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guinness eileen

Eureka!, 2068 Center Street, Berkeley, California

guinness eileen

Fieldwork Brewery, 1160 Sixth Street, Berkeley, California

The end of 2017 is here, and this is my final beer column from my September beer visit to California's Bay Area. Don't worry -- I've got plenty more columns waiting to be written, featuring new Sheffield pubs as well as one last Southern California review for the year. And by the time I get through those, I'm sure I will have discovered many more as well.

But back to the San Francisco Bay, again on the East Side. Located north of Oakland, south of El Cerrito and Albany, and due west from Angel and Alcatraz Islands and the Golden Gate Recreation Area above San Francisco, the city of Berkeley is named after the 18th century Anglo-Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. The location was originally home of the Chochenyo division of the Ohlone people until 1776 when the first Anglo and European Americans arrived with the De Anza Expedition and established the Spanish Presidio of San Francisco, or the Golden Gate, at the entrance to the bay from the Pacific Ocean. Most of the Chochenyo people ended up baptised and living at the missions, and recently the survivors joined up with the other San Francisco Bay Area Ohlone people under the name of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe.

In 1868 the oldest campus in the University of California system was opened in Berkeley. After the Great Earthquake of 1906, thousands of refugees from San Francisco, including painters and sculptors, ended up in Berkeley, creating one of the largest art colonies west of Chicago, and three years later the City of Berkeley was incorporated. In 1949 the synthesis of the chemical element berkelium added the city's name to the Periodic Table of Elements, and the first kerbside recycling program in the country was started in 1973. Today the city is known for its liberal attitudes, political expression, and eccentricities, offering unique sightseeing highlights such as the Tsui Fish House, the East Bay Vivarium, the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents, and the only American museum dedicated to sake. In past years it has hosted art car festivals and the legendary How Berkeley Can You Be parade.

Berkeley also happens to be the current home of an old friend of mine from Long Beach days. So on the Saturday of my weekend, my friend Mistah Rick and I headed to Berkeley to meet Alan for lunch. As we had a half hour to kill before meeting in front of a restaurant, we stopped in the stunningly overpunctuated Eureka! for a pint. As unique a discovery as the name sounds, Eureka! is actually part of a chain that stretches all over California and into Texas, Colorado, Idaho, Washington State, and Nevada. We stood at the bar where I had a taste of Strawberry Shakes IPA (6.5%, Bare Bottle Brew Company, San Francisco, California). As the name implies it was sort of fun, but unfortunately not very impressive. I suppose it would be a perfect quaff for a beer wimp. We decided on a pint of Hill 88 DIPA (8.8% ABV, Headlands Brewing Company, Mill Valley, California) After Rick told the barman we were going to split the pint, he poured it into two half-pint-sized glasses and served us those -- just like all pubs can do in the UK. Why can't more American pubs do this?

Anyway, back to the pint. Yep, it was definitely more like it. Yep! It was a pre-lunch little punch. After we walked over to meet Alan and discovered the restaurant wasn't open, we all came back to Eureka! for another pint of Hill 88 DIPA and some lunch. I have to say my fish tacos were very nice indeed.

The next afternoon, after spending the morning with Vicky and Unkletom at the Steamroller Print Festival in San Francisco's Mission District, Rick and Tom and I took BART back to West Berkeley where we decided to have a pint at Fieldwork Brewing Company. Another small chain, Fieldwork started business in Berkeley in 2015 and now has four other taprooms in Napa, Sacramento, San Mateo, and Monterey.

The pub consists of a large room with lots of windows, long shareable picnic benches, counter seating at the windows, and plenty of outdoor seating. The place was packed, but we managed to find the end of one of the communal benches next to a group of friends who were working their way through two ambitious flight carriers totalling 12 beer tasters. Rick and I shared a taster of Ruin Ten Triple IPA (10.0% ABV, Stone Brewing Company, Escondido, California). With a sharp dark hops kick and the taste of vanilla, the high alcohol content was very obvious in the overall flavour. Being a bit more sensible the two of us shared a pint of Destination Unknown Double IPA (8.0%, Fieldworks). I had no idea where we were headed, but the aroma assaulted our noses like a strong breeze at the entrance to a garden of heavenly delights. We lingered for some time, enjoying the exhilarating effects of our mutual aromatherapy session, before either of us actually tasted it. And what I got was a wonderful melding of Mosaic hops and grapefruit. For our second round we shared a pint of Hop & Glo Double IPA (8.0%, Fieldworks), which made me think of fruit salad without the sweetness. While Rick and I were sharing, Tom enjoyed his own pint of Shadow Skills (4.4% ABV, Fieldworks). Described as a Baltic stout, it tasted like a most pleasant porter to me.

As we sat and sipped our pints and enjoyed this most friendly pub, my uncle presented me with his ambitious genealogical project on the Mitchell family. He's been working on it for years, travelling all over the US and Scotland, and it's a truly impressive work. There is even a family of Sheffields in my ancestry.

Although it's not in Berkeley, as this is my last Bay Area review for now I feel I should make mention of one other pub we visited down in Silicon Valley. Established in 2012, Rick thought the Freewheel Brewery and Pub in the Marsh Manor Shopping Center in Redwood City sounded like a promising place to take me, as they claim to specialise in English-style cask ales. So we stopped by at the end of a busy day. Located in a suburban stripmall, there is a long bar across the rear of the room. It was a bit surprising to see that at 10pm on a Saturday night there was only one customer. Nevertheless we studied the beer menu which lists California craft beers on one side and "English-style" cask ales on the other side. When I asked the barman which of the cask ales were hoppiest, he said, arrogantly, "Oh, you won't find anything hoppy there. All English cask ale is very mild in flavour." I leaned forward, stared hard at him, and told him I'd lived in England for years and I wrote about cask ale online, and I'd had some really exciting, hoppy, and vibrant English cask ales. But he insisted on disagreeing with me, telling me that if I wanted something hoppy I should order one of the American-style craft beers.

So Rick and I looked at each other. I said, "…so whaddya wanna do?"

"Well, there's a couple bottles in Vicky's fridge..."

So we walked out and home to Vicky's where we shared a bizarre and bright pink bottle of Rogue Brewing Company's Mango Astronaut Ale.

Even Freewheel's website seems to insist that English IPAs are sweet and not bitter. My god, who are the ignorant idiots who opened this brewery? Perhaps they should do a little travelling, for chrissake.

Say, I've got an idea: Sheffield would be a great destination for a wake-up call.

PUB UPDATES:

  • SHAKESPEARES, SHEFFIELD: On a recent weekend we decided to check out this pub's beer festival. As soon as we walked in we suddenly remembered why we didn't really stick around last year. The downstairs area was packed, but nobody was actually serving in the bar upstairs which featured several casks on gravity. As it turned out, all the festival beers that were on that afternoon were very strong and not to our taste anyway.

    So we went back downstairs and had pints of Deception (4.1% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). We took our pints and found a spot in the rear room at the end of a long wobbling table that moved constantly thanks to the constantly gesticulating talker sitting next to Andrew, causing Andrew to suffer a bit of seasickness. Fortunately our pints managed to keep from going overboard.

  • TAP & TANKARD, SHEFFIELD: After an after-work Xmas meal with my workmates Catherine and Christine at the ridiculously crowded Benjamin Huntsman, I suggested we move next door to this pub for a more quiet and conversation-friendly pint. I went for a pint of Island Time Session IPA (4.5% ABV, Shipyard Brewing Company, Portland, Maine). I was impressed by the extremely interesting hops, reminiscent of a bit of tropical bark. The image of a barking palm tree came to mind. I was surprised to discover that what I had assumed was a cask ale is actually a craft beer from a brewery in the US. Apparently Shipyard has been collaborating for the past twenty years with the Ringwood Brewery in Hampshire, having started off brewing Ringwood's Old Thumper for the American market. Since then the collaboration has grown, with an interest in supplying the UK market with American-style craft beers.

  • RUTLAND ARMS, SHEFFIELD: Regardless of the recent ownership takeovers and the gradually veganism of the food menu, this pub always has a great selection of local cask ales, all in excellent condition -- and it also seems to be the only pub I've been to in months where you can get Blue Bee ales. Just before the holidays I stopped in here with my workmate John for a couple of pints, and I went for my old hoppy favourite, Reet Pale (4.0% ABV, Blue Bee Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). And was I disappointed? Nope, never! John went for a pint of Ekuanat Red (4.7% ABV, Blue Bee). Surprisingly dark in colour, this had a super bitterly hoppiness, like a surprise night raid of hops bombardment. Based on Warrior hops, the American hops Ekuanat used to be called Equinox.

  • HALLAMSHIRE HOUSE, SHEFFIELD: On a recent visit I had a pint of Holloway (4.0% ABV, Thornbridge Brewing Company, Bakewell, Derbyshire). Brewed with Galaxy and Cascade hops, this was pleasantly bitter.

  • PRINCESS ROYAL, SHEFFIELD: After work one day we met here for pints of California Steam (4.3% ABV, Tollgate Brewery, Calke, Leicestershire). Described as a West Coast inspired craft lager, this is a cask ale, obviously. And it's quite good.

  • COBDEN VIEW, SHEFFIELD: Over the Xmas break this pub has been featuring a local seasonal ale, Dr Morton's Santa's Helper (4.1% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). As with most of the Doc's beers, the pump clip relates a long rambling story which says absolutely nothing about the beer. It's pale with zingy hops and a distinct dose of some sort of spice. (I think ginger but Andrew leans toward mace.) I think it's quite tasty for these frigid mid-holiday afternoons when the streets are deserted and we're sick and tired of our month-long colds. Yes, a hell of a lot more enjoyable than LemSips.

BOTTLED BEER UPDATE:

  • Voyager IPA #3 (5.6% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire): This beer is brewed with a combination of Galaxy, Lemondrop, and Centennial hops. Lemondrop was a new one to me, so I had to find out about this surprisingly appealing hop. Apparently it's an offshoot of Cascade, but it does seem to be distinctly lemony. My bottle of Voyager was lemony, refreshing, and really pleasing, perfect for easing a head cold. In fact, this is an excellent brew! I shall definitely go back to the shop and buy a few more of these for my home enjoyment.

  • Melba Peach IPA (5.2% ABV, Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell, Derbyshire): Surprisingly yummy and super-hopped with US hops, as with the Voyager I would go back and buy this again. As I sipped I was reminded of the Pyramid Apricot Ale that my neighbour Lou Anna and her sister Celia used to drink back in Seattle. Our bottle bin was always full of a mixture of bottles of my Flagship Red Ale and their Pyramid Apricot Ale.