Independent Brewing, which is primarily owned by Stephen McDaniel, is sort of an offshoot of Oakland Brewing Company, inasmuch as McDaniel is an owner and brewer at OBC. Independent has a very nice space in Oakland’s Jack London Square—a recently revitalized area of the town that’s seen a big influx of cool restaurants, bars, art galleries, and the like. Independent’s taproom is laid back, family friendly, and comfortable; more importantly, their beers are amazing. The day my girlfriend and I visited, they were pouring a couple small-batch beers and we sampled their Strawberry Blonde Ale and the T ‘n H Wheat Ale, both of which were wonderful. The Strawberry Blonde was delicious—dangerously drinkable—and had wild transitory flavors. The T & H wheat was also really impressive, sweet and bready taste at the start, then gently bitter, with another change towards a smooth finish. McDaniel reportedly uses Independent to produce more experimental beers (there was a spicy stout on tap when I visited, which is apparently truly hot, and there were a few sours too).
Although I’ve tried and loved Independent’s beers, I haven’t yet had the pleasure of sampling any of OBC’s beers, and that is mostly due to the sheer number of new and new-ish places here that cater to beer lovers. In the past few months, there’s been a few more additions to the Oakland/Berkeley/Alameda beer scene, and it seems as if breweries and beer bars here open in clusters of two and threes (not a bad thing):
- Fieldwork Brewing in Berkeley is new and awesome--they have a nice space and the beers I’ve had from them have been exceptional too (though it was only a quick tasting and I didn’t take notes so I can’t offer any kind of nuanced opinion except Fieldwork’s beers = delicious).
- Faction Brewing in Alameda seems like it’s blowing up—and with good reason, since their beers are fantastic. I’ve had both their Anomaly Milk Stout—one of the only beers that’s made me say “Wow” aloud as it’s settling after the pour and then again after the first sip—and their Oatmeal Stout, which was balanced and nicely sweet and somehow felt restorative as well. Faction has an emphasis on variety too—they brew what seems like a thousand different small-batch beers, which is pretty incredible.
- Ale Industries in Oakland has wonderful beers too and I know this mostly from word of mouth, though I have had their Cherry Kush beer a few times and fell in love with it—it’s light, fruity, and pleasant. I’m looking forward to visiting their tasting room and trying more of their stuff.
- Ghost Town Brewing in Oakland is super-new and seems to be building out their presence, much like VBC. The brewery offers three beers, all of which sound really cool, and I hope I get the chance to sample them soon.
This is all to say that there is a lot of brewery-related activity in Oakland, like there is in most of the U.S., I suppose, and that means that there are a lot of great options for anyone looking for new beers to try and new tasting rooms to loiter around.
As for beer bars, I have a couple favorites here, and while some of them are on my list for both objective and sentimental reasons, all of these places serve good beers and you will have fun while within or even while merely adjacent to their premises.
The Trappist, which is the first beer bar I heard about when I moved to Oakland in 2013 and the first one I visited, has an extensive draft menu, with a front bar, a back bar, and a patio bar. It’s situated in Old Oakland, which is turning into one of the most beer-centric areas of the city. This place offers an astounding range of Belgian and Belgian-style beers, plus some others that you won’t see at many other places. It’s got a great atmosphere—very quiet, for the most part, or quiet enough that you can have a good conversation—and the bartenders are always courteous and knowledgeable. My girlfriend and I had our first date at the Trappist and so I harbor a deep love for this place, though I have had zero luck in convincing them to install a bronze plaque at the back bar in our honor—such is life. The Trappist is simply one of the best bars in Oakland and so a necessary stop if you come here and want to drink good beer. (There’s another location called The Trappist Provisions in a different neighborhood in Oakland, but I’ve never been there so I cannot vouch for it, though it’s supposed to be great too.)
Beer Revolution is about four blocks from the Trappist and it is a little beer library. Beer Revolution serves beers that are, to put it weirdly, Brigadoon-esque: beers that you have never encountered and may never encounter again. Beers that come from every municipality and village and unincorporated area in California and beyond. I have had beers here that I did not think were physically possible to brew, and beers that frightened me with their fine style and powerful power. I exaggerate, of course, but just barely. Beer Revolution is the place to go for hardcore beer lovers--anyone who’s added and reviewed, like, 30,000 distinct beers on Untappd or who has a jaded palate that can only be roused to wonder by the most sublime or extreme flavors. It’s a fun place! It’s got a sweet porch out front and limited seating inside, and it’s a little loud, but you go to Beer Revolution mostly to drink insane beers, not to discuss the finer points of German expressionist poetry (for instance).
Perdition, in Berkeley, is a barbecue place with a great beer list. It only opened a year or so ago but has made itself a reputation as not only a great restaurant but a great beer bar too. Perdition serves transcendent barbecue, let me get that out of the way first; it is so good that you will want to eat it forever, which is probably medically inadvisable. It may not be the best barbecue in all of America—I will leave that judgment to men and women who are more comically serious about their chewables and comestibles than I—but it is really very good and excellent and outstanding. Plus Perdition is like a mini-Beer Revolution in its approach to keeping a long list of all-star CA beers (and out-of-state beers too) on draft. You can’t go wrong at this place. I promise that you will enjoy Perdition. It’s right in the heart of Berkeley too, so you can go walk around and take in Berkeley in all of its sweet lovely Berkeleyness.
Come visit Oakland! Without overselling it, let me just say that it is the finest town in the world, a place where you’ll find cheerful people, lusciously verdant public parks, clement weather, friendly animals, and the best beers you will probably ever drink.