Photos © Brian Stechschulte
“Walnut Creek has been screaming for a place like this.” – Anonymous ØL Beercafe Patron
Chuck Stilphen must have heard that sentiment echoing through the East Bay hills when he set out to open the ØL Beercafe & Bottle Shop in Walnut Creek. As co-owner of the successful Trappist bar in Oakland, he already has a pulse on craft beer’s surging popularity. His five-week-old venue fills a void in a thirsty and growing community.
According to Stilphen “the Walnut Creek area seemed to be lacking in any quality beer places. Created with the spirit of The Trappist, we developed a plan to create a hybrid bottle shop and beer cafe, roughly using the business model of a few places in Portland and City Beer Store in San Francisco, but taken up a notch in design and comfort.
ØL Beercafe is located on a quiet downtown street just a half mile from the Walnut Creek BART station. In case you’re wondering, ØL is Danish for beer and there’s plenty to choose from. Eighteen taps sit behind the bar located in the back of the establishment. Nearby, a six door cooler and small room enclosed by windows offers over 100 bottles to choose from that are priced to go, or you can pay a corkage fee ranging between $1 to $5 to drink them on-site.
Stilphen plans on extending the beer options to over 300 and explained that “whenever possible we try to duplicate our bottle selection to match the draft choices, so if you taste something you like you can bring some bottles home as well.“
At first glance the selection appears primarily Belgian oriented, but a healthy dose of craft beer styles from around the country are also available. Don’t worry hopheads, you’ll feel right at home with Sculpin and Pliny at your fingertips. You’ll also be happy to know they serve each beer in appropriate glassware and the staff is knowledgeable, polite and helpful with suggestions. They won’t hesitate to offer you a sample if you’re torn between two options.
Other then six bar stools, seating is primarily located just inside the entrance where brewery photos line the walls of the lofty yet cozy interior. Every design element was thoughtfully considered from the vintage lighting to the rustic wooden tables, chairs, bar and doors that give the space an old European feel. Capacity is set at 50, which has been maxed out so far on Friday and Saturday evenings.
If you get hungry while your there a small snack menu is available, which includes a rotating selection of artisan cheeses, Fatted Calf sausage, jerky, olives and almonds. Need something a little more substantial? No worries, you’re allowed to bring in food from the outside. Stilphen is also negotiating with nearby Skipolini’s Pizza to make their pies easily available to customers.
ØL Beercafe is currently open from noon to 11pm daily and expect them to host a steady stream of special events. On Saturday, October 29th, it’s Meet the Brewer night with Ale Industries, who will be featuring their new Pumpkin Ale, East Bay IPA and a rare barrel aged beer.