First Bite: It’s Hopping
Serve yourself at Livermore’s Hops and Sessions.
There’s something wonderfully subversive about a pour-your-own-beer establishment. “Tapping” more than two-dozen drafts with your teched out–wristband, scanning the tasting notes, trying this one and that one—pretending to be on the lookout for that perfectly balanced brew when you’re actually more interested in the ounces consumed and the alcohol content of each brew.
It’s said that one’s judgment is the first thing to go when drinking, so be sure to order Hops and Sessions’ fried chicken sandwich and a side wedge salad before those sips turn into pints.
I do love the self-pour concept. After finding a beer you love (you’re charged by the ounce via your wristband), you can fill your glass to the rim, head to your seat, and dig in to some above-average pub food. Hops and Sessions—the new taproom and restaurant on the east side of Livermore’s burgeoning First Street—is essentially a wide-open communal space with picnic-sized wood tables, a wall of beer choices with an array of glassware, and a starting line: the cash register where you scan your drivers license and credit card in exchange for a wristband.
The beer selection is well-rounded and well chosen, if lacking in imports and porters. I found Refuge Brewery’s Blood Orange Wit to be super creamy and light. Social Kitchen and Brewery’s Lager than Life was ultra-quaffable (bright and citrusy); I drank it with my crispy chicken sandwich, served on a soft potato-style bun with creamy bacon-pomegranate slaw. The blackened fish tacos, accompanied by brightly colored tortilla chips, would have benefited from more aggressive seasoning. The wedge salad, loaded with bacon and blue cheese, simply rocks. It stood up to the boldest beers I tried: Altamont Beer Works’ Juice Above the Clouds and Working Man Brewing Company’s Old Jabberwokki. At 9 and 12 percent ABV, respectively, you might stay high in the clouds for a while.
Hops and Sessions also offers a few well-crafted ciders and two white wines on tap, but I found them unremarkable (there are red wines offered by the glass, too). There’s a lot to play with here, including a menu offering an array of sausages and classic appetizers such as sriracha chicken wings. I’m sure I drank much more than I would have had I been ordering beers from a server—but maybe that’s the point.
2339 First St., Livermore, (925) 495-4118, hopsandsessions.com.