CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 2 More Oakland Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - February 8, 2014

guinness eileen

The Commonwealth Cafe and Public House, 2882 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, California

guinness eileen

The Heart & Dagger Saloon, 504 Lake Park Avenue, Oakland, California

Last May when I visited America, I went to quite a few pubs in Northern California with my friend Rick. This month features the last two American pubs I'll be reviewing -- until my next trip, that is. Both pubs are not far from Lake Merritt.

On the first day of my Northern California excursion we stopped into the Commonwealth, and I soon had the impression that this charmingly funky pub is popular with Bay Area brewers and pub owners. Naturally we had to have a taste of the selection on the single hand pump. Red Eye (6.5% ABV, Drake's Brewery, San Leandro, CA) was called "Red Death" on the label, but it was a bit too red (meaning malty) for my taste. We also had a taste of Leadoff IPA (6.0% ABV, Line 51 Brewing Company, Oakland, CA), which was fizzily lighthoppy in a fluttering sort of way. I decided to go for a pint of Rye'd Piper (5.8% ABV, Ale Industries, Concord, CA), a zippy auburn brew. Rick had a pint of Ol' Brick (4.5% ABV, Linden Street Brewery, Oakland, CA) on nitro, which tasted like a typical classic English bitter.

Behind the bar in the chiller I couldn't help noticing bottles of Meantime and Punk IPA, both from London and both bottles I've tried in Sheffield. While we sipped our pints Rick chatted with Adam, the founder and brewer of Linden Street Brewing, and Temoor, who founded the Grand Tavern in Oakland. As it was early afternoon we shared two toasties which were great, and the salad was brilliant as well. While we were eating our sandwiches Christian Kazakoff, the head brewer at Iron Springs in Fairfax, showed up. See what I mean?

Apparently the Commonwealth shows televised European football matches, adding to the British pub feel along with that single hand pump. I felt right at home here.

When I was young in California, one didn't venture inside a biker bar unless one was a biker, preferably a Hell's Angels type with a big gnarley Harley parked outside. And bikers, along with everybody else in those days, drank bottles of pisswater. Fortunately times have changed and most American beer drinkers enjoy craft beers.

And biker pubs have changed. On a Saturday evening we headed down into Rick's own neighbourhood near Lake Merritt to the Heart & Dagger Saloon. As I have a few biker friends in Sheffield I was especially interested in checking out this motorbike-orientated pub. Several bikes were parked outside including a red Royal Enfield, so I snapped a picture of the beauty while I had the chance.

Inside we both ordered pints of the appropriately named Racer 5 IPA (7.0% ABV, Bear Republic, Cloverdale, California). We took our pints out into the spacious patio that features a lemon tree and is decorated with highway signs. Apparently dogs are welcome in the pub which is a rarity in America, but hopefully this trend is growing. There weren't any dogs in evidence when we visited, so I couldn't really get a furry fix until we got back to Rick's cat-filled flat, but we enjoyed ourselves nevertheless. As we sipped our fine hoppy pints, the two gents sitting next to us were drinking from 24-ounce cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, which we found most sad indeed. Ah, well, no accounting for taste...

The Heart & Dagger features a pool table, pinball machines, retro arcade video games, a reportedly good jukebox, and free wifi. Throw in a few friendly dogs and you've got all you need for a fine night out.