As the Bay Area begins to open up to COVID – fingers crossed – many of us are longing to spread our wings and get out of the house. So I’ve started looking for beer in nine counties in the Bay Area. Every month, I take a trip to the brewery to visit a small craft taproom—or two or three—that is working great but, maybe, new to you. Today, we’re moving to Richmond, which is home to the East Brother Beer Company and Armistice Brewing.
We may think of Richmond as a diverse city of 110,000 or more people who are on the West Contra Costa waterfront, but part of that city is actually on the bay. East Brother Island and its light station, built in 1874, are located at the tip of Richmond’s Point St. Pablo in San Rafael Bay. Today, the lighthouse keeper’s home is a bed and breakfast—scheduled to reopen this fall—and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The inspiration for the island was East Brother Beer Company, which opened on the Richmond mainland in 2017. Childhood friends Rob Lightner and Chris Coumber have wanted to work together for years. The idea of a brewery emerged from Cumber’s homebrewing efforts. I had tasted several of their delicious beers over the years, so I stopped at the taproom on a recent sunny Saturday afternoon to chat with Lightner.
East Brother is a mostly lager brewery, says Lightner, and not one to reinvent the wheel, to make classic styling. “We’re not going to invent anything new, and we’re fine with that,” he says.
This may have sounded risky in 2017, but it has proved to be a winning formula. Their Bo Pils, a bohemian-style pilsner, has emerged as the dominant beer, and it is easy to see why. This is a very flavorful, easy-drinking beer that is loaded with subtle flavors that never overpower but pleases the senses.
This was followed by a refreshingly lighter Vienna-style amber lager, the Red Lager, which may be even more sessionable than a pilsner. Both account for more than half of sales. Gold IPA, Red IPA and Oatmeal Stout round out their core beers, each a solid example of the style.
East Brother also performs a series of lasers, one series for each season. This summer’s seasonal is the Pre-Pro Lager, a lager based on pre-Prohibition recipes that uses similar ingredients, such as cluster hops and corn as an adjunct, to the more common barley as a grain. with. This fall, they’ll be offering Festbier, a lager made for Oktoberfest that’s lighter than the old, but similar, Märzen style. They also have a frothy series of non-lager beers, such as this summer’s Double IPA.
While I was there, taps also included an English Strong Ale – the spring beer in the chain, with great notes of fig and a sweet finish – as well as a clean, spicy Belgian-style Tripel and a Solid Russian Imperial Stout with chocolate and Coffee notes that were bitter at times, but never too harsh.
The large, airy taproom is housed in the back of a large industrial building, with plenty of inside and outside seating and several diversions including cornhole and board games. The taproom is both dog and kid friendly. Don’t miss out on the food trucks parked there daily; La Santa Torta offers Jalisco-style burrias, tacos and elotes chidos – Mexican street corn cotija, salsa, fresh lime, mayonnaise and Flaming Hot Cheetos as well as churros.
The eastern brother is a gem. Everything they drink is for the style and very drinkable. No fuss, no mousse, but all delicious. And the taproom is very comfortable, a warehouse, yes, but the kind of oasis that makes you forget you are in the middle of a city and just relax and have a good time. (Want to sip from afar? You’ll find East Brother’s canned beer at markets and beer shops throughout the Bay Area.)
make a day of it and stay Armistice Brewing Company, Too. Less than 10 minutes away, Armistice was founded by a brother and sister team, Gregory and Alex Zobel, and offers a good range of beers. Between East Brother and Armistice Brewing’s taproom, you can sample many different styles.
Description: East Brother Beer Company is open Wednesday-Friday from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 9 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m. at 1001 Canal Blvd. in Richmond; www.eastbrotherbeer.com. Armistice is open daily from noon to 9 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays until 10 p.m., at 845 Marina Bay Parkway; www.armisticebrewing.com.
If you have a local brewery or brewery that you think is knocking it out of the park, drop me a line at [email protected] and tell me why you love them.