Art of 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 construction.

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.

Our 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 was Jupiter, 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 creamy.

From 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.

The Sierra 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.

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