Looking for Great Beer? Go East (Bay)

Graduate Division

San Francisco has a fantastic beer scene, with a host of well-established beer bars, breweries and brewpubs, as well as plenty of successful, pioneering newcomers. But for anyone who loves beer, the fun doesn't end at the city limits. For years, brewers in the East Bay have created a parallel world of craft beer, one that is both innovative and sometimes just plain irreverent. Berkeley, Oakland and even far-flung spots like Walnut Creek host brewpubs, beer bars and taprooms that rival anything in San Francisco. Below are my favorite East Bay spots and a rough guide to how to get there.

Drake’s Brew Company

1933 Davis Street, Building 177

San Leandro, CA 94577

(510) 568-BREW

Drake’s is a great brewery, and the beer produced here exemplifies the inventive and ever so slightly off-kilter character of the East Bay beer scene. The selection is extensive and excellent in quality, ranging from sessionable crowd-pleasers to Imperial-strength stuff with such apt names as Denogginizer and the Jolly Rodger.

It's worth noting that their annual limited-release Hopocalypse Black Label Triple IPA beats out the venerable (and great but a bit overhyped) Russian River Pliny the Younger, in my mind. The brewery has a taproom, and some of  its crowd favorites are widely distributed. Located a touch over a mile from the San Leandro BART station.

Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse

1920 Shattuck Ave.

Berkeley, CA 94704

(510) 843-2739

Among the first brewpubs in the United States (it opened way back in 1986), this is a great spot for beer and food, and especially for beer. Triple Rock specializes in English and American pub ales and presents a great lineup of West Coast-style pales and IPAs.

The beer is spotless in quality, with great seasonal offerings and occasional single-hop showcase beers as well. The roof deck also makes a perfect spot to hunker down for the day on an autumn weekend and enjoy the hoppy goodness. Triple Rock’s location near the downtown Berkeley BART station makes it very accessible.

Black Diamond Brewing Company

2470 Bates Ave.

Concord, CA 94520

(925) 356-0120

Concord is definitely a bit removed from the San Francisco city limits, but a trip to Black Diamond is well worth it. Brew master Derek Smith is talented at his craft, a genuinely nice guy and puts together a worthy lineup of ales born of his brewing experience both in the United States and England. I’m fond of the Jagged Edge Double IPA, with an assertive hoppy bitterness balanced perfectly with a malty front end. A set of seasonals and barrel-aged creations keep things funky and interesting year-round. Black Diamond distributes, but if you can't find it, it’s worth the drive if you can do so responsibly.

Linden Street Brewery

95 Linden St.

Oakland, CA 94607

(510) 812-1264

A relative youngster on the East Bay beer scene, Linden Street is a cool mixture of the very old and the very new, and epitomizes the urbane ethos of the newest generation of craft brewers. Its approach celebrates the history of Bay Area beer-making while at the same time innovating and improving upon it. Linden's specialty is the lager, and it has managed to create a perfect niche for itself on the shoulders of a golden-hued California Common (also known as a steam beer, like Anchor's eponymous brew) dubbed the Urban People’s Common Lager.  Its second at bat is my personal favorite: the roasty, eminently sessionable Burning Oak Black Lager. The brewery has also rounded out its offerings with a couple of new selections and now boasts a nice taproom in which to serve them. Under a mile from West Oakland BART, but do mind the (mostly vacant or industrial lots) neighborhood.

Beer Revolution

464 Third Street 

Oakland, CA 94607

(510) 452-2337

Beer Revolution is a beer bar, so it doesn't make its own beer. It just has the best of everyone else's. Beer Revolution took the beer bar/bottle service formula pioneered in the city by Toronado and City Beer Store and perfected it, rapidly becoming a focal point of the East Bay beer scene. This spot boasts an ever-changing (read: always fresh) lineup of 43 taps, plus three large deli fridges of bottles that can be bought and consumed on site with no corkage. Add a generous front deck, a spacious interior and knowledgeable barkeeps, and you have beer nirvana.  Beer Revolution also hosts brewer meet-and-greets and other special events, including occasional guided “Sunday Beer Skool” tasting sessions with SF Examiner beer journalist and beer judge Jen Muehlbauer. It's a worthy spot to experience Oakland's beer renaissance, and is accessible from 12th Street BART with a walk.