For casual drinkers and professional critics alike, picking the best local beer is not an easy task the East Bay overfloweth with quality craft breweries whose beers have been recognized internationally. From large-scale Pyramid to all-organic Bison, our breweries leave local aficionados little reason to look elsewhere. The small, family-owned Drake's Brewing Company in San Leandro is more off the beaten path than most, and its bottles are perhaps less ubiquitous, but that only heightens its appeal. Year-round, Drake's produces a Hefeweizen, an Amber Ale, a Blonde Ale, and the cream of its crop, the IPA. It's plenty hoppy, but not overly bitter; toasted malts are employed generously to lend flavors of caramel and vanilla. Its 7 percent alcohol content doesn't hurt the experience either. An unusual shrinkwrap label touts the brew's gold medal for American-Style IPA at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival. Drake's IPA also scored a bronze in the same category at the 2004 Brewers World Beer Cup.