Thursday, January 21, 2010


There’s this place that opened last year & has existed under the radar in Emeryville, CA called CAFÉ BIERE that I’ve been meaning to check out. First, let’s talk about where Emeryville is. It’s basically the first town you hit as you come off the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, so on a traffic-less day (right!) you can get from the heart of SF to the heart of Emeryville, such as it is, in about 15 minutes. Emeryville, where I happen to work 5 days a week, is a tiny, formerly-industrial burg sorta nestled at three angles between Berkeley, Oakland, and the San Francisco Bay. When I was growing up it was all warehouses and driftwood; then IKEA opened in the mid-90s, and it got on urban folks’ radar. Condos were built, a big outdoor mall was built, dot-com companies moved out there, and voila. The conditions were created for a below-the-radar, out-of-the-way Belgian beer bar/restaurant called CAFÉ BIERE to open in 2009.

No one I know had ever told me about this place, but I think it came up in a Yelp or Google search I did one time and I was dumbfounded. A killer beer place just a mile or two from the office? Are you kidding me?? Before my jaunt to last night’s Golden State Warriors game in Oakland, I decided to check it out. CAFÉ BIERE is on Adeline Street at the very border with Oakland, across the street from some condos and just a couple blocks away from the PIXAR campus. It re-creates what I imagine to be the Belgian bar/restaurant feel quite well – small, cramped but not annoyingly so, and with wood-block tables for all customers (no actual bar). The beer menu is outstanding, with the not-insignificant complaint that it only slightly matched the menu they had online (so my goal of having a sober glass of DESCHUTES BLACK BUTTE XXI was dashed). Moreover, of the 12 or so draft selections, 5 of them were gone – naturally, including the really special, high-demand stuff like THE ABYSS and DRAKE’S DENOGGANIZER. I understand that taps run dry – happens to the best of ‘em – but this place needs to get its supply chain and web updating skills updated for the 21st century.

OK – so they still have a fantastic selection. Tons of Belgian and Belgian-style beer in bottles, including all the Trappist beers, the entire Unibroue lineup, even my #2 fave beer of all time, BRASSERIE DES ROCS TRIPLE IMPERIALE (to say nothing of #1, TRAPPIST ROCHEFORT 8, which is here as well). There are a number of American beers from DOGFISH HEAD, ALLAGASH and other heavyweights, and some cool locals like 21ST AMENDEMENT’s MONK’S BLOOD, which they had on tap. Service – at least for the one pint I had time to quaff – was excellent. I ordered a draft DESCHUTES HOP HENGE IPA, trying to give it another chance after savaging it in this 4/5/2007 review. Alas, my review was spot-on back then: a medicinal, over-hopped, poorly-balanced IPA that is just a little too much of a good thing. The ideas are fine, the execution is not – and when there are 200 other highly-hopped IPAs vying for a share of your wallet, this one should not get the nod. It certainly won’t for me. 5.5/10.

Great vibe, cool little space, and I definitely want to come back here and order some mussels and pomme frites. HBJ says check it out.

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