Bay Area natives boast about being able to identify the difference between a saison and a farmhouse ale, or a chocolate stout versus a porter. This contemporary sommelier attitude towards micro-brewed beer reigns supreme in the Bay Area, especially in Oakland and Berkeley. We select the best from this hot spot of pubs and taverns, each with their own spin on what beer mongers enjoy.
To say that their selection is overwhelming is an understatement. Beer Revolution has more beer on tap and in bottles than any other place in the Bay. Of course they allow you to taste a few, but the small place is often small and crowded. This is a great place to go to experiment with uncharted territory because the bartenders have tasted everything and are very direct and descriptive when explaining the flavor of a beer. If you explain what you’re in the mood for, they will happily get you a taster or recommend something new. They also have an awesome selection of bottled choices as well, organized so you can either find what you’re looking for or discover a beer you’ve never seen before.
Cato’s is a favorite in the Piedmont Avenue neighborhood of Oakland. The clientele varies from families with children to sports fans, beer enthusiasts, and trivia lovers. It’s a great place whether you want a meal or just to grab a brew. Their blackboard changes daily and there is the option of getting a glass or pitcher size. Cato’s is also right down the street from other great places including Fenton’s Creamery, the Piedmont Theatre and many restaurants and coffee shops. Their food is delicious and they have favorites like pizza by the double slice and whole pies. It’s always exciting to see what specials they have cooked up for the day, including a pot pie, soup, and dessert of the day among other sandwiches and specials. They provide entertainment and often have live music on Fridays or Saturdays. Monday nights are also busy due to their trivia night where a pitcher with the beer of your choice is amongst the prizes.
Øl Beercafe is a favorite in the Bay for beer and pizza. They don’t serve anything more than a few select appetizers, but they have an arrangement with Skippolini’s Pizza, next door, for small pizza deliveries. Many rare and expensive sours can be found here and they also let you mix and match a six-pack to take home that is 10 percent off. There are varying prices for the beers that are opened here and another price to take the same beer home, so be sure to check that out as well. The atmosphere is dark and located right in downtown Walnut Creek where you can head out to a movie or go to dinner or shop for a bit.
The Trappist not only has the best grilled cheese ever, but they have two bars with different taps. You can order from the front or rear bar. The bartenders are more than friendly and allow you to taste and recommend different beers depending on what you like. They also serve flights and when the weather is nice, it’s lovely to sit outside at one of their picnic benches with a big group of friends. They also have a smaller location on College Avenue that is primarily a bottle shop, but also worth a look.
E.J. Phair’s always has its own beer on tap, which tends to change each season along with a wide selection of beers in the bottle and wine. In addition, they experiment and add a new beer every now and then. Their bottle menu has a wide variety of stouts, saisons, farmhouse ales and sours. They have typical bar food – burgers, fries and nachos, along with some specials that change every day as well. Favorites include their quesadillas, fish tacos, and frickles for an appetizer.
The first time heading out to Port Costa it can feel like the start of a dreadful horror movie. The only route to take is winding and goes all the way through the very small town to the water where the railroad tracks are. Port Costa is an extremely small town and it is both creepy and cool to see. The Warehouse Cafe is a bar with one pool table and jukebox, and a huge polar bear encased in the main room. There is also a thrift store in the next room. It is an eclectic surf and turf restaurant if you’re interested in eating. Otherwise there is a smaller late night menu with items such as turkey and cheese, hot dogs, and other packaged snacks for the slightly tipsy. They have select beers on tap and bottled.
Jupiter’s is another popular spot located right across the street from the downtown Berkeley BART. It’s a great place to go for dinner and beer, but be careful on the weekends because it does tend to get crowded. They have their own beers in addition to other popular favorites. The upstairs seating area has a great view of the beer garden below and on a sunny afternoon it’s enjoyable to sit outside whether you are coming for food or with a big group. It is always bustling with people and just remember that you might want to bring a sweater or light jacket if you are seated outside at night.
Cooperage not only have amazing food, such as their cobb salad or signature burger, but they tend to have a very wide selection of beer as well. It has made a good addition to the Lamorinda neighborhood, seeing as they have a classy atmosphere and a wide variety of beers on tap.
Located in North Beach in San Francisco, La Trappe is a go-to when in that neighborhood. The location has a large selection of abbey ales and quadruples, but there is something in the big, leather-bound menu for everyone as well. There is seating both upstairs where the brightness of the day can shine through ornate windows. When dining or sipping at a quadruple downstairs, the ambiance is dim lighting with large comfortable booths. It can feel like going back in time when heading down the castle-like stairs.
Faction Brewery is relatively new to the Bay, but has some of the best and most interesting beer. Flights are a must here and beer lovers are encouraged to taste everything. They brew in-house, and on clear days, have an excellent view of the San Francisco skyline. They also have special days where food vendors come and sell their specialties outside. They have had some awesome businesses serve corndogs and BBQ and these vendors tend to change each week. This is a dog and kid friendly establishment and their outdoor atmosphere is like a very large friendly picnic on a pier.