Optimists see the world through rose-colored glasses, while beer lovers see it through golden pilsner glasses, amber pints or inky black tulips. Still, their view is getting rosier.
The craft beer movement has exploded in recent years. There are 2,000 breweries in this country today, a number we have not seen since the 19th century, when every tiny village had its own beer maker. More than a thousand additional ones are set to open soon, according to the Brewers Association, a trade association for craft breweries.
And nowhere is this beer explosion more apparent than here: California's 325 or so craft breweries are about to be joined by another 150 currently on the drawing boards, and in the Bay Area alone,
Here's a look at just a few of the new kids making bocks, pilsners, pale ales, porters and IPAs around the Bay Area.
Linden Street Brewery, Oakland
Adam Lamoreaux's first taste of craft beer was a memorable one: It was the first Gulf War and he was headed home from his first tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, when his ship stopped in Perth, Australia for a little R&R. Naturally, that included a little local beer tasting, which included a chocolaty lager called Dogbolter. It was love at first sip -- and it launched the career path that would ultimately become the Linden Street Brewery. In a scant three years, the popular brewery has
But it's Lamoreaux's mentorship that sets this brewery apart. So when he told members of the Bay Area Mashers, a homebrewing group, that if they got their state license, he'd let them brew beer at his brewery, Kel Alcala took notice. An avid homebrewer, Alcala had spent six years working at the Oak Barrel homebrew supply store in Berkeley. Within months, Dying Vines was born, and Alcala was brewing and selling his own English-style beers.
The beer: Linden's beers range from a golden Urban Peoples' Common Lager and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, a Burning Oak Black Lager, a dark beer made with roasted malt.
Dying Vines's Dee'z English Mild is a low-alcohol session beer with big malt flavors. The Hop Candi has everything you want in a West Coast IPA, with nice citrus hops notes and a touch of rye, and his Queen Bess IPA, named for African-American pilot Bessie Coleman, is closer to what you'd find across the pond: spicy and floral with a dry finish.
Hermitage Brewing, San Jose
The story behind this three-year-old San Jose brewery stretches back considerably further than its association with Hermitage and the startups that share the facility. The brewing equipment dates back to the early days of San Jose's Tied House, where UC Davis-trained brewer Peter Licht arrived after a stint as Coast Range Brewing's original brewer. These days, Licht makes several lines of beer for Tied House, as well as Hermitage, most of which can be found at BevMo.
In what is fast becoming a popular trend, Hermitage shares space and equipment with two startups, Schubros Brewery and Strike Brewing. Schubros is a nod to Schuster brothers Ian, the beer maven, and his brother Mike, who is in the military. Ian and brewmaster Mike Johannsen also work with Santa Cruz's Uncommon Brewers, but the eventual plan is to build a seven-barrel brewery in San Ramon, where they currently sell most of their draft-only beer.
Strike Brewing -- Jenny and Ben Lewis' brewery with brewmaster Drew Ehrlich -- debuted in mid-December, but the idea was born in 2008 over a birthday pint at a Giants game. Jenny went back to Rice University and got her MBA in preparation for taking on the chief executive officer role, while Drew worked on the recipes for an imperial red, a wit, a porter and other beers.
As for the name, Ben and Drew had been pitchers for San Jose State and Stanford, respectively, and the Red Sox minor
The beer: Hermitage makes a vast range, but the standouts include Licht's Ale of the Imp, a big Imperial IPA, and the Ale des Diex, a biere de garde, which is similar to a saison but slightly sweeter and richer flavored.
Schubros' Johannsen makes a Nico American Wheat, a refreshing filtered wheat beer made with rye, and 680 IPA, a hoppy beer with caramel malts for darker color and malty balance.
Strike's Brown Ale is a refreshing, clean, malty sweet beer. The IPA is thick and chewy with great hop character and a lingering bitter finish.
Altamont Beer Works, Livermore
Billed as Livermore's first brewery since Prohibition, Altamont Beer Works is the brainchild of homebrewers Greg Robles and Stephen Sartori. Sartori began brewing his own beer just four years ago; Robles is an old hand who has been making his own since 1987.
Set smack in the middle of Livermore's vibrant winery scene, this brewery is so new that Robles and Sartori are playing all the roles: They're brewers, delivery guys -- and anxious awaiters of large-scale equipment. Delivery delays for their new 20-barrel brewhouse have forced them to make beer on a much smaller pilot system. By October, the new brewery and a tasting room should be up and running at full capacity. Meanwhile, find their beer at saloons and eateries in Livermore and beyond via the brewery's Facebook page.
The beer: Altamont makes eight beers, including a white, a session beer, a brown ale, an oatmeal stout and a very popular Shelter IPA. But the Cerveza Espumosa is worth seeking out and gets points just for concept: It's a sparkling wheat beer, brewed with blackberries and very effervescent. It's meant to be a wholly original take on Berliner Weisse, which is often a sour and tart beer. Another great beer is their Rich Mahogany, a playful take on Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell's character in "Anchorman." It's a hoppy red ale with a sweet, hoppy nose and rich flavors.
Elevation 66, El Cerrito
Like every craft beer operation, this year-old brewery and brew pub is the realization of a dream. David Goodstal was a journeyman brewer at Berkeley's Pyramid Brewery when he met Brian Kelly, Pyramid's garrulous bartender, a beer lover who led tours of that brewery.
It was a match made in hops heaven. Goodstal, a UC Davis-educated brewer who had worked at Davis' Sudwerk and Berkeley's Trumer, prefers to stay behind the scenes making the beer. The always-sociable Kelly is the public face of Elevation 66 -- which stands at an elevation 66 feet above sea level -- a brewpub that has the feel and all the benefits of a cozy neighborhood bar.
The beer: Elevation 66 typically pours six of its own beers -- a red ale, for example, a golden ale, a brown ale and a British-style IPA -- and another half-dozen "guest beers." One of my favorites is the East Bay IPA, a West Coast-inspired India Pale Ale with big citrus hops that's very well-balanced and never bitter. The Esthers Vanilla Stout is very smooth with chocolate notes.
The menu: This brew pub offers a nice mix of the pub fare you'd expect -- fish and chips, sausages, mac and cheese -- mixed with more eclectic fare, such as Kalua pork tacos, pan-seared diver scallops and Grilled Cheese Spontanée sandwiches. Everything hails from local farms and bakeries, and the emphasis is on organic produce.
The details: 10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 510-525-4800; www.elevation66.com.
Southern Pacific Brewing, San Francisco
One of several new San Francisco breweries, Southern Pacific has its roots in another local favorite. Founder Chris Lawrence and brewmaster Andy French met at Speakeasy; French was Speakeasy's second brewer and Lawrence worked in sales. So when Lawrence decided to open a brewery of his own, the San Francisco native turned to his roommate and closest friend to brew the beer. The brewery, which opened in January, pays homage to the rail lines that run nearby and to the original occupants of its building, which once housed a machine shop that did work for the Southern Pacific Railroad.
The beer: Southern Pacific offers eight of French's beers, which are all clean and hew toward traditional styles, at any given time -- a California Blonde, for example, a Belgian Wit, a Hefeweizen and a Porter. His IPA is spot on, with big grapefruit character but no bitterness. I also fell for his Belgian Bastogne Blonde, with spicy aromas and flavors.
The menu: The brewpub's fare includes tasty, high-end versions of salads, pizza, sandwiches and burgers -- and terrific french fries -- that complement their beer perfectly.
The details: 620 Treat Ave., San Francisco. 415-341-0152, www.southernpacificbrewing.com