Bike to Brew Chapter One: East Bay

Bike to Brew!A little background to this post… one of the things I love most about living in the Bay Area, especially compared to Southern California, is how commutable the area can be without a car. While hosting a pretty darned good mass transit system, San Francisco often ranks fairly high on lists of “most bike friendly city in the United States” and I can confirm this being true as a daily bike commuter. There’s another list, which I’m particularly interested in, that San Francisco (and the Bay Area as a whole) often ranks pretty high on—“best beer cities in the U.S.”.

When I was first speaking with Jon about contributing to The Brew Site one of the first ideas I had was to conduct an East Bay Bike to Brew, wherein I’d ride my bike to as many breweries as was reasonable in the span of an afternoon. Obviously, there’s the potential for danger and wanting to avoid any serious levels of inebriation I decided to limit it to simply drinking the house IPA at four local brewhouses: Pyramid, Triple Rock, Jupiter, and Elevation 66. With my wife and daughter out of town this past weekend I decided it was time to give this concept a go. With a good friend joining for the first three legs of the journey, we met out our first rendezvous point:

Phase One: Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse (distance from my house: 3.8 miles)

Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse is going to get a separate review one of these days soon (I’ve been lax in reviewing them for no real good reason… Lord knows I’ve been there enough times!) but it was a great place to begin as on Saturday’s they offer a discount on the bill if you ride your bike in. They have a large selection of house beers (and a half-dozen from Portland Brewing Company) and having a seat at the at bar, I began my IPA quest with a Thunderhead.

Pyramid Alehouse

Now as I noted earlier, the original idea was to enjoy the house IPA before moving on to the next leg of the journey but my partner in beer noted they had five house IPAs on tap (and one from PBC)… that’s a little steep for one place so I limited it to three half-pints (love that they have that option). And in need of some protein we ordered a plate of chicken wings—excellent choice! The food’s pretty good at Pyramid and their beers are always consistent. I’ve always found their Thunderhead (and Outburst, which I didn’t try here–it’s their Imperial) to be decent IPAs but their Discord and Wheaten are both pretty standout. A great way to start the ride!

Pyramid Alehouse taps

IPAs enjoyed:

  • Thunderhead
  • Discord Dark IPA
  • Wheaten IPA

Phase Two: Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse (distance: 1.8 miles)

After a gorgeous ride through Berkeley, we arrived at our next location—the legendary Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse. Another spot that I’ve not yet reviewed (but shall rectify soon!), Triple Rock, according to Good Beer Guide West Coast, is one of the oldest brewpubs in the Bay Area. Rolling up to the bar, we immediately ordered the only IPA they had on tap–the Ipax.

Triple Rock

Aggressive hoppy and thoroughly refreshing we decided to order another plate of wings to compare to Pyramid’s. Much to our disappointment, and despite enthusiasm from the bartender, they came slathered in a hot sauce that overwhelmed our taste buds and made the remaining beer largely tasteless. Wrapping up it was time to onto our next stop—Triple Rock’s sister, Jupiter.

Triple Rock taps

IPA enjoyed:

  • Ipax

Phase Three: Jupiter (distance 0.3 miles)

Only a few blocks down, we coasted into Jupiter’s awesome beer garden in back (for a more detailed write-up, check out my review from earlier this year). We had to order our beers from the bar to enjoy the Adirondack chairs in back and it was worth it! After riding a half-dozen miles and drinking a handful of delicious beers it was nice to relax and absorb some Vitamin D. We’d been careful to try and drink about a pint of water for every pint of beer (hydration is key!) but this being our first Bike to Brew we were starting to slow just a bit. After a pair of IPAs and some sunshine, my partner in this hoppy adventure had to roll to a birthday party and I made a run at the final stretch of the adventure! Time to head out of Berkeley and back toward El Cerrito solo.

IPAs enjoyed:

  • IPA
  • Quasar (Imperial IPA)

Phase Four: Elevation 66 (distance 2.9 miles)

Making it safely to the final stop on the journey, I grabbed my favorite spot at the bar and ordered my final IPA of the day (for a more involved review of Elevation 66 read this). I was slightly disappointed as the day before, when I’d dropped in for a pint, the bartender had said their worthy Imperial IPA, the White Rabbit, would likely be on tap by the next day… but it wasn’t to be. The great Bike to Brew/IPA challenge had come to end. To commemorate the adventure, I had one more before hitting the road–their reliably good Esther’s Stout.

IPA enjoyed:

  • East Bay IPA

Final Tally:

  • Time: 3 hours
  • Distance travelled: 8.8 miles
  • Beers enjoyed: 8

It was an amazing afternoon (only sullied by the fact I got my bike seat stolen after making one quick stop on the way home… grrr!) and despite the number of beers consumed, we played it safe in preparation and execution (safety first!). Our plan is to do a second Bike to Brew, San Francisco edition, in the next month or two, likely coinciding with the opening of Magnolia Brewery’s new location in Dogpatch. That’s an adventure that I’m looking forward to!