Visitors to the big city on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay need never fear going thirsty, regardless of preferred style of beverage. Oakland (pop. 420,000) is now home to an ale trail with 12 unique stops, wine trail with nine easy-to-access tasting rooms and some of the most serious coffee culture outside Seattle.
Beer Crafting Made Easy
Newly formed Oakland Ale Trail includes Diving Dog Brewhouse, where groups can choose from 30 beers on tap, including two that incorporate nitrogen, which creates smaller bubbles for a smoother mouthfeel (a plus for stout and porter lovers, it’s said). Visitors can also BOP (brew on premises) and make their own concoction from 20 different recipes; all ingredients (and step-by-step instructions) are at the ready.
Bonus: Companies can add their logo on custom labels when the finished product is bottled.
Uptown Oakland is a great base for events held at historic Fox Theater on Telegraph Avenue (managed by Another Planet Event Group and available for rentals). It is within walking distance of Woods Bar & Brewery’s artisanal beers and yerba mate-infused brews. Your group can stretch out in the indoor-outdoor beer garden and let the tasting begin.
Bonus: Those who fill their passport by visiting all stops on the trail earn a free branded growler.
Four breweries serve up cold ones in the Jack London Square area—Independent Brewing Company, Federation Brewing, The Trappist and Pacific Coast Brewing Co. Pacific Coast bills itself as the oldest active brewery in Oakland and one of the first to feature rotating guest taps. They also rent out their heated backyard beer garden with fire pit and Adirondack chairs.
Bonus: Pacific Coast beers do double duty as ingredients in the seasonal menu for interesting dinner options, especially when followed by Imperial Stout ice cream floats.
Urban Wine Trail Rides
Warehouse tasting rooms mix the bounty of California’s diverse wine-growing regions and the production and shipping infrastructure of the city for unique tasting, dining and gathering options that bring people together. Popular stops include Rosenblum Cellars & Acacia Vineyard near the Oakland Ferry Terminal (as much for its Rhone varietals as for its mesmerizing bay views) and Dashe Cellars, where visitors can tour (and sit in the outdoor wine garden to taste the fruits of) the city’s largest working winery.
Bonus: The truly adventurous (and fit) can sign up for five-hour East Bay Winery Bike Tours of wine city (as opposed to wine country). The 7- to 24-mile route includes a picnic lunch and carting of any wine purchases.
Serious Joe Time
Oakland has become a hot bed for coffee culture. World-famous Blue Bottle’s coffee roaster is housed in a 1920s-era brick building near Jack London Square. It includes a pastry kitchen and coffee bar steps from the marina.
Bonus: Ask about coffee cupping and dripper brew classes.
Two members of the band Green Day—Mike Dirnt and Billie Joe Armstrong— recently opened Oakland Coffee Works, an environmentally friendly coffee roasting operation. The organic, fair-trade coffee is packaged in compostable materials and available for pop-ups.
Bonus: This is hearty coffee without the guilt. Fueled by Love, the philanthropic arm of the company, supports South American communities where beans are grown.