The number of breweries in the country could nearly double in the next decade, and the market still wouldn’t be oversupplied. And in 2015, our Bay Area brewmasters did their best to tap into the microbrew trend, resulting in a number of successful startups and many exciting new beers. These are just a few success stories worth a shout out. In alphabetical order...
Alright, easy on me... I’m coming out of the gate with more of a relocation than an opening, but Ale Industries is worth a mention for their commitment to the California style and use of unique, local ingredients. Last year was a huge year for them with a new production facility in Oakland and a new tasting room in the Fruitvale District (called the Jingletown Jazz Room). Looks like a good “reset” for Ale Industries and you'd be wise to give their East Bay IPA a taste when you get a chance.
Technically the second relocation mention already -- but it’s nice to showcase this SoSF nano brewery -- where the beer makers work the bar, AB took over the small basement space in 2015, and they are off to a good start. If it's available, give the Moe's Gose a try (sour beer/gose fans especially).
Cellarmaker jumped right out of the gate with some very bold IPAs, making them one of Northern California’s hottest breweries for hoppy beer lovers. The Cellarmaker Permanent Daylight is the move here.
The small brewery and tasting room reminds me a little of Berkeley’s Rare Barrel or the Drake’s Dealership space in Oakland (warehouse setting, sour and barrel-aged beers). You’ll love the casual layout, distressed wood paneling and all. Sours and fruit beers dominate, and they've got Batch 26 / Cherry Red on tap now.
Like many beer freaks I gave up home brewing when I realized I was spending $20.00 a six pack and hoarding hundreds of bottles in the garage. That said, make-your-own-brew shops don’t always get the credit they deserve. Diving Dog is not only a beer DIY in the emerging Oakland beer scene, they are perfecting their own brews and their California Common recipe is garnering a ton of well-deserved attention.
Known for their bold, citrusy West Coast IPAs this 20 barrel brewhouse and tasting room was one of the hottest and fastest growing California breweries in 2015. Try their Sea Farmer: a sea salt, grapefruit IPA (popular style thanks to mega craft breweries like Ballast Point), and be sure to keep an eye on them as they begin to venture out of California in the near future.
A production only brewery in the Presidio (due to licensing restrictions on taprooms on federal land), their beer has been making a big impression on local beer lovers -- and word has it they will be opening a taproom in San Francisco soon. They have a couple nice collaboration beers out there, but the Villager (IPA) is their signature.
They've been around for a couple of years, but 2015 was BIG for them. We’re talking medals... two at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Although they have no permanent home, be on the lookout for their tall silver cans near you -- their medal winner was the rye, Pt. Bonita.
A classic case of judge us for our beer, not our website, Independent is making a name for itself one person at a time. This brewery gets the hole-in-the-wall title on this list, but if I had to guess, their look will change in the coming year. When you find them (at the brewery or on tap somewhere) mix it up with the Four Seasons Coffee porter.
I know I'm pushing it here by mentioning LBC on a 2015 list, but this place really got busy last year, winning critical acclaim from the industry and beer lovers alike. They are a customer request driven brewery (meaning they brew what their customers ask for, duh), and their Bluxome Black lager is great stuff (a common lager, and oh so smoooooth).
Who wouldn’t cheer for a taproom overlooking the former, re-purposed naval shipyard at Mare Island? Two former winemakers (one with a little Lagunitas-influenced know how) have their sights set on making good beer, and taking advantage of the revitalized waterfront. The Saginaw is their flagship beer, a summery golden ale, and these guys have some solid marketing and distribution, so I bet you'll start seeing it around very soon.
Worth a note, even if just for the increased popularity with the UCSF crowd and the Inner Sunset. Grab a pint of the Mr. Kite’s pale ale or a snifter of the Rapscallion (Belgian golden ale) and find the brewer for a chat about how it's all done.
Taking a more refined approach than the warehouse breweries, Sunset Reservoir opened to a bit of fanfare in 2015. They have a great space (I have a soft spot for architecture -- exposed beams, hardwoods and high ceilings) with an ambitious food menu. Look for them to branch out in the coming years with their beer offerings that go beyond the standard IPA, wheat, stout, extra pale, and session lineup. Oh, and you can taste all their libations in single flight for $12. Deal.
What to look out for in 2016...
On the heels of 2015, there's a slew of new beers to lookout for. We've got Line 51 in Oakland (the brewery of the teacher-turned-brewer PT Lovern), Benoit-Casper -- Richmond’s only brewery -- whose production is only for the time being, but poised for more. Then there's Black Hammer in SoMa, which is still BYOF (bring your own food), but the beer is set to really pop in 2016. Family owned Farm Creek Brewing Company is fresh off a two year-plus battle with Walnut Creek’s permit process, but they're looking to really break out in 2016, and that will make a very nice addition to the East Bay beer scene.
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Seann Rooney was born and raised in the East Bay, but now calls the Sacramento Delta home. When he isn’t managing his crazy schedule, playing baseball or hosting parties and events, he’s drinking local beers and spending all his money on food.
1. Ale Industries3096 E 10th St, Oakland
2. Armstrong Brewing Company415 Grand Ave, South San Francisco
3. Cellarmaker Brewing Co.1150 Howard St, San Francisco
4. Cleophus Quealy Beer Company448 Hester St, San Leandro
5. Diving Dog Brewhouse1802 Telegraph Ave, Oakland
6. Fieldwork Brewing Company1160 Sixth Street, Berkeley
7. Fort Point Beer Company644 Old Mason St, San Francisco
8. Headlands Brewing Company16 Forrest St, Mill Valley
9. Independent Brewing Company444 Harrison St, Oakland
10. Local Brewing Co.69 Bluxome St, San Francisco
11. Mare Island Brewing Co.295 Mare Island Way, Vallejo
12. Social Kitchen & Brewery1326 9th Ave, San Francisco
13. Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company1735 Noriega St, San Francisco
Oakland’s Ale Industries darted out of the gate in 2009 to join the craft beer movement with a rebellious spirit and socially-conscious brews. Its eco-friendly business practices and creative style have earned respect from the beer community, and the taproom in the revitalized Fruitvale District is undeniably chill (and where you should head for an update on what it's been up to). More importantly, get there to sample some of its flagship Cherry Kush and the perfectly hopped East Bay IPA.
Lots of beers on tap, growlers to go, and grilled cheese? What more could you want in a brewery? Make a beeline to Armstrong Brewing Co.
One of Nor Cal’s hottest beer spots, this small-batch brewery keeps a constant rotation of experimental brews running through its fermenters. Find one of eight beers on tap at the SoMa outpost, where you can fill your growler or sip pints at one of the communal tables. These hop-driven ales are perfect for the adventurous drinker, with brews aged in batches of red wine, white wine, and bourbon barrels.
Dubbels and Trippels and Quads, oh my! Yup, this is a Belgian-style brewery. Tucked away in an East Bay industrial park, Cleophus Quealy was started by a pair of Google Engineers who loved homebrewing. New beers are always popping up, but give the tart Cranberry Weisse a try. The welcoming tasting room is dog friendly and open Thurs-Sun, and there’s a sweet membership club with perks for repeat visitors.
It's BYOF(ood) at the Diving Dog Brewhouse, where all the focus is on that nectar of the gods we call beer. With 32 beers on tap and much more in bottles, you never have to try the same brew twice. But if you're feeling more adventurous, the bad boys at Diving Dog will provide the equipment, ingredients, and recipes for you to brew your own beer on site.
This Berkeley brew co. offers seasonal ales, as well as house favorite drafts, alongside savory bar food (meat hand pies? Yes please).
Now in the front of the classic SF Ferry Building, Fort Point one of the finest places to geek out on local brews. Their modest menu has simple yet effective beer companions like hot dogs and soft pretzels. Try the Wanderer, a crushable IPA and the Manzanita, a uniquely smoked red lager. On a sunny day, the crisp and delicious KSA Kolsch is an absolute must.
This Marin County brew hub is so serious about their beer they've devised a mission statement for their brews: " to take craft beer back for the regular people who just love beer." We'll cheers to that.
The small but friendly Oakland tasting room at Independent Brew Co seems to be averse to matching chairs, but that’s just part of the DIY charm. When you walk through the rollup door of the dog friendly brewery, it feels like stepping into your really amazing homebrewer friend’s living room. Except this friend makes killer IPA like the 75 IBU Sticky Zipper, one of Oakland’s best.
On a quiet drag of Bluxome St, next to an art gallery and a winery, Brewmaster Regan Long and Local Brewing Co offer a long an expansive beer hall for your drinking and light eating pleasure (toasties and pretzels.) The flagship Dolores Park and Glen Park IPA’s fit the West Coast IPA style, but the golden Inner Sunset Saison is a total delight. Pop in before or after a Giants game as it’s a short jaunt from AT&T Park.
This Vallejo brewery, situated right on the Bay, offers unique brews and even better views of the city. Try its naval-inspired suds, including the signature Shipwreck Porter, and be sure to check back for new additions or speciality tours.
A go-to for beer geeks right off of Golden Gate Park, this 18-tap hops haven leans heavily on its own award-winning brews but leaves a solid number of lines open for excellent guest taps as well. Bartenders are equally welcoming and knowledgeable, the truffle mac & cheese is some of SF's best, and there's a full bar available in case some of your companions are avoiding gluten.
This microbrewery in the Outer Sunset is a great spot to enjoy handcrafted beers and tasty food… and it’s an even better spot to fill your growler. If you don’t have one, they sell one of the highest quality growlers available: it’s stainless steel, double walled, and thermal insulated. A 1L filled growler will cost you $40, and the 2L runs $60. If you have your own or want a refill, it’s $10 for the 1L and $20 for the 2L. FYI: If you want the Dry Irish Stout, you’ll have to enjoy it in-house… that one isn’t available to-go.