Craft beer tourism has come of age. And with more American breweries than ever before now online, beer fans are increasingly building their travel plans around beer. And one of its most exciting new destinations is Oakland, California, a diverse and progressive community overlooking the magnificent San Francisco Bay – that also happens to be home to some of the most interesting craft beer in the world.
Nestled on the green hills that look westward across the water, with its sweeping vista of the San Francisco skyline, Oakland, which has been historically associated with the Bay Area Region, is very much its own place.
Home to writers like Jack London (lots of places named after him) and 60’s radicals like the Black Panthers (less places named after them), it’s an amazing urban port city with an eclectic community and an intoxicating vibe.
Diversity defines this bayside enclave, as it does, its craft beer scene. And it’s this exhilarating west coast mashup of artists and techies, transplants and dreamers that makes this very walkable city, so vital and so much fun.
Oakland is a city of ever-changing neighborhoods, architecture and peoples. Upscale quarters, peppered with chic and funky restaurants, give way to classic bars and brewery tasting rooms, medical marijuana outlets, bonsai gardens…and beautifully renovated music theaters like the Fox Oakland.
It’s also a city with some serious craft beer…which we drank non-stop while out there.
The Beer Scene
Oakland’s craft beer is incredible in its variety and yet solidly West Coast in its instincts. It’s a relatively young scene, especially when compared to cities like San Diego, but has reached an astounding level of brewing sophistication in a very short time.
Like Portland, Oregon, its older and more established craft beer sibling to the north, Oakland is populated with a variety of boutique operations, all distinct in their own ways.
We were amazed to find two different breweries serving up Gruit Ales, an herbal brew that we’ve never encountered on tap in the East. And Rauchbier, again not a common style to find on tap in most regions, we happened upon three brilliant interpretations of this smoked rarity as we drank our way around the city.
And Oakland’s breweries and taprooms also understand vibe, which makes the whole drinking experience there, that much richer.
Woods Bar & Brewery, with its big windowed and open-room air feel , couldn’t be more different from its neighbor, the Diving Dog Brewhouse which is one part a sleek working brewery and another part photo gallery.
At the Linden Street Brewery’s beer garden you’ll be drinking next to working loading docks in a near-port warehouse setting and at Ale Industries you’ll be greeted by a magnificent wooden barrel-lined hall built for hours of beer serious beer exploration.
Drakes Dealership is an award-winning open-air architectural masterpiece that was originally an auto dealer showroom, while Independent Brewing is a low-key “public house” with a garage-door entrance and found-art decor.
Oakland has arrived as a stone cold beer mecca. And with its many diverse breweries, brewpubs and bottle shops, yet another welcome addition to California’s already storied craft beer scene.
We found the “other city by the bay” to be a beer tourism destination worth any beer lover’s time, and we’ll be detailing many of Oakland’s great beer hangs, beginning next week…Stay tuned.