Secret Ingredient for Great Wine

I don’t know who first coined the phrase, but they were right when they said it takes good beer to make great wine.

It’s no secret that a cold beer really quenches your thirst after a long day working in the vineyard or the winery, or as a follow-up to a long day of wine tasting.

There are a lot of choices for beer drinkers in wine country. In Sonoma County, my favorite spot to grab a pint is the Bear Republic Brewing Company, located right off the square in downtown Healdsburg.

Bear Republic Brewing Company

There are more than two dozen different styles of beer brewed by Bear Republic, which is expanding its capacity with a much bigger production facility in Cloverdale.

Here’s a full list of Bear Republic brews.

Not all beers are available all the time, but one beer that’s always on the list is my favorite — an extremely hoppy IPA-styled brew called Racer 5. The “5” is best served on draft, but it’s also available in bottles at many Bay Area retail outlets (~$8/six-pack).

Racer 5 won a gold medal at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival in the American-Style Strong Pale Ale category and Bear Republic was selected as the best small brewing company of the year at the same event in 2006.

Bear Republic serves lunch and dinner with a pretty good pub menu that ranges from burgers and fries to salads, ribs and beer-friendly fare. On a sunny day, grab a seat on the patio and drink up!

East Bay Beer

We’ve got our own wine country, right here in the East Bay, which is home to more than a dozen urban wineries. (Check the East Bay Vintners Alliance website for a full list of nearby wineries.) The East Bay is also home to a host of brewpubs, craft brewers and some commercial-size breweries.

Pyramid DPA

My favorite East Bay stop for good beer, brewed at the source, is the Pyramid Alehouse in Berkeley (901 Gilman Street, about halfway between I-80 and San Pablo).

This is a sprawling facility with your typical pub-grub menu and a full slate of different styled beers. Check out the free tour schedule for a behind-the-scene look at the brewing process. There are also Pyramid Alehouses in Walnut Creek and Sacramento. The original alehouse is in Portland, where Pyramid got its start in 1984.

I’ve enjoyed several different Pyramid brews, but my favorite (by far) is the Draft Pale Ale (DPA). Available only on draft, this mildly hoppy brew is copper-colored with a thick, foamy head, the kind of foam you like to see on a properly poured glass of Guinness Stout. The head is created by the use of nitrogen and carbon dioxide which are used to propel the beer from the keg to the spout to the glass.

More East Bay Brews

The East Bay has a rich supply of drinking establishments that feature interesting beers. A stellar selection of Belgian-style ales is The Trappist’s claim to fame in Oakland. Cato’s Ale House, another Oakland hangout on Piedmont Avenue, has a great beer list and pretty good pub grub, too.

Germany by the Bay

I have enjoyed the very good pilsener style beer brewed in the German style in Berkeley by Trumer Brauerei. This is a crisp, summer-time pour that’s available at most grocery and liquor stores around the Bay. The Trumer brewhouse, located at 1404 Fourth Street, is literally just around the corner from Pyramid!

Linden Street

There’s a new brewery in Oakland, called Linden Street, which is making a “steam style” beer patterned after the original SF steam beer made famous by the granddaddy of craft brewers, Anchor Brewing on Potrero Hill. I haven’t sampled Linden Street’s products nor visited its production facility, located at 95 Linden Street. This is a beer-making facility only, with no tasting room and no set schedule of tours, which are available by appointment. I’d love to know what you think about this place, so please leave a message with your comments.

For a more complete list of beer-centric bars, brewpubs and small breweries, check the SF Brew Pub Club website.

Coming Up — San Francisco Beer Week

Hundreds of craft and specialty beers — from lagers and pilseners to red, brown and black ales, stouts, fruit beers and barleywine — will be poured around town in the annual San Francisco Beer Week  that runs Feb. 11-20 at various locations in the city. Check the SFBW website for updates on the full event schedule.



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