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Something's Brewing

Brewpubs-the thinking person's drinking destination-abound in the East Bay


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In a place like the East Bay, where diners care about the provenance of their lettuce, the cacao content of their chocolate, and the quality of life enjoyed by their chicken, it should come as no surprise that beer aficionados would want to know who is making their brew.

Brewpubs—bar-restaurants where the beers are made under the same roof (or at least nearby) and the food won’t leave you hungry—are the natural fulfillment of this desire. In Diabloland, you can find a brewpub in almost every town; Diablo came up with five fantastic establishments without even trying.

Here’s the low-down on each, so you’ll know where to go when Indian summer really kicks in and you’ve just got to sit in a biergarten and sip the perfect hefeweizen, or which one to turn to when you’re in the mood for an amber ale and a basket of wings. We’ve even found a brewpub where you can drink beer, flirt with a date, and watch a movie all at once. And if you’re planning your next house party, we’ll tell you which local stores stock these handcrafted beers. Cheers!

Pyramid Alehouse, Brewery & Restaurant

Pyramid, a brewpub that started in Seattle and now has two East Bay locations, specializes in unfiltered wheat beers called hefeweizens. Don’t miss the apricot weizen, made naturally with apricot skins: It’s pleasantly fruity without being sweet.

The Crew: Pyramid is where dads go to drink beer and eat food their wives won’t let them have. The bar at the Walnut Creek location also draws a younger crowd, which imbibes beer and has a snack as preparation for serious barhopping in the neighborhood.

The Grub: Pyramid’s got the formula down for chicken wings—crisp on the outside and meaty on the inside, with a sauce that’s a hybrid between buffalo and barbecue. Appetizers, such as a creamy artichoke-spinach dip, are a good bet, as are the cheesy, thin-crust pizzas.

The Perks: The beer garden at the Walnut Creek location, with its free live music, is the place to be in nice weather. The Berkeley Pyramid has an outdoor movie screen—the perfect setting for a date on a warm night.

Take the Party Home: Pyramid Ales are available at Andronico’s, and they sell kegs at the pub.

Pyramid Alehouse, Brewery & Restaurant, 1410 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 946-1520; 901 Gilman St., Berkeley, (510) 528-9880, www.pyramidbrew.com  

E. J. Phair Brewing Company & Alehouse

E. J. Phair makes more than 15 varieties of beer. For a change of pace, try the vanilla hops. It’s got a beautiful vanilla bouquet, soft sweetness, and, believe it or not, a chocolaty finish.

The Crew: The hardworking, clean-cut men of Concord populate the bar at E. J. Phair. Some of the neighborhood seniors also stop in for lunch, and the waitress even pulls up a chair to chat with them when there’s a lull.

The Grub: The menu provides all the pub standards plus a lot more, including crab cakes, green salads topped with shrimp, and hummus and vegetables.

The Perks: E. J. Phair’s owners will give you a tour of their off-site brewing operation.

Take the Party Home: E. J. Phair brews are available at all Andronico’s, BevMo, Cost Plus, and Whole Foods locations in the Bay Area.

E. J. Phair Brewing Company & Alehouse, 2151 Salvio St., Ste. L, Concord, (925) 691-4253, www.ejphair.com  

The Hop Yard American Alehouse & Grill

The Hop Yard’s brews are actually made next door to its Pleasanton location under the Hop Town label. Offerings include a solid India Pale Ale with an amber color, light effervescence, and a bitter finish. Making beer in Pleasanton recalls the days in the late 1800s when the area was covered by close to 2,000 acres of swamp in which hops were grown for export to London.

The Crew: At the Pleasanton location, hoards of thirtysomethings who work in the area pack the patio. Inside, men ordering pitchers of beer occupy the wood booths.

The Grub: If you’re in the mood for burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, and other pub fare, the Hop Yard has you covered. The onion rings are greasy, the garlic fries are loaded with crispy minced garlic, and green salads are an afterthought.

The Perks: The well-loved dart room and complimentary Thomas Kemper root beer for designated drivers.

Take the Party Home: Look for 22-ounce bottles of Hop Town Ale at Gene’s Fine Foods in Pleasanton and at all East Bay Safeway and BevMo locations.

The Hop Yard American Alehouse & Grill, 3015 Hopyard Rd., Ste. H, Pleasanton, (925) 426-9600; 470 Market Pl., San Ramon, (925) 277-9600, www.hopyard.com  

Pleasanton Main Street Brewery

Four house varieties are always on tap. Selections might include the smooth, dark Zone 7 Porter (named for the Tri-Valley’s water district), the crisp Pleasanton Pale Ale, the low-alcohol Island Wheat Beer, and the high-alcohol Red Leaf Double India Pale Ale.

The Crew: This is Pleasanton’s hometown hangout. Middle-aged male regulars sit at the bar, and college-age guys wait tables. Sundays, you’ll find the whole gang watching the A’s game.

The Grub: Beer batter is the operative phrase here, and you’ll find its salty, crisp crust on everything from french fries and zucchini to the dilly boppers: deep fried dill pickle chips served with honey mustard.

The Perks: On Tuesdays from 3 to 9 p.m., the house-brewed beers and barbecued chicken tacos are only $2.

Take the Party Home: Main Street doesn’t sell kegs, but you can buy a growler, a four-pint jug of beer, that lasts up to seven days in the fridge. But take note; once you crack the lid, you’ve got to drink it right away.

Pleasanton Main Street Brewery, 830 Main St., Pleasanton, (925) 462-8218, www.mainstbrewery.com

Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse

Triple Rock makes about a dozen brews, some of which are "cask conditioned," which carbonates them naturally; others are available on the "nitro tap," which gives ales a finer texture. On Thursday nights, Triple Rock sells its infamous Monkey Head Arboreal Ale, which packs a wallop at 8 percent alcohol.

The Crew: This is where UC Berkeley goes for beer. College kids out on dates and weary grad students who can’t finish their theses keep Triple Rock in business.

The Grub: Garlic fries have a gourmet Berkeley twist here: They’re made with rosemary and olive oil and are sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Salads are surprisingly fresh, and because much of the clientele were kids not that long ago, you can order a pint of Goldfish crackers as a bar snack.

The Perks: Check out the brewery works though big windows inside Triple Rock. Also, the hamburger and sandwich menu comes with suggested beer pairings.

Take the Party Home: Triple Rock brews aren’t for sale at the grocery store, but you can call the pub and order a keg of your choice the next time you’re hosting a party.

Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse, 1920 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510) 843-2739, www.triplerock.com  

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