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.
Pacific Coast Brewery
Photo via Pacific Coast Brewery/Facebook
Housed in a brick building built in 1876 in Old Oakland, Pacific Coast Brewing Co. offers a laidback, old-fashioned pub atmosphere with house-brewed and guest craft beers flowing from 24 taps. With names like Leviathan Imperial Stout, Gray Whale Ale, and the chardonnay-barreled Mermaid’s Revenge, their house beer list recalls ancient mythical beasts of the deep Pacific. Pacific Coast Brewing offers a full menu of pub fare. A cozy outdoor dining area allows for admiring the greenery, and occasional live music and pub quizzes provide entertainment.
Diving Dog Brewhouse
At Diving Dog, aspiring connoisseurs and newbie home-brewers can sharpen their skills by brewing beer on the premises using Diving Dog’s professional recipes and equipment. They supply the ingredients and instruction, and you can brew, bottle, and create a custom label for your batch of beer. At the U-shaped bar, 24 taps offer a selection of mostly West Coast craft beers. There’s an extensive bottle list as well. Diving Dog doesn’t brew their own beer for consumption (or serve beer brewed on the premises), but the atmosphere is friendly and laidback and the location is in the heart of Uptown Oakland, directly across the street from the historic Fox Theater.
Photo via The Trappist/Facebook
Belgian beer lovers have the choice of two locations for sampling some of The Trappist’s specialty selections: the cozy European-style pub in Old Oakland or the sleek and minimalist interior of Trappist Provisions beer cafe and bottle shop on College Ave. The Trappist offers an extensive list of artisan beers from Belgium, the Netherlands, and beyond. Their 25 rotating taps highlight local breweries and craft microbrews from the West Coast.
It’s hard to talk about beer in Oakland without mentioning Beer Revolution. Beer Rev, as it’s affectionately known, is the go-to spot for sampling some of the freshest and most sought-after craft beer this side of the Bay. Their 50 rotating taps offer a diverse range of hand-selected domestic and imported microbrews, and a list of hundreds more can make it hard to decide what to order. There’s also a wall of refrigerated bottles to sample or take home with you. The bartenders are down-to-earth, friendly beer connoisseurs who are happy to offer recommendations.
The Good Hop
Photo via The Good Hop/Facebook
Part chill local beer hangout, part mind-blowing bottle shop, The Good Hop offers a selection of more than 450 bottled and canned beers for you to peruse, imbibe, or take home. There are tables and a bar with 16 constantly changing taps of mostly local beers, some of which are collaborations between The Good Hop and other local brewers, like the Mighty Hop Scotch, an 8% Scotch ale brewed in partnership with Independent that was available on a recent visit.
Lost & Found
There’s no better way to get lost and found in the sunny East Bay than at this hip and laidback indoor/outdoor beer garden. Featuring an extensive list of fresh, predominately California-brewed craft beer, Lost & Found is the perfect place to spend several hours over beer and snacks from their house menu. The space is open and airy, kids are welcome before 8pm, and the place is always buzzing with both locals and those visiting from around the Bay for a taste of Oakland’s lively beer scene. Take your turn at ping-pong or a game of corn hole on the expansive back patio.