Thursday, January 1, 2015

Craft Beer Tasting Along the Tri-Valley Beer Trail

Working Man Brewing Company Beer Flights Tri-Valley Beer Trail

The Tri-Valley area is 33 miles east of San Francisco and has one of California’s oldest wine regions located in the Livermore Valley.  What is less well-known is that Tri-Valley’s roots are also in beer.   Tri-Valley has joined the craft beer craze sweeping California and has returned to its roots with a newly emerging craft beer scene. 

One of the main streets in the Tri-Valley town of Pleasanton is Hopyard Road.  Hopyard Road is so named because Pleasanton was once the location of what may have been the largest hop farm in the world.  From the late 1800s to the beginning of World War I Pleasanton was world-famous for providing hops to the American and European beer brewers market.  With the war and prohibition, the hop business closed and Tri-Valley moved on to different industries.

Today beer is making a comeback and microbreweries and brewpubs are popping up around Tri-Valley, renewing the area’s beer culture.  Fifteen of Tri-Valley’s craft beer establishments have joined to be a part of the Tri-Valley Beer Trail.  Visitors and residents can download the Tri-Valley Beer Trail Passport off the Visit Tri-Valley website, get stamped at 10 of the 15 participating breweries and brewpubs, and turn the passport in to the Tri-Valley tourism board for a Tri-Valley Beer Trail t-shirt.  During our Northern California weekend getaway we visited two of the Tri-Valley Beer Trail participants.

Working Man Brewing Company is one of the newer breweries in Livermore, California.  The story behind Working Man Brewing Company is inspirational to every working person who has hopes of fulfilling their future dreams.  Working Man Brewing Company’s owners work full-time jobs and home-brewed in their spare time.  They always wanted to have their own brewery, but didn’t think it was possible since they were working men.  They are still working men, but brew and serve beer at night after their day jobs.  The brewery was founded in 2011 but opened to the public in 2013.

Working Man Brewing Company Livermore California Tri-Valley Beer Trail

Working Man Brewing Company has an impressive list of beers: Ignition IPA, Sneaky Devil Double IPA, Old Jabberwokki Barleywine, C’est Noir Imperial Stout, Anzu Bru Pale Ale, Whistleblower Belgian Wit, Hanging Slider IPA, California Crude American Black Ale, Working Man Red IPA, Working Man Hefe, Working Man Blonde, Working Man Double IPA, and 9 to 5 Pale Ale.  Working Man Brewing Company’s beers surprised me in that the beers I thought I would love weren’t necessarily at the top of my favorites list and the beers I avoided at the beginning ended up making their way to the top. 

The Anzu Bru, described as a pale ale with kaffir and ginger flavors intrigued me, but ended up having too much of a plant flavor for my taste and made me think at first that I didn’t like the other beers I tasted afterwards.  Fans of hops will love this beer as the flavor is very reminiscent of strong hops even though very little hops are actually used.  But after cleaning my palate with some crackers and trying again, I found I pretty much enjoyed all the rest of Working Man’s beers.  The surprise is that wits and hefes are not usually at the top of my beer list, but the Whistleblower Belgian Wit was sparkling and refreshing, with flavors of elderflower, coriander, and orange peel, and the Working Man Hefe had a very pleasing citrus taste.  The Working Man Blonde is an easy drinking daytime beer.  The C’est Noir Imperial Stout was one of my favorites with a roasted coffee flavor.  Another surprise was the Ignition IPA.  I’m not a huge fan of IPAs because they are many times over-hopped for me, but the Ignition IPA has a wonderful balance of malted barley and caramel malts along with Pacific Northwest hops.

Three Sheets Craft Beer Bar in Dublin, California is Tri-Valley’s newest beer bar.  Three Sheets has 27 taps which during our visit poured 26 craft beers and one cider.  Three Sheets Craft Beer Bar is a wide open space with intimate seating areas, big screen TVs, and a never ending shining copper bar.  The beers on tap are all craft beers from around the country, most from California and many from the local surrounding area. 

Three Sheets Craft Beer Bar Copper Bar Dublin California Tri-Valley Beer Trail

I was happy to see some familiar San Diego beers from Stone, Port Brewing, and Coronado Brewing, but we were there to try the local beers so got a flight that included Altamont Beer Works Rich Mahogany, Eight Bridges Brewing O’Beardsley’s Stout, Drake’s Brewing Jolly Rodger Imperial Coffee Stout, and Lost Coast Brewery Winterbraun.  Altamont Beer Works was established in 2012 in Livermore, California.  Altamont’s Rich Mahogany is an American Red Ale, both malty and hoppy.  It was nice to be able to taste Altamont’s beer at Three Sheets because we had stopped by Altamont earlier in the day but turned around because the tasting room was so crowded.  They clearly know what they are doing and are doing it well.  Eight Bridges Brewing Co. is another brewery in Livermore, California, and the O’Beardsley’s Stout has the flavor of chocolate and coffee and is very slightly sweet.  Drake’s Brewing isn’t technically in Tri-Valley, but rather in nearby San Leandro.  What makes Drake’s Jolly Rodger Imperial Coffee Stout special is the collaboration with Blue Bottle, the only coffee that coffee connoisseurs in Tri-Valley and the nearby Oakland area drink.  The farthest afield beer we tried was from Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka, California.  The Winterbraun is a chocolaty brown ale.

Three Sheets Craft Beer Bar Flight Livermore California Tri-Valley Beer Trail

If you’re looking to add a craft beer destination to your travel list, download the Tri-Valley Beer Trail Passport and pack your bags for a visit to one of America’s areas steeped in beer history and making a resurgence into the craft beer landscape.  In addition to Working Man Brewing Company in Livermore and Three Sheets Craft Beer Bar in Dublin, the Tri-Valley Beer Trail includes The Growler Pub (Danville), Danville Station Firehouse Bar and Grill (Danville), Schubros Brewery (San Ramon), Caps & Taps Bottle Shop and Tap Room (Dublin), Main Street Brewery (Pleasanton), Hopyard Ale House (Pleasanton and San Ramon), Handles Gastropub (Pleasanton), McKay’s Taproom and Beer Garden (Pleasanton), Altamont Beer Works (Livermore), Eight Bridges Brewing Company (Livermore), First Street Ale House (Livermore), Tap 25 (Livermore), Beer Baron (Livermore), and Sauced BBQ & Spirits (Livermore).

Thank you to Visit Tri-Valley for hosting our visit to Tri-Valley and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.