CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Two Berkeley Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - December 30, 2017

guinness eileen

Eureka!, 2068 Center Street, Berkeley, California

guinness eileen

Fieldwork Brewery, 1160 Sixth Street, Berkeley, California

The end of 2017 is here, and this is my final beer column from my September beer visit to California's Bay Area. Don't worry -- I've got plenty more columns waiting to be written, featuring new Sheffield pubs as well as one last Southern California review for the year. And by the time I get through those, I'm sure I will have discovered many more as well.

But back to the San Francisco Bay, again on the East Side. Located north of Oakland, south of El Cerrito and Albany, and due west from Angel and Alcatraz Islands and the Golden Gate Recreation Area above San Francisco, the city of Berkeley is named after the 18th century Anglo-Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. The location was originally home of the Chochenyo division of the Ohlone people until 1776 when the first Anglo and European Americans arrived with the De Anza Expedition and established the Spanish Presidio of San Francisco, or the Golden Gate, at the entrance to the bay from the Pacific Ocean. Most of the Chochenyo people ended up baptised and living at the missions, and recently the survivors joined up with the other San Francisco Bay Area Ohlone people under the name of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe.

In 1868 the oldest campus in the University of California system was opened in Berkeley. After the Great Earthquake of 1906, thousands of refugees from San Francisco, including painters and sculptors, ended up in Berkeley, creating one of the largest art colonies west of Chicago, and three years later the City of Berkeley was incorporated. In 1949 the synthesis of the chemical element berkelium added the city's name to the Periodic Table of Elements, and the first kerbside recycling program in the country was started in 1973. Today the city is known for its liberal attitudes, political expression, and eccentricities, offering unique sightseeing highlights such as the Tsui Fish House, the East Bay Vivarium, the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents, and the only American museum dedicated to sake. In past years it has hosted art car festivals and the legendary How Berkeley Can You Be parade.

Berkeley also happens to be the current home of an old friend of mine from Long Beach days. So on the Saturday of my weekend, my friend Mistah Rick and I headed to Berkeley to meet Alan for lunch. As we had a half hour to kill before meeting in front of a restaurant, we stopped in the stunningly overpunctuated Eureka! for a pint. As unique a discovery as the name sounds, Eureka! is actually part of a chain that stretches all over California and into Texas, Colorado, Idaho, Washington State, and Nevada. We stood at the bar where I had a taste of Strawberry Shakes IPA (6.5%, Bare Bottle Brew Company, San Francisco, California). As the name implies it was sort of fun, but unfortunately not very impressive. I suppose it would be a perfect quaff for a beer wimp. We decided on a pint of Hill 88 DIPA (8.8% ABV, Headlands Brewing Company, Mill Valley, California) After Rick told the barman we were going to split the pint, he poured it into two half-pint-sized glasses and served us those -- just like all pubs can do in the UK. Why can't more American pubs do this?

Anyway, back to the pint. Yep, it was definitely more like it. Yep! It was a pre-lunch little punch. After we walked over to meet Alan and discovered the restaurant wasn't open, we all came back to Eureka! for another pint of Hill 88 DIPA and some lunch. I have to say my fish tacos were very nice indeed.

The next afternoon, after spending the morning with Vicky and Unkletom at the Steamroller Print Festival in San Francisco's Mission District, Rick and Tom and I took BART back to West Berkeley where we decided to have a pint at Fieldwork Brewing Company. Another small chain, Fieldwork started business in Berkeley in 2015 and now has four other taprooms in Napa, Sacramento, San Mateo, and Monterey.

The pub consists of a large room with lots of windows, long shareable picnic benches, counter seating at the windows, and plenty of outdoor seating. The place was packed, but we managed to find the end of one of the communal benches next to a group of friends who were working their way through two ambitious flight carriers totalling 12 beer tasters. Rick and I shared a taster of Ruin Ten Triple IPA (10.0% ABV, Stone Brewing Company, Escondido, California). With a sharp dark hops kick and the taste of vanilla, the high alcohol content was very obvious in the overall flavour. Being a bit more sensible the two of us shared a pint of Destination Unknown Double IPA (8.0%, Fieldworks). I had no idea where we were headed, but the aroma assaulted our noses like a strong breeze at the entrance to a garden of heavenly delights. We lingered for some time, enjoying the exhilarating effects of our mutual aromatherapy session, before either of us actually tasted it. And what I got was a wonderful melding of Mosaic hops and grapefruit. For our second round we shared a pint of Hop & Glo Double IPA (8.0%, Fieldworks), which made me think of fruit salad without the sweetness. While Rick and I were sharing, Tom enjoyed his own pint of Shadow Skills (4.4% ABV, Fieldworks). Described as a Baltic stout, it tasted like a most pleasant porter to me.

As we sat and sipped our pints and enjoyed this most friendly pub, my uncle presented me with his ambitious genealogical project on the Mitchell family. He's been working on it for years, travelling all over the US and Scotland, and it's a truly impressive work. There is even a family of Sheffields in my ancestry.

Although it's not in Berkeley, as this is my last Bay Area review for now I feel I should make mention of one other pub we visited down in Silicon Valley. Established in 2012, Rick thought the Freewheel Brewery and Pub in the Marsh Manor Shopping Center in Redwood City sounded like a promising place to take me, as they claim to specialise in English-style cask ales. So we stopped by at the end of a busy day. Located in a suburban stripmall, there is a long bar across the rear of the room. It was a bit surprising to see that at 10pm on a Saturday night there was only one customer. Nevertheless we studied the beer menu which lists California craft beers on one side and "English-style" cask ales on the other side. When I asked the barman which of the cask ales were hoppiest, he said, arrogantly, "Oh, you won't find anything hoppy there. All English cask ale is very mild in flavour." I leaned forward, stared hard at him, and told him I'd lived in England for years and I wrote about cask ale online, and I'd had some really exciting, hoppy, and vibrant English cask ales. But he insisted on disagreeing with me, telling me that if I wanted something hoppy I should order one of the American-style craft beers.

So Rick and I looked at each other. I said, " whaddya wanna do?"

"Well, there's a couple bottles in Vicky's fridge..."

So we walked out and home to Vicky's where we shared a bizarre and bright pink bottle of Rogue Brewing Company's Mango Astronaut Ale.

Even Freewheel's website seems to insist that English IPAs are sweet and not bitter. My god, who are the ignorant idiots who opened this brewery? Perhaps they should do a little travelling, for chrissake.

Say, I've got an idea: Sheffield would be a great destination for a wake-up call.