Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A TRIP TO THE DRAKE'S BARREL HOUSE

While I was serving out the string at my most recent place of employment in the SF Bay Area's East Bay (Oakland/Berkeley/Emeryville/etc.), I made a list of a small handful of east bay bucket-list items I needed to accomplish. The list, as you might imagine, was not particularly long. Get myself over to the Dan Clowes exhibit at the Oakland Museum. Eat another burrito at La Calle Asadero. Make sure to pick up as many bagels as I can carry from Boogie Woogie Bagel Boy, and no, I'm not making their name up. I did all these things. Finally, I needed to beer down w/ some mid-afternoon brews at DRAKE'S BARREL HOUSE, the relatively new taproom located at the Drake's Brewery in San Leandro, just south of the Oakland airport. I'm mighty glad I did.

Now I'll be honest with ya and admit that DRAKE'S has always been a second-tier brewer in my book, which is not a bad thing by any means; just means that their level of quality is always high enough that I trust a blind stab in the dark with any of their beers, but I've never been throughly blown away by anything they've made. Truly, on the Beer Samizdat ten-point scale, seems like everything I've ever had by them - and that's a lot of beers over the years - falls into the 6-to-8 range. IPAs, ambers, wheats & stouts - they all seem to average up as a nice healthy 7/10. I reckoned I needed to try out some of their "off-menu" items, the things that only show up in their taproom and never in bottles. This is exactly what I did, and I'm hear to tell you about it presently.

So the place itself is located behind a Wal-Mart, more or less in the back of the Wal-Mart parking lot. Rad! This is both the brewery and the taproom. Something tells me - and one of you older fellas may know - that Drake's pre-dates Wal-Mart in this location. Am I onto something? Anyway, the barrel house is great - a warehouse full of, uh, barrels, with at least 15 taps of Drake's stuff. All their standards, some seasonals, and a few "high-gravity" ales they're trying out here only. As a responsible sort of driver, I limited myself to two small-ish glasses of ale.

One was DARK DUCK, which you see pictured above. Yes, I took that picture with a "cellular telephone". Ain't progress great? This is a bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout coming in at 9% alcohol. Wow that's sweet. Candy sweet - in fact, it's hard to tell it's stout and not port wine. It was served cold and had low carbonation and a syrupy plum/vanilla taste profile, along with booze a la a glass of sherry or port. I admire their panache with this one, but felt it was a little off. 6/10.

My other foray into the world of Drake's on-site-only beers was LA RESISTANCE, a Belgian "singel" that was nearly opaque and that tasted like a Belgian-style pale ale. It is highly hopped and was very dry initially, but came through big with a creamy aftertaste that just got better and better as I explored its subtle mysteries. I like the low ABV (5.4%) and love the flavor it gives. A real grower. Hope they give this one a shot in local bars and dare I say in bottle in the near future. 7.5/10.

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