Firkin Excellent!

The 10th Annual Firkin Fest was held this past weekend at Triple Rock Brewery in Berkeley. Benefiting the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, the festival drew an enthusiastic crowd of cask beer fans. For Merideth and I, this was our first ever event at the Berkeley beer institution.

Cask beer ruled the day at Triple Rock

Joined by Kevin Clark, the brewer at our local Peter B’s Brewpub, his wife Corrie and our friend and contributor, Renee Brincks, we arrived at Triple Rock just after the festival opened. Admittedly, I was a bit worried that the cozy brewpub would be wall to wall people. It did get crowded at times, but was never unmanageable. In the end, it was an enjoyable afternoon of hanging out with Bay Area friends and drinking good beer.

There were 25 gravity firkins on hand, including Kevin’s 40 Acre Pale Ale. Over the course of a long afternoon, Merideth and I managed to try almost all of the brews.

A good day in Berkeley...

My star was the GABF Gold Medal winning Three Flowers IPA from Marin Brewing, which brewer Arne Johnson admitted was five flowers in this incarnation. Merideth singled out Erin Go Bragh, an Irish-style Stout from Oakland Brewing Company, as her favorite. At 3.9%, it also gave her an opportunity to support Lew Bryson’s Session Beer Day.

Other notable brews included…

  • Drake’s Gold, Drake’s Brewery
  • Hopsickle, Moylan’s Brewery
  • Magnum P.A., Iron Spring Brewery
  • 40 Acre Pale Ale, Peter B’s Brewpub
  • O.T.I.S., Firehouse Brewery
  • East Bay IPA, Ales Industries
  • NZ Hop Riot, High Water Brewing
  • Twist of Fate, Moonlight Brewing

View all the images from our day at Firkin Fest…

East Bay Urban Beer Hike

When we were up in Seattle in July, our friends Chris and Dave told of us of their November plans to visit the Bay Area. These plans included an East Bay Urban Beer Hike. As proud former East Bay-ers, the opportunity to spend a beer day in our old stomping grounds was a chance we couldn’t turn down.

Berkeley's beer landmark...

The planned hike consisted of six stops and covered seven miles, from downtown Berkeley to downtown Oakland. The stops included one brewery and five beer bars, with two of the stops being new to us.

On a chilly, yet sunny Sunday morning, we got a jump on the hike by walking the little over a mile from our Oakland waterfront hotel to the Lake Merritt BART station. Our destination was downtown Berkeley and one of the landmarks of the East Bay beer scene: Triple Rock Brewery.

Single Hop Experience Pacific

Our group gathered at “America’s Oldest Original Brewpub” and prepared for the day’s hike by getting some food in our bellies.

There was collective disappointment that IPAX Ale, Triple Rock’s West Coast IPA, wasn’t on that day. But this disappointment was quickly tempered by the Single Hop Experience Pacific Gem. A 5.2% ABV Pale Ale, S.H.E. was a citrusy, easy-drinking beer to start the Urban Beer Hike.

Crossing the Berkeley campus

The longest leg of the day’s hike, approximately two and a half miles, took us from downtown Berkeley to the Rockridge neighbor just across the border in Oakland. Being familiar with this ground, Merideth and I took the group on the scenic route across the Berkeley campus. We regaled our fellow urban beer hikers with stories about our wonderful university and our own college years. From the Berkeley campus, we hiked straight down College Ave, reaching Barclay’s Pub in approximately an hour.

Enjoying a Moonlight Bony Fingers at Barclay's

Barclay’s was packed with regulars watching the hometown Raiders play the hated Broncos. As always, it was great chatting with old friends.

After ordering a round of beers, our group crowded around the side bar. One of the joys of Barclay’s is that they consistently have Moonlight’s brews on tap. My first beer was the wonderful dark lager, Death and Taxes followed up with the equally wonderful Bony Fingers Black Lager. Our Seattle pair got to enjoy the CME IPA from Oakland’s newest brewery, Oakland Brewing Company.

Auto racing, not bowling

It was a short walk from Barclay’s down to Telegraph Avenue and our next stop, Lanesplitter Pizza and Pub. I assume most people make the same mistake our group did and think the name refers to bowling. Walking into Lanesplitter and seeing the Racing 5 decoration, we quickly realized that our association was mistaken. The theme was auto racing, not bowling.

An unexpected surprise!

Slices of pizza were ordered, as well as a pitcher of Sierra Nevada Celebration. Confusion ensued as the beer delivered was a golden/amber color as opposed to the deep amber color of Sierra’s holiday staple.Tasting the beer, it clearly wasn’t Celebration. Dave took the reigns and went to talk our waitress. After a minute or so, he came back with the keg cap. Much to Merideth’s and my surprise, the beer was our Sierra Nevada California Common!

Six months on, our Beer Camp beer was still drinkable but it did lack the brightness it had when it was fresh. Even so, it was special to have what was most likely some of the last draft pints (we still have some bottles).

The Trappist in downtown Oakland

Once on Telegraph Avenue, it was a straight shot to downtown Oakland. The perfect stop half way on this jaunt was Commonwealth Cafe and Public House. Unfortunately, we arrived an hour after their mid-afternoon Sunday closing time. Disappointed, we proceeded on for the 20 blocks left to our next destination.

Just around dusk, we reached the main artery of downtown Oakland: Broadway. It was only a few more blocks before our group was walking through the front door of The Trappist.

Oakland's own Urban People's Common Lager

Although The Trappist is a Belgian-themed establishment, it was a hometown brew that we came to drink. Our group ordered a round of Linden Street Brewery’s flagship beer Urban People’s Common Lager, a delicious California Common. Unfortunately, the beer didn’t pair so well with the 4505 Meats’ chicharrones.

I followed up my Linden Street brew with another lager from Moonlight, the light-bodied Lunatic Lager.

Beer Rev has a few hoppy beers on...

From The Trappist, it was only a short five block walk down Broadway to our final stop of the Urban Beer Hike: Beer Revolution. I have to admit, for Merideth and I it was our third stop at Beer Rev during our two day trip to the Bay Area.

The previous day was “Hopslosion” at Beer Revolution, where over 40 hoppy brews were on tap. Sunday, the hoppy choices were down to a paltry 30-something beers.

The happy hikers at the finish line

At the finish line, our group drank probably the consensus beer of the day, Drake’s Alpha Sessions. Light-bodied and hopped like their Double IPAs with Citra, Simcoe and German Magnum, Alpha Sessions is a delicious 3.8% ABV session beer. The perfect beer to end a long day of hiking and drinking.

Missing one stop was a disappointment, but our Urban Beer Hike reminded us what a worthy beer destination the East Bay is. Next time, a Berkeley or Oakland only hike is a definite possibility.

View all the images from our East Bay Urban Beer Hike

Map of the six locations

View Easy Bay Urban Beer Hike in a larger map