Fun Must-Try Classes in the East Bay
Commit to learning something new this year—with help from an expert—in one of these cool classes.
Write this down, class: We’ve scoured the East Bay to cull a contemporary course catalog packed with classes taught by bona fide experts in their fields. And if your newfound
expertise makes you the talk of all your friends? Bragging rights are part of the curriculum.
Beer Making 101
Brew Your Own Beer
If you’re persnickety when it comes to the level of hops in your IPA or just itching to one-up your neighbor’s Kegerator, mastering the art of home brewing is a surefire way to ensure your stein—and your social calendar—never run dry. Get ready to take a seat at the cool kids’ table.
Learn the basics of home brewing at MoreBeer! in Concord, which offers monthly classes taught by two brewers, one from Berkeley’s award-
winning Trumer Pils. The Basic Extract class is offered the second Saturday of every month, and an All Grain class is on tap every first Saturday, each for $20 a session. “The Basic Extract class is the easiest way to get started because there’s less room for error,” says staffer and home brewer Bill Schultz. “With this class, you can buy a kit that has everything premeasured, so it’s a much easier place to start.” Once you find your footing, the staff at MoreBeer! is on hand with all of the equipment (see sidebar) and expertise you’ll need to outfit your own home brewery. Call ahead to reserve your bar stool.
MoreBeer! 995 Detroit Ave., Ste. G, Concord, (925) 771-7107, morebeer.com
Want to brew without the commitment of setting up at home? Get a taste of beer making with a private brewing class at Diving Dog Brewhouse in Oakland. This popular bar offers Brew on Premises, in which would-be brewers choose from one of 26 recipes and whip up a batch of high-quality beer in Diving Dog’s commercial-grade kettles. “We walk our customers through each step of the process, really focusing on why you’re doing what you’re doing,” says owner and head brewer Rob Bailard, who leads the sessions. Once you’ve cooked up your dream brew, your beer ferments for a few weeks in a kettle at Diving Dog, after which you’ll return to help bottle the finished product—complete with a custom label of your own design. Sessions aren’t cheap—they go for $350—but you’ll take home roughly six cases of 22-ounce bottles, more than enough to share with your suddenly thirsty friends.
Diving Dog Brewhouse 1802 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, (510) 306-1914, divingdogbrew.com
Time to upgrade your chemistry set. Whether you want to start small or go for the gold, MoreBeer! offers brewing kits from $129 up. They’re easy to set up and come with the necessary tools and equipment to begin brewing right on your kitchen stove.
Once your brew lab is suitably stocked, you’ll need the ingredient kits. Starting at $24.99, MoreBeer! has more than 140 kits to choose from, with options for every budget—and palate. Base your pick on type of beer (ale, lager, stout), alcohol content, bitterness preference, and fermentation time; impatient brewers can have a batch ready to drink in as little as two weeks.
You can even customize beers to your own taste, whether that means trying your hand at seasonal flavored ales and trendy sours, or whipping up a batch of gluten-free beer.
Ready to get your hands dirty? Cultivate your green thumb with seminars and hands-on workshops that are guaranteed to yield a bountiful—and beautiful—harvest. Prerequisites: none. Let’s dig in!
Sloat Garden Center offers a bevy of seasonal seminars and Make and Take workshops for novice and intermediate gardeners alike. On February 11, the Concord and Pleasant Hill locations will host a Living Valentine terrarium workshop. Composed of air plants, succulents, and adorable decorative elements assembled in a small glass container, terrariums make a perfect Valentine’s Day gift—and last longer than a dozen roses. Students will learn the ins and outs of tending these showstoppers before making their own masterpiece to take home. In March, Sloat will offer workshops to create your own succulent bowl to use as a living centerpiece. Landscape designer and Sloat’s seminar director Jen Strobel recommends both classes for all skill levels.
Sloat Garden Center Various East Bay locations, sloatgardens.com
Lafayette’s Orchard Nursery and Florist offers an impressive roster of classes, taught by its team of professional gardeners and floral designers. Our pick for this season is Orchard’s Kokedama workshop on January 21.
Kokedama, also called string gardens, are an ancient form of Japanese bonsai in which a plant’s root system is delicately wrapped in moss and string to yield a sculptural piece of art for your home. Students will learn about the history of string gardens, then select a plant and learn wrapping techniques, care and feeding, and the many ways to display their living art. Hang one from a plant hook on your ceiling, or string a series across a kitchen window. (Kokedama plants love to be suspended in the air.) Be sure to take notes on the background of this storied art while you’re in class—these bundled beauties are sure to be conversation starters.
Orchard Nursery and Florist 4010 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-4474, orchardnursery.com
Stock Up the Pantry
Preserved in Oakland is bringing back the fine art of DIY in the kitchen. Stocked with all the materials and ingredients you’ll need to make your own cheese, yogurt, pickles, sourdough starter, and dozens of other treats, it’s little wonder Preserved calls itself “a hardware store for your pantry.”
Intro to Sourdough
San Francisco may be famous for its sourdough, but baking up a loaf can be tricky business. Led by Homestead Restaurant bread-making extraordinaire Elizabeth Sassen, Preserved’s sourdough class covers everything from creating and cultivating your own sourdough starter to mixing, shaping, proofing, and baking a loaf from start to finish. Students will snack on samples to learn what characteristics make a successful sourdough, and leave with a batch of their own starter and a shaped loaf to take home and bake the next day.
Join legendary jam-maker Rachel Saunders from Blue Chair Fruit for a class on making the most of those groaning citrus trees with all manner of marmalades. Saunders will share her expert techniques, tips for safe canning, and best of all, her favorite marmalade recipes. While the specifics will depend on what’s in season, past offerings have included delicious Seville orange marmalade and lemon marmalade with rosewater.
In Pickling and Canning (February 5), Happy Girl Kitchen Co. co-owner Todd Champagne teaches the art of, well, pickling, leading students through the entire process of making their own pickled goods. Students will learn the history and nutritional benefits of pickling at home, as well as techniques, recipes, strategies, and safety tips for creating their own signature style, then make a tasty batch of pickled veggies. You’ll leave class with two jars of your own creation, plus all the know-how to keep your pantry shelves stocked all year long.
Preserved 5032 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, (510) 922-8434, preservedgoods.com
Arts and Crafts
Become a Maker
El Cerrito’s Handcraft Studio School is fast becoming a veritable Ivy League institution for the fine art of making crafts, attracting some of the best artists in the Bay Area to teach its classes.
“When I conceived of the school, it was with the intention to create a space for people of all backgrounds and ages to come together and share their love of working with their hands,” says Handcraft founder Marie Muscardini. “Our workshops are professional and highly detailed, but also full of warmth and inclusion.”
Artist in Residence
Meghan Shimek is an internationally recognized textile artist whose large-scale weavings have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. Shimek’s Off Loom Roving Weaving workshop is a recurring favorite at Handcraft: Her first workshop of the year is slated for January 17, and seats fill up fast. Your $195 tuition includes Shimek’s expert guidance as well as all the materials you’ll need to produce your own off-loom weaving in class. Once you’re hooked, Shimek offers looms and additional roving for sale on her website, so you can perfect your technique at home.
Block Printing Tutorial
Score a coveted seat in Handcraft’s popular Block Printing on Fabric class, where artist and printmaker Jen Hewett will lead you through this ancient art form. Once you’ve carved your own block design and mastered the printing technique, the sky’s the limit: Reproduce those pricey pillows from Pinterest, or design a one-of-a-kind wall hanging that’ll be the envy of all your friends. Don’t sweat the supplies, either—all required materials come with your $145 tuition, including a yard of muslin. Angling for extra credit? Students are encouraged to bring special fabrics they’d like to use for additional printing projects in class.
Hand-carved wooden spoons are kitchen staples for serious cooks, but they’re also covetable works of art. Though it may seem a daunting DIY project, artist Windy Chien’s Wooden Spoon Carving class is a perfect intro for any novice. Chien’s remarkable wooden spoons are highly prized by collectors: They often sell out when she offers them for sale. This class requires a bit of elbow grease, so Muscardini advises coming prepared to “work hard, in clothes that can take a little sawdust.” The six-hour, hands-on class guides students from designing to carving and finishing, and includes tutorials on using traditional tools like Japanese handsaws and Shinto rasps.
Handcraft Studio School 10368 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, (510) 332-6101, handcraftstudioschool.com
Intro to Glass Art
Stoke your creative fire at Bullseye Glass Co. in emeryville—a world-renowned innovator in glass production.
Sweltering kilns and molten glass may not sound like a casual undertaking, but once you catch sight of the kaleidoscopic array of colors
and snazzy projects offered at at Bullseye Glass Resource Center, you’ll be clamoring to get started.
Make your own glass wonders in Glass Fusing Fundamentals, where you’ll practice the techniques of slumping (shaping warm glass) and fusing to design your own stylish plate. The cheery Stripes and Dots class will teach you the delicate art of working with glass rods, and you’ll create a pair of colorful modern graphic plates to take home. And in Hip to Be Square, you’ll learn how to dazzle with screen-printed images on glass using a powder- printing technique, and leave with a set of four custom coasters that Bullseye warns, “Your guests will want to steal.” Classes start at $100.
Once you’ve mastered the classroom, Bullseye operates a vibrant Open Studio program that lets returning students use the studio’s tools and kilns, plus a fully stocked retail space for purchasing all the materials you’ll need to create your next masterpiece. Students who have taken a class can book studio time to experiment on their own surrounded by other artists at all skill levels, with a Bullseye studio pro on hand to offer assistance (or reassurance). The Open Plate program also allows students to use Bullseye’s facilities to reproduce any single project they’ve made previously in a class for a flat $50 fee.
Bullseye Glass Resource Center 4514 Hollis St., Emeryville, (510) 595-1318, bullseyeglass.com