Hyper-Local Beer Bust

Sampling three East Bay microbrews.

If one needed proof that Oakland is a beer town, the scene last Wednesday at Jack London Square’s Beer Revolution (464 3rd St., Oakland) offered an abundance. Inside, at least two dozen revelers were making a night of it, as if Wednesday were Thursday, which is of course the new Friday. It was a cool, breezy night, but even the front patio was partly full. As its name implies, the place serves only beer, and lots of it: some eighteen options on tap, plus another five hundred or so in the small bar’s sizeable coolers.

But it’s not just Oakland. For decades, the entire East Bay region has been a major player in the national microbrew scene. Independent breweries, some quite renowned, are still scattered across Alameda and Contra Costa counties. So when two of my compatriots and I walked into Beer Revolution asking for three East Bay draughts, I knew we wouldn’t be disappointed.

Ignoring standard beer-tasting protocol of proceeding from light to dark, we started with Ale Industries‘ Rye’d Piper ($4). The Concord brewery, which refers to its hometown as “an up and coming beer mecca,” currently produces three house beers: Orange Kush, a wheat beer; Uncle Jesse’s, a pale ale; and Rye’d Piper, a red rye. Rich in spice with a subtly hoppy character that counterbalanced its roasted malt flavor, the Rye’d Piper had a bitter, dry finish. Interestingly, it was almost odorless. But with its deep burgundy color and cloudy consistency, and served in a squat Belgian-style glass, it registered plenty of sensory appeal. Appropriately for a starter, it tipped the scales at a modest 5.8 percent alcohol-by-volume.

Lightest in color among the three was by far the most alcoholic: Drake’s Brewing‘s Denogginizer Imperial IPA. Imperial IPAs are bolder than standard IPAs, and this one, a double, proved its ability to denogginize even the most clear-headed sipper. To the San Leandro brewery’s credit, the beer’s 10 percent alcohol rating, beating Drake’s standard IPA’s 7 percent, was obscured by a fruity nose. Its golden red hue, almost the color of honey, likewise blunted the hefty brew’s impact. Thanks to its exceptionally sweet character, I declared it the milkshake of IPAs, and my fellow tasters agreed vociferously: “Yeah, write that down!” We all enjoyed it, but being an avowed hop head, I could’ve stood for a bit more bitterness.

We closed with a beer from one of my favorite Bay Area breweries, Oakland’s Linden Street Brewery. It doesn’t get much more local than this — Linden Street’s operations are located just down the street from Beer Revolution, less than a mile away. Both of its beers were on tap: the flagship Urban Peoples’ Common Lager and the “dark horse” Burning Oak Black Lager. We settled on the latter. Its color lands somewhere between chocolate-brown and jet-black, much like a stout, but thinner and with all the carbonation of a lager. Chocolate malt imparted a nutty, smoky taste and smell that was well-pronounced, almost pointed. A suitable dessert beverage, the Burning Oak Black Lager made for a fitting end to our brief but impressive tour of East Bay beers — a bittersweet moment tempered by the comforting knowledge that there were plenty more left to enjoy.

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