pint Series, they’ve placed a major emphasis on their core styles — Red Lager, Bo Pils, Gold IPA, Red IPA, and Oatmeal Stout. All of which are solid, excellent examples of style. ESPECIALLY the Bo Pils. Outstanding.
East Brother is also the most aggressive of the Richmond breweries in terms of distribution. They can be found in cans and on drought throughout the Bay Area.
FOOD: bar snacks, food trucks out front daily (check their schedule), or bring your own.
TO-GO: Crowlers — no. Growlers — yes, and they do fill others.
HOURS: Wed-Thu 4-8pm, Fri 4-9pm, Sat Noon-9pm, Sun Noon-8pm. 1001 Canal Blvd.
I’ve waxed eloquently here before about Armistice Brewing Company. This sister-brother team has used ingenuity and creativity to create distinctive “clubs”, each with its own vibe, in a pretty small space.
If you want to be where the action is, there’s the bar. A TV usually has a game on, and giant overhead speakers crank out the tunes.
If you want spread out a bit and get some rays (when there are some), there’s the beer garden. A “living wall” frames a gravel-floored area filled with benches, a long wooden communal table, and a giant fire pit. There’s even a window to the bar.
Or, if you want to get above it all and chill out, there’s the Framily (Friends + Family) Room, a bright space upstairs with a long communal table, cushy benches, and views. Great for families.
The beers are as adventurous as the spaces. No core brands here. The Zoebels do very small batches of a lot of different stuff, which means the tap list changes frequently. Yes, your hazy IPAs are here, but so are your saisons, browns, pilsners, stouts, milds, and the occasional sour. And all of it good.
FOOD: Snacks, food trucks daily, or bring your own.
TO-GO: Cans and bottles — yes, on specific release days, which typically sell out quickly. Crowlers — yes. Growlers — yes, others, too, if clean and labels are covered.
HOURS: Sun-Thu Noon-10pm, Fri-Sat Noon-Midnight. 845 Marina Bay Pkwy., Ste. 1.