From its deep green hills with sweeping views of San Francisco Bay, to its historic rebel activists like the Black Panthers, swashbuckling literary figures like Jack London, and its forward-thinking medical marijuana policy, Oakland, California, has a mind of its own. Even before tech startups began spilling over from San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the city was known for its originality and artistic spirit. Breweries and bars throughout the city reflect Oakland’s unique identity and ingenuity, and proffer a commitment to producing high-quality small batch beer from locally sourced ingredients.
Oakland has a long history with beer. Before Prohibition, Oakland breweries cranked out a whopping 35,000 barrels of beer per year that was distributed to hundreds of saloons around the city. At the time, that was nearly enough beer for each of Oakland’s 48,682 residents to have a barrel of their own. Today, old brewing traditions are revived and new creations are tested daily, putting Oakland on the map of small U.S. cities turning out top-notch selections of artisan beer. For those wishing to get a taste of Oakland’s unique flavor, we’ve done the “research” and come up with your plan of attack. Here are the craft breweries, bottle shops, and beer bars that showcase some of the city’s most creative quaffs.
Linden Street Brewery
Photo via Linden Street/Facebook
In 2009 Linden Street Brewery became the first production brewery to open in Oakland in more than 50 years. The founder saw a town thirsty for hand-crafted beer made from locally sourced ingredients, and since then Linden Street has been serving up small batches of freshly brewed beer in their tasting room and in restaurants and bars throughout the city. The California Common Lager carries on a Bay Area tradition of steam beer that began following the Gold Rush era. It combines four German malts to create a robust beer with a smooth range of flavors. Linden Street gives another nod to California legacy beers with their New Oakland Glow Bohemian Pilsner, a tribute to the popular Golden Glow beer from the Golden West Brewery that operated in West Oakland before Prohibition. Visit the Linden Street tasting room and take a tour of the brewery. For a bite with your brew, food trucks often linger outside.
Opening its doors in late 2015 in an old auto dealership on Oakland’s now hip strip of Broadway Auto Row, Drake’s Dealership may be the hot new spot on the block, but Drake’s is no newcomer to Bay Area beer. Founder Roger Lind opened the brewery in the neighboring city of San Leandro in 1989, making him one of America’s early micro-brewing pioneers. In the 25 years since then, Drake’s has been perfecting the art of beer and producing some of the highest quality West Coast-style ales. The 9.75% Imperial IPA Denogginizer has garnered a cult following among hop enthusiasts. The Dealership is set in a beautifully renovated brick building with a huge open-air seating area including fire pits, Adirondack benches, and a stage for live music Thursday-Saturday. They offer 32 beers on tap and a growler station, along with a full menu featuring wood-fired pizza.
Woods Bar & Brewery
Photo via Woods Bar
San Franciscans have finally figured out that all the cool kids live over the Bay Bridge in Oakland. Woods Beer Co. caught the wave and opened their brewery in the heart of Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood. In the Oakland location (there are also two locations in San Francisco), Woods offers a collection of their creative beers brewed on the premises. Suds adventurers sip in the minimalist bar or huddle around a fireplace on an enclosed patio with views of its urban surroundings. Woods prides itself in brewing unique and experimental beers, such as the MataVeza IPA, brewed with Yerba Mate, or Shell Shock, a dark stout made with real oyster shells for a salty surprise.
Independent Brewing Company
Independent holds true to its name. In a city that’s becoming overcrowded with bars and tasting rooms that value sleek presentation, Independent bucks the trend. Tucked in a warehouse space in an industrial zone near Jack London Square, Independent’s barroom is as unpretentious as it gets. The low profile space is airy and open with exposed brick walls, concrete floors, and mismatched tables and chairs. Dogs and kids are welcome. The daily selection of house beers is written on a chalkboard behind the bar. Favorites include the Sticky Zipper IPA with big, piney hops, and the slightly sweet but refreshing Kölschy Kölsch.