Craft Beer Bonanza
We explore the East Bay's four newest spots to grab a tasty brew.
If you thought the craft beer craze had already reached a crescendo, think again: New kegs are being tapped all across the East Bay faster than a fraternity rush at UCSB can shotgun a can of Milwaukee’s Best. Diablo popped into the four newest beer halls.
Creek Monkey Tap House
Situated in an old Victorian house right next to the creek in downtown Martinez (if you lean out over the balcony you can see the famous Martinez beaver dam), this laidback bar with about two dozen taps focuses on Northern California brews and sustainable pub grub. We tasted beers from Drake’s, Bear Republic, and Rubicon (anything done in a German style, such as the Bear Republic Roggenbier was a dollar off on our visit in a nod to Oktoberfest) while noshing on grilled fish tacos and absurdly rich and gooey mac ’n’ cheese. Creek Money also periodically serves a number of house-brewed beers.
611 Escobar St., Martinez, (925) 228-8787, creekmonkey.com
The newest iteration of the Pleasanton Hotel’s bar, Handles offers around 30 draft beers, plus 16 wines on tap. The menu is high-end pub style, ranging from sandwiches (I had the Aztec burger, served on ciabatta with avocado and grilled peppers) to smoked pork loin and grilled wild salmon. The beer list, again, is NorCal oriented, although there’s a bottle selection with some nice East Coast and Belgian options. The slightly older, after-work Pleasanton crowd enjoys its drinks in the comfortable, dark wood, hotel bar setting.
855 Main St., Pleasanton, (925) 399-6690, handlesgastropub.com
ØL Beer Cafe
The much anticipated (and unfortunately named—seriously, I have no idea how to type that) Walnut Creek beer café and bottle shop from one of the cofounders of Oakland’s craft beer nirvana The Trappist opened to a packed house on September 17. The eighteen taps lean toward European imports—on our visit, we had the Belgian Urthel Saissonaire and the unbelievably delicious Danish Mikkeler Black Hole, with a few NorCal brews, like the Linden Street Black Lager, mixed in. In addition, more than a hundred different bottled beers are stocked on shelves next to and in fridges across from the bar in a set up reminiscent of San Francisco’s City Beer Store. The ceiling is high and seating is fairly sparse, giving the bar an airy feel, and the food menu tilts toward appetizers—cheese plates, sausages, olives, and the like.
1541 Giammona Dr., Walnut Creek, (925) 210-1147, beer-shop.org
Also opening in mid-September, Tap 25 offers an alternative to the wine tasting rooms in downtown Livermore. The bar has a simple, bare bones interior, primarily decorated with posters from the Dogfish Head Brewery. The selection of 25 beers (hence the name) focuses on American craft brews, with a mix of California and East Coast (mmm … Ommegang Abbey Ale) mixed in. The beers come in five gallon kegs (instead of the standard 15.5), so they get rotated out frequently, even though the bar is only open Thursday through Sunday. Tap 25 also offers a small bar bites menu—tacos, bruschetta, panini sandwiches—prepared by another Backsmith Square restaurant, Swirl.
25 S. Livermore Ave., Livermore, (925) 294-8970, taptwentyfive.com