In just four years, City Beer has become an indispensable destination not only for San Francisco beer lovers but for beer aficionados from all over.
The formula is deceptively simple: well-selected craft beer poured from a handful of rotating taps and bottles sold on the premises (with the option of paying an extra $1 to be consumed on site), plus some simple food to nosh on if you’re hungry. It works because of the dedication and attention to detail of City Beer’s indefatigable owners, Beth and Craig Wathen. Their passion and grace have made their Folsom Street beer store a regular stop for thirsty downtown office workers and visiting beer pilgrims alike. If you can’t find the beer you’re looking for at the diminutive City Beer, you probably won’t find it anywhere else in the Bay Area. City Beer turns 4 years old on May 2. Happy birthday, City Beer, and many happy returns.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Bay Bridge, there may not be any “there there” (at least according to Gertrude Stein), but there’s quite a bit of beer. One of the more recent additions to the vibrant Oakland beer scene is Beer Revolution, which has the potential to be as good as or (at the risk of heresy) even better than City Beer.
The playbook at Beer Revolution is similar to City Beer’s, except more so: more space, more sun (from a patio in front), more cold cases (no shelves whatsoever) and twice as many taps. As with City Beer, the most important component is the owners, Rebecca and Fraggle, who set the convivial tone with their extensive knowledge and infatuation with great beer. They are tireless in their efforts to find and stock the best beer available.
Beer Revolution is an easy walk from downtown Oakland (and from the 12th Street BART station) and not far from Jack London Square. A roomy, sun-drenched outdoor patio leads to the spacious pub, dominated by a beautiful bar and several cold cases, with the beer organized according to style: stouts, lagers, IPAs, etc. The barrels/tables inside the pub are decorated with beer caps and sometimes-edgy rock music accents the ambience. There’s no food available on site, though you’re welcome to bring it in. Like City Beer, there are no televisions to distract from conversation or the enjoyment of the beer. Although the setup looks simple, it’s obviously been intelligently thought through.
Beer Revolution has only been open for a few months, but it has already attracted a steady clientele of beer lovers, especially in the late afternoon. Even when it’s busy, however, Beer Revolution never feels as cramped as the tiny City Beer.
Just like City Beer, the owners of Beer Revolution are dedicated to helping customers explore the nuances of beer and will happily pour a taste if you’re curious about a particular beer on tap. On a recent visit, Beer Revolution focused on strong dark beers (stout Wednesday), including Allagash Black, Dark Force from HaandBryggeriet in Norway, Lost Abbey Serpent Stout, the delicious anniversary collaboration between Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman and Anchor Brewing’s Fritz Maytag, Unibroue’s Chambly Noir and several others.
Before diving into the dark side, I needed a lighter beer to quench my thirst after the walk from downtown and settled on a cold bottle of the crisp yet complex Weihenstephenar Vitus, a weizenbock from Brauerei Weihenstephan in Germany. Beer Revolution’s bottle prices are remarkably reasonable, and you don’t need to turn on the taps to enjoy some great beer. But the Allagash Black (pictured) was irresistibly tempting and it poured blackly beautiful, crowned with a foamy white head. It’s a full-flavored beer that expresses its nuances as you sip it. Once some of the darks are cleared out, Beer Revolution will tap a keg of Dogfish Head’s delicious Burton Baton double IPA.
Beer Revolution is a newborn compared with City Beer and it’s still working out a few kinks with distributors and format. Having some rudimentary food available would be a plus, or perhaps forming an alliance with some of the local restaurants to have food delivered. Even in its infancy, however, Beer Revolution is already a worthy destination and a strong addition to any Bay Area beer lover’s itinerary.
464 3rd St
Oakland, CA, 94607
Tues - Thurs:
noon - 9:30 pm
Fri - Sat:
noon - 10:00 pm
noon - 9:00 pm
1168 Folsom St
(between Hallam St & Langton St)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tue-Sat Noon to 10pm
Sunday Noon to 6pm
Closed on Monday