Last weekend Bay Area on Tap had the opportunity to attend the annual Holiday beer dinner at Pacific Coast Brewing Company at 906 Washington Street, talk to the proprietors about the event at the long tenured brewpub and hear about some of the new developments in the brew house from the new head brewer.
Held each December, the event is now in its 25th year. It’s interesting how much the city, and this neighborhood specifically, has developed during that time. My first time visiting was a little short of a decade ago and the change is dramatic even in that time. Not only was Pacific Coast the only beer centric location in the neighborhood, it was really one of the only restaurants of any note in what was a nearly dead part of town. Now, not only has the local beer scene blossomed with places like the Belgian beer themed Trappist and the beer-friendly Rosamunde Sausage grill both virtually next door and other standouts just short walk away, the area has also recently become home to several interesting restaurants in recent years. All of which has helped turn PCB into part of a suddenly attractive Old Oakland eating and drinking circuit.
A constant amidst that metamorphosis has been this event at the comfy Old Oakland brew pub. In its current incarnation, the event is an eight course, fourteen-beer dinner. With hearty fare that included broiled salmon, mussels, lamb stew and prime rib matched to a beer list with an average ABV over 10%, it was enough to make certain all parties walked away in a festive mood. The menu included some special beers from Pacific Coast like their 2013 Holiday Double IPA and 25th Anniversary Dirty Scarecrow along with standouts from other brewers like Sante Adairius Anaïs Saison and Drake’s Brewing Jolly Rodgers Imperial Black IPA.
Among the highlights of the afternoon was the opportunity we had to spend some time with Pacific Coast’s new brewmaster Paul Wichelmann. The Minnesota native had been a Pacific Coast employee for a time in the late 90′s and returned to take over the head brewer position in July after stints brewing at both Pyramid and Trumer in Berkeley. One of the first, and probably the most significant, changes Paul made upon taking the reins was to switch the brewery from an extract system to full grain, which was completed back in August . Although the regular offerings in Pacific Coast’s lineup have always had their loyal fans, the use of the extract system hadn’t always gone over so well with some beer geeks, who sometimes would choose to stick with the pub’s always interesting selection of guest taps. We recommend all give a second look at their house beers now as early results from the new system have been very good. With that big change out of the way, Paul got to work injecting some new styles into rotation including a recent collaboration with Line 51 Brewing on a massively hoppy Black IPA dubbed Coast Liner and a new IPA called Red Herring, which plays with the concept of an IPA in both malt and in the choice in hops in a way we believe will go over very well. The brewery is also set to get into barrel aging their beers and currently have some Maker’s Mark barrels on deck for future projects. If this weren’t enough to keep him busy, Paul has also recently started his own beer brand called Lucky Devil Brewing, which will focus on Belgian styles including a Belgian Pale Ale, a Saison, a Dubbel and a Tripel. Watch for it to hit Oakland area beer bars in the very near future. With Oakland’s oldest existing beer institution making big moves and interesting new players constantly joining in, it continues to be an exciting time to be a beer enthusiast in the East Bay.
The highly anticipated Berkeley taproom from iconic craft brewer Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, of Chico, CA, has now officially opened to the public. Dubbed the Torpedo Room, the 16 tap glistening steel, glass and wood facility is located at 2031 4th St. Bay Area on Tap had an opportunity to check them out on the first day of their soft opening and we were very impressed with what we found.
The tap list on our visit consisted of several rather obscure, small batch, specialty beers (at least one of which we had never even seen before) and a smattering of familiar favorites. In the interest of encouraging visitors to explore the variety of styles they produce, the Torpedo Room sells their beer in flights of four small samples roughly equal to one pint of beer total. Among the more exciting elements about this new location is that they will offer growler fills, adding another high quality beer-to-go option in an area that hasn’t seemed to have quite enough to cover demand. For me at least, this is one of the foremost reasons this is such a welcome addition to the East Bay beer circuit.
The Torpedo Room will also host beer tasting classes, beer launches and other fun events. The initial hours are listed as 11 am to 7 pm Tuesday through Thursday and 11 am to 8 pm Friday and Saturday. Hours may expand as they move forward so keep an eye on their website for details.
Last week we finally took an opportunity to visit the recently opened Beer Hall in San Francisco. From the husband and wife team of Andrew and Jennifer Hall, the charming yet modern tasting room and bottle shop is conveniently located in the shadow of the Twitter building at 1 Polk St, a few blocks from the Civic Center BART station.
On our visit, the draft list was an interesting amalgam of small batch local beers you may not find elsewhere along with offerings familiar to the more casual craft beer drinker, all of which were displayed on a large monitor behind the bar. The monitor not only helps give the place a slick, high tech, feel but also is very practical, making useful information about the beers served easily available to curious new craft beer drinkers.
Both the list and the overall feel seemed very well suited to the likely clientele of the neighborhood while the friendly, attentive staff, competitive pricing and central, transit adjacent, location make it an easy and comfortable destination for curious visitors from outside the area. By balancing quality with what seems to be a keen understanding of their potential customer base, the Beer Hall seems well poised for success. We look forward to stopping by again whenever we’re in the area.
The Beer Hall
1 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94102