Richmond Welcomes East Brother Beer Co. To The Craft Beer Family

With the beer rich North Bay and the increasingly beer-centric Berkeley/Oakland area as its neighbors, Richmond is surrounded by craft beer culture. Until recently, however, the city hasn’t had much beer to call its own. Luckily for the thirsty people of Western Contra Costa County, things are rapidly changing. Benoit-Casper Brewing opened in Richmond back in 2014, joining the brewpub Elevation 66 Brewing Company which launched in nearby El Cerrito in 2011. Still, with population growth in the area outpacing the Bay Area as a whole (and with a new ferry terminal on the horizon set to prime the region for even more growth), there’s definitely room for much, much more in the way of local beer. East Brother Beer Co. is the latest new brewery hoping to continue to fill that void.

Located in an industrial area of Richmond, East Brother Beer Co. was launched by longtime friends and Marin residents Chris Coomber and Rob Lightner in November 2016, with their tasting room opening the following month. Rob recently made time to sit down and talk about the brewery, their underlying strategy and philosophy and regional craft beer in general.

As this was our first visit to the tap room, we were struck by the tasteful, stylish yet straightforward and simple décor. A carryover from their strikingly clean can designs. As we’d find out during our tasting, this approach also echoes the beers themselves. The brewery focuses on five “core” beers: a Red Lager, a Bohemian Pilsner, a Red IPA, a Wheat IPA and an Oatmeal Stout. They also have occasional taproom only beers, on our visit they were pouring an English Pale Ale. Each beer they offer is clean, drinkable and pleasantly unembellished. The Red IPA was probably our favorite, but the Pilsner also stood out. We’d even go as far as ranking it right among the best locally brewed Pilsners on the market.

As Rob explained, the balanced, clean nature of East Brother’s beers can be traced to its homebrew origins. Instead of turning out dozens upon dozens of styles, Chris tended to focus on brewing his favorite, fairly traditional, styles repeatedly, dialing each recipe in until he was happy with it. This attention to detail definitely helps East Brother’s offerings stand out in a crowded craft beer landscape, where some breweries tend to put out products that are more interesting than good. In the short term, East Brother plans to continue focusing on their core brands while gradually expanding their taproom only offerings. Ultimately, Rob believes the tap room will offer as many as 15 varieties on tap.

As touched on earlier, this attention to detail seems pervasive in every element of the business. Their cans are among the most striking out there, with bold, mostly two-tone designs. The brewery’s name itself is also very thoughtful. Named for the East Brother Lighthouse in the nearby San Pablo Bay, the name is a nice local reference that fits well with the brewery’s identity as a beer for locals, but it’s also evocative of a certain familial warmth along with Richmond’s geographical position in the East Bay Area.

Just over six months into operation, East Brother Beer’s strategy seems to paying off. Their tasting room is bustling with customers each weekend, and each of their core beers draws loyal devotees. Most of their customers seem to be locals who see East Brother as their neighborhood brewery, which we’d say is a great sign for longevity of a business, since customers who identify with the brand on a personal level are much more reliable than fickle scenesters chasing the latest trend.

East Brother Beer Co. currently distributes cans and kegs to accounts around the East Bay, North Bay and San Francisco. You can see their website www.eastbrotherbeer.com for details. Their taproom at 1001 Canal Blvd is open Wednesday through Sunday, serving full pints and growler fills of fresh beer brewed onsite. They also feature food trucks each day they’re open, with plentiful indoor and outdoor seating available. We look forward to more visits throughout the summer, and also to Richmond’s continued growth as a craft beer destination.

Words: Chris
Photos: Sarah and Chris

Faction Spring IPA

We can’t overstate how excited we are that Faction Brewing in Alameda, one the finest purveyors of hoppy beer in the Bay Area, recently started bottling their beer. Pictured is Spring IPA, one of a rotating series of four IPA’s released for each season.

Established in 2013, Faction’s beers can be found in craft beer bottle shops around the Bay Area. You can try their beer on draft at better beer bars in the area or at their brewery in Alameda, which boasts beautiful bay views.

See more at http://factionbrewing.com

Pacific Coast Brewing Company 25th Annual Holiday Beer Dinner


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.

Sierra Nevada Launches the Torpedo Room in Berkeley

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.
http://www.sierranevada.com/brewery/california/torpedoroom

The Beer Hall

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
415-800-7416

Hours:
Mon-Sat 4p-11p
Closed Sunday