Monday, February 16, 2009


(Photo courtesy Jesse @ Beer & Nosh)

Back in the mid-period days of San Francisco Bay Area craft beer spelunking there were only so many places for the discerning beer dork to go. We're talking early/mid-90s here. Why, there was 20 TANK and SAN FRANCISCO BREWING and PACIFIC COAST and a couple others whose names escape me right about now; the one I remember going to the earliest was TRIPLE ROCK in Berkeley. Right there on Shattuck, just a few blocks away from the UC-Berkeley campus, and always an easy BART ride away back to the city, after you got a few pints in ya. My fondest memory was the incredible array of vintage beer signs tacked up all over the place, a look that's become de rigeur at multiple brewpubs in the years since. I think there's a solid chance that TRIPLE ROCK was the first microbrewery I ever went to, as I feel like I went there late in college, and I graduated from a Southern California school in 1989.

After a flurry of visits back during that time, and maybe a couple more toward the end of the 90s, I kind of forgot it existed. I'd "moved on", you see. Other than me reading about their occasional "real ale" festivals and the like, no one ever seemed to have anything to say about their beer for good or for ill. I reckoned it was a "college kid place" and figured I'd get back there again at the right time, if the right situation presented itself - say, I was taking a forgotten college course at Age 41 that a counselor was threatening to flunk me for not taking twenty years previous, and I needed a big drink afterward. If that sounds like one of your recurring dreams, well - welcome to my world as well.

So I read that TRIPLE ROCK, as part of the San Francisco Beer Week that's wrapping up right now and which I've regrettably taken virtually no part in, was having a "Sour Sunday" festival, featuring a bunch of great sour and high-ABV barrel-aged beers from all over. Me and my pal Uli showed up at 8:30 and, uh, well - "Sour Sunday" was long over, and the beers from it were long gone. So we decided to just make a 'lil lemonade, and start drinking the house beers. Oh, and by the way, Rodger Davis, formerly of DRAKE'S, is now the head brewer over here, and that guy's made a couple damn fine beers in his day.

Here's what I personally tried:

TRIPLE ROCK/SIERRA NEVADA HOP SECRET - Wow, what a way to begin - a team-up beer between two breweries, and an outstanding one at that. This is an imperial red ale, with really really smooth hopping - just a super easy-drinking red ale but obviously a bit of a whopper if you threw down too many in one sitting. Strong caramel malts and a great fizzy carbonation - excellent stuff. 8.5/10.

TRIPLE ROCK IPAX - This is one of a couple house IPA's. My notes say "a little dry but tasty enuf". I actually did spell it e-n-u-f. I remember thinking I was disappointed, but only after the aforementioned HOP SECRET. 6/10.

TRIPLE ROCK BRASSKNUCKLE - This is a relatively recent barleywine-style ale, or as we like to call them where I come from: a barleywine. Again, the notes are pretty simple: "sweet, medium hops", and I'm remembering again that after some of the barleywines I've encountered recently this was exceptionally average. 6/10.

Still, "average" is damn good if you ask me - my beer tastings tend to skew toward the exceptional, because I, well - I buy and drink the good stuff. I think I can drag my tuchus back across the Bay once more before the decade turns, or at least before 2021 (seriously, my previous visit here was probably 1997). And if you're in town or a local, get over there and grab some of that HOP SECRET while it's still pourin'!

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