Sunny Hoedown Celebration for Speakeasy Beer

The Butchertown Hoedown, Speakeasy’s 14th Anniversary party, took place this past Saturday at the brewery in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco. A bevy of food trucks lined the parking lot, bands performed knee slapping music and three beer stations with new brews kept the reported 2,000 revelers happy all afternoon.

Headlining the festivity was Speakeasy’s latest creation, Butchertown Black Ale, the first installment of their new Bootlegger Limited Series. The roasty black IPA is infused with Cascade, Amarillo and Chinook hops. You can expect a new beer in this series to pop up every two months.

Not to be outdone, the new Dolores Pale Ale was also tapped for the first time and served alongside all your favorites like Big Daddy IPA, White Lighting, Betrayal Ale and Payback Porter just to name a few.

Photos © Brian Stechschulte

Libations did not stop at beer. The Broken Record and Church Key teamed up to offer three beer cocktails.  The Jefe de Jefe was part Bloody Mary, part Michelada that relied on Big Daddy for the punch. Vice Lightning combined passion fruit with the White Lightning Wheat, and for dessert, Payback Porter, root beer, sugar and a dollop of heavy cream, when shaken, became Sarsparilla Kush. Ritual Coffee also setup shop so the tired and weary could get their fix.

Once guests scored a drink they could choose to top their stomach off with a healthy dose of street food from the Rib Whip, Tacoliscious, Le Truc or Pizza Politana. The large number of food options was a big improvement over last year’s event and appeared greatly appreciated.

Le Truc

By late afternoon the fog crept back in while the last bit of twang echoed out the brewery door. Misisipi Mike and the Midnight Gamblers, Andrew Blair and Ross Warner, Whisky Pills Fiasco and Pocket Full of Rye provided the tunes. Overall, Speakeasy Beer turned the festivities up a notch at this year’s anniversary celebration.

The Berkeley Bar Guide

Photos by Jen Muehlbauer

Berkeley. For some, it conjures up visions of hippies, college kids, or suburban 4th Street shoppers. For others, it’s a place with more good beer than seems reasonable for a town of 100,000.

Bars downtown are a bit more hoppin’ due to their proximity to Cal, while the bars on San Pablo provide more elbow room and a higher median crowd age. None are food destinations per se, but if you like pizza you’ll be in good shape. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a beer costing $6, let alone more, at most of these locations.

The bars below are reachable by BART and focus on local beer, but they’re far from the only watering holes in town. You could also go Irish at the Starry Plough, have a fancy cocktail at Revival Bar+Kitchen, or choose from a giant whiskey menu at Acme. There are also plenty of non-bar salutes to good brews, like the fantastic selection at Ledger’s Liquors, the daily brewery tour at Trumer, and Oak Barrel, one of the oldest homebrew shops in the country.

To make a day of Berkeley without just going to bars all day, add some hiking in Tilden Park, a visit to the UC Botanical Garden, or browsing at Rasputin and Amoeba. Or, from our stops on San Pablo, it’s not too far to the Berkeley Marina. Beer lovers with families should note that all the bars below except The Albatross are also restaurants, so kids are allowed.

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Near Downtown Berkeley BART Station

 

Bobby G’s

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2072 University Avenue (map), Daily 11am-11pm, (510) 665-8866

You’d think downtown Berkeley wouldn’t need two pizza-intensive restaurants with good beer on tap, and you’d be wrong. Just a few blocks from Jupiter, Bobby G’s packs a lot of local beer, Italian food, and live music into a small space. Some of the bartenders are more knowledgeable than others, but beer guy Josh knows what’s up and keeps the beer list fresh with three rotating taps in addition to the solid regular ten-beer lineup (yes, Russian River fanatics, Pliny the Elder is always on tap). Owner Bobby G is a Yankees fan, but this is also a fine place to watch Bay Area sports games. Tuesday is open mic night, Wednesday is trivia night, and Saturday features free jazz and blues acts.

Best time to go: 4-7pm for happy hour; Wednesday for trivia; before or after a meal at the Indonesian restaurant down the block.

 

Jupiter

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2181 Shattuck Avenue (map), Mon-Thu 11:30am-1am; Friday 11:30am-1:30am; Saturday 12pm-1:30am; Sunday 12pm-12am, (510) THE-TAPS

The sizable back patio is probably the nicest (legal) outdoor drinking spot in Berkeley other than my yard. Expect a range of house beers, Drake’s beers (Jupiter is a member of the Triple Rock/Drake’s family), and guest taps from the likes of Moonlight Brewing and North Coast. Add pizza and jazz shows and you’ve got a crowd-pleaser.

Best time to go: A sunny day, though heat lamps and a firepit keep the party going after dark and in the colder months.

 

Triple Rock

1920 Shattuck Avenue (map), Mon-Wed 11:30am-1am; Thur-Sat 11:30am-2am; Sunday 11:30am-12am, (510) 843-2739

Triple Rock is one of the first brewpubs in the country, going strong since 1986 (History wonks, make sure to get an eyeful of the breweriana on the walls and you can learn more about it here). Today it’s almost like three different places: the often crowded but always cordial bar area, the all-ages sit-down area, and, when open, the roof deck. All sections offer pub grub, Triple Rock’s excellent beers, and servers who actually know a thing or two about what what’s on tap. There should be a libation for everyone here, but arguably hoppy beers are where Triple Rock really shines. Try the IPAX, the seasonal imperial IIMAXX, and other lupulin-forward limited-release beers like the Single Hop Experience series. If you only make one beer stop in Berkeley, this should be it.

Best time to go: between lunch and dinner; during big sports games if you’re into that kind of thing. Thursday night, when patrons snap up servings of Monkeyhead strong golden ale by the liter bottle, is loved by some and loathed by others.


Near North Berkeley BART Station/San Pablo Buses

 

The Albatross

Albatross-Dart-Board

1822 San Pablo Avenue (map), Sun-Tue 6pm-2am; Wed-Sat 4:30pm-2am, (510) 843-2473

The oldest bar in Berkeley (founded 1964) is widely known for its borrowable board games, challenging pub quiz, pool tables, and dart boards. It’s also got a solid beer selection that, in most cities, would be the best beer list for miles around. It’s cash only, but more than makes up for it by allowing outside food — I recommend Pakistani fare from Kabana or a sandwich from The Cheese Steak Shop — and dishing up fresh, cheap popcorn. It’s more a pub than a bar, if we’re making such distinctions, and with only one TV set, it’s a cozy place to escape from the big game if you’re not into sports. There’s local art on the walls, dogs allowed inside until 8pm, old timey bluegrass every other Wednesday, and other live music twice a month or so.

Best times to go: Sunday nights to lose at trivia; late afternoon/early evening for good conversation with the bartender and old-timers.

 

Lanesplitter Pizza & Pub

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2033 San Pablo (map), Daily 11am-11pm, (510) 845-1652

Beer and ‘za, take three. Well, it is still a college town. The little patio out back is smaller than Jupiter but still allows for drinking beer in the sunshine. The inside has local art, action figures of past bartenders, and a solid taplist of about a dozen regular and rotating taps from Iron Springs, Bear Republic, and other local favorites. As a bonus, there’s always one beer on cask, and during happy hour, the house pale (brewed by Drake’s) is the best deal in town at $2.75 per pint. If any of the babies in my social circle lived in the Berkeley, there’s no question they’d own Lanesplitter onesies by now.

Best times to go: weekday happy hour (3-6pm), weekend happy hour (11am-6pm), Monday (happy hour open to close). What can I say? This is a happy place.

 

Pyramid Alehouse

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901 Gilman Street (map), Sun-Thu 11:30am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm, (510) 528-9880

If your glass is half empty, most of these beers are middle-of-the-road Craft Beer 101 for new/unadventurous beer drinkers. If your glass is half full, these are solid, balanced session beers. Either way, here are some things about the Berkeley location that you might not know.
1) The brewery tour is free, and your group will probably be the only ones on it so you can ask as many geeky questions as you want.
2) Some of those limited-release/seasonal beers, like Uproar red from the Ignition series or MacTarnahan’s Lipstinger, may surprise you.
3) $8 growler refills after your first $13 fill. Bargain! And let’s say more breweries than you think will fill a Pyramid growler once they put their own logo on top.

Best times to go: weekdays at 4pm for the brewery tour; whenever you need a cheap growler fill; before a night at alcohol-free punk rock venue 924 Gilman.

Practice, Determination and a Little Luck Sets Beltane Brewing Apart

Alan-Atha-Beltane-Brewing-Focused

At the end of a cul-de-sac in suburban Novato sits a garage with a split personality. Cars aren’t welcome on most days, pushed out by exercise weights, bicycles, carboys, steam and water that trickles down the driveway. The space is the center of Alan Atha’s creative universe, where he either molds athletes or coaxes barley and yeast into Beltane Brewing beer.

Atha is one of many homebrewers in the Bay Area with Nanobrewery aspirations, and he’s working hard to make it a reality with only three years of brewing experience. The short time frame may be cause for skepticism, but his beer has garnered several awards and he’ll be competing this fall in the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) Pro-Am competition.

Alan-Atha-Beltane-Brewing-Garage

Opening a brewery is just one of many different career adventures Atha has pursued since he left the U.S. military years ago. He’s worked as a commercial photographer shooting architecture, raced bicycles, and in the last fourteen years turned to training and coaching fellow riders after moving to Marin. “I needed some work and I also needed to get back into shape since I was taking some time off. I went to the local gym and saw what the trainers were doing, and I said there’s my new job.”

His interest in homebrewing developed alongside his work as a trainer when he realized the two activities were both rooted in science, physiology and creativity. “I’ve always been an artist and an athlete, so combining the two made sense. Now beer is my palate.”

He started out brewing with a friend who also had a passion for Belgian beer. That’s how he learned the basics, but before long struck out on his own and started entering beer into local competitions. According to Atha the feedback was helpful, but he didn’t take it too seriously.

“You look at the score sheet and you either take the criticism or you laugh at it, one of the two. In some competitions you get great tips and other times they’re subjective. You have to piece through it in a lot of ways, and at a certain point, as long as your beer doesn’t have any flaws, go with you heart. That’s what I do.”

Atha currently has six recipes he feels are solid enough for commercial production, a Belgian Pale, Triple, Double, Black IPA, and Double IPA. Clearly he doesn’t shy away from making big beers, but he won’t be pushing some boundaries. “I’m trying to be fairly traditional in my methods and then just tweak a little. I’m probably not going to be the guy that goes pumpkin guava.”

One of his recipes recently caught the attention of Christian Kazakoff, brewmaster at Iron Springs Pub and Brewery in Fairfax. Kazakoff hosted and judged a competition between members of the Sonoma Beerocrats. Atha is a member and president of the homebrew club. Winning the competition meant Kazakoff would brew the winning recipe and submit it to the GABF Pro-Am competition on behalf of the winning brewer.

According to GABF rules, qualifying entries must have won awards in competitions sanctioned by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and the beer must be produced and served by the host brewery no later then August 19th.

Luminesce

Working on a short timeline the club entered a bunch of beers into the competition. Atha submitted his Belgian Triple he calls Luminesce, brewed with Belgian pilsner and fed with Westmalle yeast. The finished product stood up to Kazakoff’s standards and now Atha is headed to GABF in Denver where he’ll also be celebrating his birthday when awards are dolled out on October 1.

The beer was produced at Iron Springs on July 21. Atha assisted in the process and the beer will be served to the public at the brewery on August 18, one day before the deadline.

Atha believes his success is due in part to practice, but he also knows serendipity has played a role and he still has a lot to learn. “It’s been part luck and I wouldn’t say that I know everything, but at the same time sometimes the more you learn the stupider you get because you have to ask more questions. That’s how I look at it. I learn something new every day, whether it’s in my training or brewing.”

When Atha isn’t making beer or coaching a would be cyclist, he’s been working his way through the licensing process and searching for place to setup a business. Both tasks have proven difficult. “It’s a crazy process and it sucks, but if I do it right it will work.”

At the moment Atha is wavering between two different business concepts, one geared towards a café and another that’s simply production oriented with retail. He would love to open a beer café serving small bites of Trappist cheese and charcuterie, but it might not be financially in the cards.

As for location, he would like to put down roots in Novato near the 101 freeway, so according to Atha, “Everyone going up to Russian River Brewing can easily hit me on the way up or way back.” Unfortunately, two promising locations have slipped through his fingers for one reason or another. The city council has been helpful and he’ll keep trying, but he may have to move onto a different town.

Adversity may keep testing his resolve, but Atha appears capable of dodging punches with determination and a good sense of humor. For the time being he’ll keep brewing away in his garage, tweaking recipes and working towards a brewery, that with a little more of Atha’s Celtic luck, you may visit in the very near future.

Prepare Your Sea Legs for Brews on the Bay

Brews on the Bay

In its eighth year celebrating at the water’s edge, Brews on the Bay is going to be a little different this year. You’ll still have stunning views from the deck of the historic S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien as you sample some of the best beer from the San Francisco Brewer’s Guild, but there are three big changes. The event is one day only, will feature food trucks for sustenance, and Anchor Brewing is stepping aboard for the first time after finally joining forces with the Guild earlier this year.

The festival is set to take place on Saturday, September 10, from 12-5pm at Pier 45 and is a fundraiser for the National Liberty Ship Memorial. Tickets are now available for $45 online only, which entitles you to unlimited 8 oz samples of over 40 different beers. You can expect traditional styles along with the hop bombs, barrel-aged, sour-puckering, imperial wonders you love. You’ll also be able to chat up the brewers and enjoy live music.

Drink local!

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