There are some world famous craft beer bars in the Bay Area. And with the peak of interest in craft beer lately, as a consumer and locavore, I feel it is important to be educated about a few things to get the optimum enjoyment out of a craft beer retail experience.

What makes the beer experience a good one?

You probably know what you like already, whether it’s a brand or a taste profile like dry, fruity, hoppy, etc. As Europeans have known for centuries, beer has a flavor profile all over the map. It can be crisp, dry, toasty, sour, meaty, funky, sweet, smoky and more. Take a deep breath and break out of what you already know! Expand your mind and your palate!

However, to be successful in your quest, there is one golden rule: Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

It took me a long time to figure out that as much as I know, there will always be someone that knows less and someone that knows more than me. For the most part, beer people are really frickin’ cool. They get excited to see people interested in their craft and want to answer questions. In fact you may get a much longer answer than anticipated, but as long as you have a beer in your hand its all good, right?

Another important thing to consider when enjoying a craft beer in a retail setting, as any self-educated beer lover will come to know, is good pouring practices. Luckily industry standards have been streamlined due to organizations like the Cicerone Certification Program (a professional beer credential program) and the Brewers Association. These are both good web resources for anyone who wants to learn more about beer.

Good retail bar practices to look for

Don’t touch glass/beer to faucet – This is a simple sanitary issue to prevent bacteria buildup/contamination, kind of like washing your hands before handling food.

Run off – I cringe when I see bartenders pouring a beer and letting the foam/beer run over the side and down the drain. Foam is actually partially beer, so that’s literally money down the drain, not to mention a waste of beer (read: resources and time) and now the side of the glass is all sticky, too. An experienced beertender will fill the glass part way, let the foam settle, then top off.

Get some head – The head on the top of beer holds aroma particles, called volatiles, that are pertinent to the tasting experience. A good pour will have at least one-half to one inch of head on it.

Bubbles clinging to the side of the glass – These are called “points of nucleation” and are created by dirt/leftover sanitizer. This is why you sometimes see glass rinsers built in to bars, the chilled water clears out any leftover particles that could interfere with the flavor.

The right glass (chilled but not frozen) – There are a lot of dissenting opinions when it comes to the right glass for different beer styles, but there are a good general rule is “the stronger the beer the smaller the glass.” Also the CO2 in beer does not react well to frozen glassware and can make beer pour excessively foamy.

Craft beer bars/ restaurants in Oakland:


Beer revolution

Ben and Nicks



Olde depot


Rosamunde Sausage Grill

Telegraph Beer Garden


Trappist Provisions

There are a couple of other places looking to open soon that I will keep you posted about. Whats your favorite Oakland spot to enjoy a local craft beer?

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