BEER + WINE ISSUE: A self-guided bike tour to up your brew IQ
Head back to the Bay Trail, unless you feel like a trip further inland to Berkeley's two fun brewpubs Jupiter (2181 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 843-8277, www.jupiterbeer.com) and Triple Rock Brewery (1920 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 843-2739, www.triplerock.com). Between Berkeley and Oakland you have three lovely miles of trail ride, and if I'm not mistaken we are in the thick of blackberry season, which means the indigo clumps you'll see on your right just past Sea Breeze Market and Deli (598 University, Berk.) are ripe for picking.
You could while away a day within just a few blocks in downtown Oakland, such a prime sitting-out-with-a-microbrew kinda neighborhood it is.
In terms of places that make their own brew, there is none better than the 1890s warehouse building that houses Linden Street Brewery (95 Linden, SF. (510) 812-1264, www.lindenbeer.com), the little brewery that could. There's only a few meters in between tank and tap here, and on weekdays you can sit in the joint's tap room and suck down golden pints of its Urban Peoples' Common Lager, while hearing the story from the bartender of how it came to the forefront of Oakland's craft beer scene.
You may not even guess, right off the bat, that Pacific Coast Brewing Company (906 Washington, Oakl. (510) 836-2739, www.pacificcoastbrewing.com) is brewing the suds that wind up in your $9/five beer sampler — but it is. The charming brick pub has all the fried pickles one has come to expect from a solid bar menu, and a latticed patio that provides a little privacy from the Oakland cityscape. Out front, you can park your steed and walk it out — the rest of your stops are within stumbling distance, unless you're trying to really make a day of it and head south to Drake's Brewing (1933 Davis, San Leandro. (510) 568-2739, www.drinkdrakes.com) and its tucked-away pint parlor.
You may just have saved the best for last. The Trappist (460 Eighth St., Oakl. (510) 238-8900, www.thetrappist.com) and Beer Revolution (464 Third St., SF. (510) 452-2337, www.beer-revolution.com) are two of my favorite Bay beer bars, regardless of area code. Both have superlative selection and cute, sunny patios, but considerably different vibes.
The Trappist is a classy, under-lit place with two bars and an elegant rotating list of beers at each, some local and some from far-flung locales. On our visit, we tried a trio of superb sour beers, including the transcendent red-brown Belgian Rodenbach Grand Cru. Trappist's food menu is full of elegantly spare, small plates packed with big flavors, like a recent Mahon Reserva cheese platter with truffled almonds and shisito peppers. I'm no meat eater, but I heard rave reviews of the comparatively proletarian Trappist dog, which was studded with bacon and seemed an apt pairing for a beer that may out-class you.
Beer Revolution, as the name would imply, is a populist place — local brewers regularly roll through to share their fermentation philosophies. Though their draft menu is impressively large, the beauty of this place is variety. Inside the bar there is a vast refrigerator land where bottles await for your to-go/for-here fancy. We vote for-here, because you'll want to savor every drop of your East Bay booze cruise.