Oakland, Berkeley, And East Bay News, Events, Restaurants, Music, & Arts
In the past, I would've given Rosenblum 4 stars. However, they were sold about 2 years ago to a large Napa owned company & the wines haven't been the same since! My friends & I have been coming to Rosenblum for over 7 years. We watched the open house Parties go from medium to overcrowded in 4 years (before sale). Once the new owners took over, the Open House events went up by about $10, most of the wines are bitter & very dry (even reds) & there's less food served. We went from buying cases@these events to buying a couple of bottles. That says a lot for the 30-early 40 crowd!
If your glass is half empty, most of these beers are middle-of-the-road Craft Beer 101 for new/unadventurous beer drinkers. If your glass is half full, these are solid, balanced session beers. You make the call.
Though I don't normally like shiny happy chain upscale-ish brewpubs all that much, I suspect this place might grow on me over time. Happy hour beers are a reasonable $3.50 each, and if nothing else, I'll stop by semi-regularly to refill my growler: $8 for a growler refill (ie, $2 per pint) is a bargain for craft brew of any sort.
Follow them on Twitter and you can occasionally score other deals on Wednesdays, like the week they had $8 pitchers. Just make sure you tell the bartender what you want and that you saw it online -- when I went, the bartender had no idea this special was running, did not believe me, and had to consult with the manager.
Unlike the superior brewpub chain Rock Bottom, the brewers here don't get to mess around with the corporate formula much. The Berkeley water is Ph-balanced so the beers here taste exactly like the Pyramid beers in Seattle, for instance. BUT, the Walnut Creek brewery has a program that allows the brewers to experiment a little, and the results sometimes go on tap at the Berkeley location. That's where the magic happens. The most creative beer I've had here is Lipstinger, brewed with Belgian yeast and pepper. If you try something here that's even a little bit exotic or adventurous, PLEASE give good feedback, or vote with your growler. I'd like to see the brewers be allowed to loosen up more.
Tours are every day at 4pm. Go on some random weekday and you may get a private tour, which means lots of time for questions if you're a geek. Don't go to get drunk, because the samples at the end are not stingy but are modest. As a beer dork, I found the tour itself quite interesting. It's quite a huge brewery operation back there, and since we were there during the week we got to see the big-ass bottling line in action, which was a treat. The guy giving us our tour said this Pyramid location considers itself a production brewery first and a restaurant second, which might explain the food (As a rule, I try to avoid this sort of mid-priced TGI Blannigan's type of food, but sometimes one needs food to soak up the beer. The wings are the best option).
Pet peeve: being nosy during the tour and reading the ingredients on a barrel of apricot goo revealed that Pyramid's apricot ale has high-fructose corn syrup in it. Sad panda :(
Bonus: I once misremembered their opening time and came to refill my growler 15 minutes before the doors opened. I read the hours on the door, noted my mistake, and started walking away with my empty growler. One of the floor staff ran after me, called me back, and said I could come get a growler fill anyway if that's all I wanted. Nice.
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