Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
Like pilgrims journeying to mystical sacred
places, we headed north through California’s productive Central
Valley. We sought neither holy relics, nor almonds. Our quest was to
explore Berkeley’s craft breweries.
We spent a beautiful spring Saturday in
Berkeley visiting craft breweries.
Our first stop was Triple
Rock Brewery and Alehouse,
which is described as America’s oldest original brewpub. Pioneering
brothers John and Reid Martin explained the idea of a brewpub to the
City of Berkeley and overcame neighborhood concern about a factory
operating in downtown Berkeley. Eventually the brothers received
seven variances from zoning codes which allowed them to begin
The Martin brothers, who had both been home
brewers in college, brewed their first batch on Christmas Day in
1985, and their second batch on New Year’s Day, 1986. Those were
days the construction crews were not in the way. The brewery opened
its doors to the public on March 14, 1986, and ran out of beer at
the end of Saint Patrick’s day.
Originally named Roaring Rock Brewery, the
name needed to be changed when a certain brewery in Pennsylvania
thought the name might cause confusion. Apparently, the daughter of
the president of the Pennsylvania brewery was a student at
University of California, Berkeley. The new Triple Rock was selected
to honor the three regular brews they served at the time.
Triple Rock brews their beers on the
premises, which are expanding next door this summer. We stayed
indoors, though there is a popular roof garden patio which hosts
special events and live music.
Triple Rock serves a full menu of soups,
salads, sandwiches, and sides as well as their beers and a rotating
list of hard ciders. We visited late in the morning, so we shared an
ample basket of fries as we enjoyed a flight of their brews.
selections included two of the three beers on which the Triple Rock
name is based. The beginning of our spectrum was IPAX, a West Coast
IPA which is their most popular beer. IPAX is an unfiltered beer
which is finished with whole flower Simcoe hops. We continued
with Bug Juice American Pale Ale. Bug Juice’s big hop flavor and
aroma balanced with a floral hop and a light caramel taste. Our
third selection was Pinnacle Pale Ale, an English Pale Ale which was
one of the three original rocks in the Triple Rock name. Pinnacle is
brewed with English hops and a light grain base, and has some floral
and marmalade aromas. The fourth of our five selections was SHE Vic
Secret, part of Triple Rock’s Single Hop Experience series. It is a
single hop brewed with an Australian varietal and has tropical fruit
and pine notes. The final taster in our flight was Black Rock
Porter, another of the original three rocks. It is lightly hopped
and has a smooth flavor of roasted coffee.
The third beer from which Triple Rock gets
its name is Red Rock Ale.
From Triple Rock, we walked and explored
downtown Berkeley. There is a Saturday Berkeley Farmers’ Market with
fresh organic produce, specialty foods, bread, and more. Berkeley is
an excellent place to watch people and make new discoveries.
The next stop on our journey of discovery
which has been located in what was a livery stable within walking
distance of Triple Rock since 1992.
Jupiter is a two-story venue with an outdoor
beer garden. Jupiter’s Gothic-influenced design includes pews from a
former Presbyterian church, antique church lights, a copper-topped
bar, pressed tin wall coverings. The design was inspired by the
oldest bar in Berlin. A staircase leads to the second floor with a
front window view of downtown Berkeley and a back window overlooking
the two-level beer garden. Jupiter features a year-round music
schedule. It is known for featuring alternative jazz and for its
Summer Bluegrass series on weekends.
In addition to beer, Jupiter's a lunch menu
which features pizzas prepared in wood-fired ovens and focaccia
sandwiches, and an expanded dinner menu.
Jupiter does not offer tasters of the beer
it brews, so I chose a Jupiter Dry Stout to represent the full,
diverse board of possibilities. It is served on nitrogen, and has
smooth, toasty chocolate notes with a dry finish and feels rich and
Jupiter we took the opportunity to walk around the UC Berkeley
campus and more of downtown Berkeley.
Our third stop was at the most recent
addition to the Berkeley craft beer community. In 2013, Sierra
Nevada opened their first tasting room outside the Chico
headquarters in Berkeley.
Nevada Torpedo Room offers 16
rotating taps and opportunities to spend time with friends sampling
small-batch beers or Thursday cask night. The room is intimate, and
there are food choices that pair well with the brews the offer.
We chose to sample three beers on our visit.
We began with the Torpedo Extra IPA, which features Sierra Nevada’s
“hop torpedo” dry-hopping device which helps add hop aroma without
adding bitterness. We also sampled their Audition Double IPA, and
their Knightro Dry Irish Stout.
We had a great day in Berkeley, satisfied
with the craft brew treasures we discovered.
Greg Richardson is a leadership and
organizational coach, and a spiritual life mentor, in Pasadena,
California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and
monks and monastic life. Greg is a recovering attorney, executive,
and university professor. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and
he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk.
You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com.