A Saturday Bay Area Beer-cation

The last couple of weekends, we have been busily working away at home. While Merideth has been diligently laboring on the book, I’ve had the fun task of pulling the forest of weeds that grew over the wet winter here on the Central Coast. But all work and no play makes for dull beer geeks. It also makes for cranky beer geeks. We needed a break and an old friend visiting the Bay Area gave us the perfect opportunity for a daylong beer-cation.

The newest stop on Oakland’s beer trail

Mid-Saturday morning, we were on the road for the two hour drive to Oakland. Our first stop of the day was Oakland’s newest beer destination, Beer Revolution.

When we first visited San Francisco’s City Beer Store, we left wondering, probably like many beer geeks, whether we could do something similar in our town. The formula, perfected by Craig and Beth, is brilliantly simple: a nice, friendly couple pouring and selling great beer. Beer Revolution’s Fraggle and Rebecca did just that across the Bay in Oakland.

Beer Revolution has the winning formula

This was our second visit. We first visited for the Cheers to Women in Beer event during SF Beer Week. That was also Beer Revolution’s first week open. That day, we didn’t get the chance to talk much with Fraggle and Rebecca as everyone was busy with their own very crazy and hectic SF Beer Week day. We looked forward to this visit being a bit more relaxed, giving us the chance to chat.

Enjoying a HaandBryggeriet Dark Force

We arrived shortly before opening, so we patiently waited on Beer Revolution’s spacious deck enjoying some sun therapy. Fraggle opened the door a few minutes before noon and greeted us cheerily. Walking in, we were serenaded by the classic sounds of old school punk. We grabbed a couple of seats at the bar.

Beer Revolution had a midweek Stout Fest so the 13 taps still leaned towards that dark brew. Merideth displayed her typical slow decision making process, but I quickly had my first beer of the day in front of me, Drake’s Belgian-style Triple. Merideth eventually decided upon Lost Abbey’s Devotion, a Belgian-style Blonde Ale. While enjoying our beers, we window-shopped at the beer refrigerators. The bottle selection at Beer Revolution has many of the ‘usual suspects’ found in any good beer retail store, as well as some special treats. I was particularly happy to see a number of Mikkeller beers that I had been seeking.

We chatted with Fraggle, who we were familiar with from our days living in Oakland. The conversation was as varied as the beer selection: their first few months in business, beer, beer geek travels, mutual friends, and punk music. Later, Rebecca appeared and she joined in our conversation.

It’s hard not to compare Beer Revolution to City Beer Store, so I’m not even going to pretend that I didn’t do it in my head. Suffice to say, both establishments share the same reason for being our kind of beer place. It doesn’t take rocket science to have a great beer selection. What makes both these places special and worthy of our repeat business is the people behind the bar.

Unfortunately, we had a lunch date at Barclays so it was time to move on. We bade our farewells to the busy couple and promised we would be back soon.

Yes, I still fill out my ‘Parliament’ card

It was a short drive up to Barclays for our reunion lunch, the main reason for the day’s beer-cation. We met up with our friends Martina, who now lives in Switzerland, and Rowdy, our Yoda. Along with Merideth, they were former Barclays employees together. In fact, Martina reminded Merideth that she was Martina’s trainer.

It’s always nice to get together with friends from our early beer geek days. We talked about the early days, missing old friends, and our current lives.

After Barclays, it was time to hop on BART for the City portion of our beer-cation. We were meeting our friend Renee at the aforementioned City Beer Store. Besides being a regular stop on any Bay Area trip, we needed to visit City Beer because midweek they had the elusive Bear Republic Racer X on draft. I was hoping (dreaming really) there would still be some around on Saturday for me. If not, I knew I could get a glass of Avery’s Maharaja Imperial IPA.

A good-sized Saturday afternoon crowd already had City Beer buzzing when we walked in. Merideth and I said ‘Hi’ to Craig and Beth who were typically very busy serving their eager customers. Luckily, a couple was just leaving one of the high bistro tables in the front, so we quickly grabbed it. Shortly, after we arrived we were joined by Renee.

Odonata’s Beersel

Not surprising, Racer X was gone and I even passed on Maharaja, for the time being. Instead, I found solace in Beersel, an American Sour Ale from Sacramento’s newest brewery, Odonata. Our friend Peter Hoey, formerly of Sacramento Brewing, is not only the brewer at Odonata, but also one of our favorite brewers. I was excited to try my second Odonata beer.

Using Drie Fonteinen’s yeast, Peter has produced a wonderful brew in Beersel. Tart with the right amount of funk is really the only way I can describe this sour gem. Not knowing when, or if, I would get to try this beer again, I ordered a second.

Our party grew for a short time. We were joined by some of the crew from New Brew Thursday who were gallivanting around the Bay Area with Ashley Rouston, better known as The Beer Wench. They took time out from a beery day to pop into City Beer to share a beer with us. It was good to meet our San Diego beer geek brethren.

We had one more stop on our beer-cation but I still had time for one more at City Beer. From a sour bomb to a hop bomb, I finished up with Avery’s Maharaja Imperial IPA.

The Public House is located at the home of the SF Giants

Our last stop was another new entry into the Bay Area beer scene, the Public House at AT&T Park. There has been a lot of buzz about Public House and not just for the extensive beer list. The food has also garnered a lot of attention, as the menu was created by James Beard award-winning chef Traci Des Jardins. Not being foodies, we had actually never heard of her, but the talk of pork cracklings, sausages and Humphry Slocombe ice cream had us salivating.

One of the bars at Public House

Being in a ballpark, the Public House is huge and sprawling. The Giants were down in Los Angeles so the crowd was sparse on Saturday evening. Renee, Merideth and I grabbed one of the outside tables to sit in the somewhat pleasant evening weather of the City.

As I said, the beer list is pretty extensive. Twenty-two taps are augmented by two cask beers and another 24 bottles. While there are a few selections for the non beer geek in the baseball crowd, the rest of the beer list would do any beer bar proud. The draft beers were well-represented by the best of California brews while the bottles leaned towards a European selection.

The house cask beer, Billy Sunday Bitter

But I was at the Public House to try one beer. The house cask beer, Billy Sunday Bitter, is made by Dave McLean at Magnolia. Being a huge fan a English cask ale and Dave’s beers, I was excited to try, in Dave’s words, a “proper bitter.”

And I have to say in a day filled with Imperial this, Imperial that and Belgian-style beers, it was nice to finish with a pleasant 4.9% English-style Bitter. Dave proved again why he is my favorite San Francisco brewer.

As for the food, we felt like we were on a ‘No Reservations’ episode except we didn’t have a Chase Sapphire card to put it all on. Things started slowly when we were informed that they were out of Pork Cracklings. We quickly got over that huge setback and dish after dish was ordered. Merideth and Renee devoured the plate of Deviled Eggs while I worked over the Pigs in a Blanket and Housemade Pickled Vegetables. Then there was my BLT, Merideth’s Pork Sliders and Renee’s Mac-n-Cheese. Desert was Humphry Slocombe Chocolate Smoked Salt Ice Cream and Acme Butterscotch Pudding.

I could easily see ourselves returning to the Public House except for the fact that we don’t go to baseball games and we are rarely in that part of the City. But the chance of Pork Cracklings and a pint of Billy Sunday Bitter might require another visit. I’ll be sure to call first to make sure they have both.

We left the Public House well satisfied. It was a perfect ending to a great day.

Enjoying a semi-pleasant April evening in the City


2 Replies to “A Saturday Bay Area Beer-cation”

  1. Informative, entertaining….all the things I expect from a beergeek blog. I’m anxious to try to do a ballgame AND beer visit at the Public House and to try the Magnolia beer.

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