Bay Area Beer Chronicles - Part 1

Last week I made my annual pilgrimage to the holy land, aka San Francisco, for SF Beer Week. SF may not be the best beer city, or even hold a candle to Portland, but it has more than enough attractions to keep any beer geek happy, and many of these things are unique to the city by the bay. Never are the Bay Area's beery treats more on display than during the annual SF Beer Week, which takes place in all the surrounding cities as well as SF itself. This year I made the trip with friend and Belmont Station manager, "Captain" Neil Yandow.

Upright Brewing started distributing beer in Northern California this year, so we decided to set up a couple of in-store tastings while we were in town. Thus, we had to drive some special rare kegs down. We left at approximately 4am on Wednesday morning, February 16th, with no stops but for gas and a quick snack, and made it into Oakland to drop off the first kegs in just 10 hours. By the time we reached Beer Revolution, a newish bottleshop and taphouse that's brightening up the Oakland scene, we were ready for a beer.

Beer Revolution just celebrated their 1 year anniversary, and I had not heard about them until owner Rebecca Boyles emailed us about how much she loved Upright beers and would love to have us in for SF Beer Week. I was only planning one tasting (at the City Beer Store) so we could enjoy the other events, but Rebecca's offer of an early stop on our last day and free barbecue on their patio was too good to pass up. Plus I wanted to check out Beer Revolution after looking it up and seeing Brian Yaeger's write-up in SF Weekly on the place.

While in town we made 3 visits to Beer Revolution, each of them wonderful and featuring a rotating cast of industry folk, from Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey/Port Brewing to Lagunitas owner Tony Magee playing guitar in the corner. Owner Rebecca Boyles was among the most friendly faces I have encountered in the bay, and I must have seen her hand out a dozen or more free beers to brewers and good patrons. Like many bars in the Bay Area, Beer Rev does not offer food (except for outdoor BBQ on Sundays), but its home in a slightly industrial blue collar neighborhood just outside of the center of the city is home to a variety of late night restaurants, including killer vegan soul food right next door.

Just part of Beer Revolution's taplist

BR has quite possibly the best most extensive taplist I saw in the Bay Area, and yes, that even includes the legendary Toronado. While primarily seen as a bottleshop, the vibe is far more San Francisco punk rock beer bar, ala the previously-mentioned Toronado, with 42(!) rotating taps, most of them beers I could never find anywhere else. The style and look of the place is purely punk rock beer geek dive bar; if that is a look, then these guys have it down pat. There are kegs laid around the entire place waiting to be tapped, posters, prints and stickers on the walls, and hop vines hanging from the ceilings. These guys also rotate their taps faster than the Horse Brass - on 3 separate occasions in just 5 days we found an astounding number of new taps. Perhaps this is partially because of their crazy good lineup of Beer Week events, but it was still awesome to sample sours from Lost Abbey and Thirsty Bear, exclusive Double IPAs from Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada, and awesome lagers from Moonlight. Rebecca lists some of the Rev's inspirations as Portland's own Saraveza and Horse Brass Pub, and their tables are even lined with beer caps like Saraveza's booths. My only single complaint about Beer Revolution is they are not serving in "Honest Pints", but even that is forgivable seeing as they never claim them to be pints and most of them are rare or special beers anyway. I foresee them becoming a nationally known beer beer bar in the next few years.

City Beer Store Photo by Bittermelon/Flickr

City Beer Store is the preeminent beer store/bottleshop in the Bay Area, kind of like the Belmont Station or Bottleworks of San Francisco. I had heard of it before ever going there, and was surprised upon entering by just how small the place is. The shop sits on the relatively busy Folsom Avenue in the heart of SF, but it has a tiny storefront that is almost invisible to those not in the know. Even having been there once before, we drove by the place 3 times before finding it. The business takes up a small shop in the bottom of a newer-looking apartment building. Thesign is rusted metal and does not stand out too well against the white of the building. Upon entering, you walk down a short set of stairs and are immediately surrounded by bottles both in coolers and on dry shelves, as well as tons of excess cases stacked up everywhere. To your left are a small bar and kegerator with 6 taps and seating for about the same number of folks. Around the room are a couple more small tables and stools. It is quite amazing what they do with this small space by welcoming a variety of brewers for in-store promotions and special releases. Like many other beer bars they do not offer food, but do make some cheese plates behind the counter.

from Bay Area Craft Beer

While we poured there Wednesday night I was afraid no one would show up. Our event was announced on relatively short notice and was up against a bevy of other huge beer events going on elsewhere, with brewers from Sierra Nevada, Anderson Valley, Ninkasi and more holding court at other establishments. My fears quickly subsided when I realized the City Beer Store was a bit like ground zero for the beer community here. It is where everyone goes to look for the best beers and rarest bottles, and they don't need 1,000 bottles to do that, just a small but well-curated 300 or so. The place quickly filled up, in fact it was so busy they had a doorman who eventually stopped people from entering because of overcrowding. This is not as impressive as it sounds in such a small space, but it was still gratifying to see people come and genuinely geek out on some of the sour barrel-aged blended beers we brought to pour on tap.

Still coming up in our SF Beer Week bay area coverage: Magnolia Brewing, Toronado Barleywine Festival, The Trappist, Monk's Kettle, Social Kitchen and Brewery, La Trappe, Beach Chalet Brewery, Russian River, 21st Amendment, Thirsty Bear Brewing, Church Key and Zeitgeist!

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up on Beer Revolution. Great place and people....we are lucky to have it in out backyard!!


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