Let's get right to it: This feature is about beer. Beer that you can find here in town, either brewed in the East Bay, or that you can purchase from locally owned bottle shops, so as to create the perfect holiday six-pack. This is pretty much the only gift that special brew fan in your life really wants. You're welcome.
When it comes to bottle shops, the East Bay is blessed. There's Beer Revolution (464 Third St., Oakland, 510-452-2337, Beer-Revolution.com), near Jack London Square, what with its pumping metal tunes and multiple fridges of bottles-to-go. At Beer Rev, you can discover six-packs of hoppy cans that you won't find anywhere else in town, plus a variety of wild and sour offerings, dark ales, hoppy bombers, and even ciders. The Good Hop (2421 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-338-6598, TheGoodHop.com) is another classic spot with hundreds of bottles and cans to go. And Mikkeller Oakland recently opened in the Rockridge neighborhood (6309 College Ave., Oakland). This taproom and bottle shop is a unique place to mix-and-match brews from the experimental Danish brewer. A good starting point is the porter brewed with chipotle peppers, some of the "Breakfast" series stouts (try the vanilla), or some of the "Spontan" wild-ale beers with fruits, including traditional fruited brews such as cherry and unconventional pairings like figs.
But really, what better way to round out that six-pack of brew ... than with a full-on 64-ounce growler of beer. One of the benefits of enjoying craft beer in the East Bay is that you can get some of the finest and freshest hoppy beer on the planet. When you visit spots such as Fieldwork Brewing Co. or Temescal Brewing, their IPAs and pale ales are usually but a few days old. This is ideal because hops are volatile, and these styles of beer evolve in flavor when exposed to heat, air, light, and time. And the good news is that every city in the East Bay boasts a destination for fresh hoppy goodness.
If you live in Oakland, Temescal Brewing (4115 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-899-5628, TemescalBrewing.com) is where you will find some of the most drinkable hoppy pale ales and IPAs in the country. These are not harsh and high-octane hop bombs that will reduce your palate to a stick of wood. These are delicate brews that belie the traditional West Coast bitterness and, instead, explore earthy or tropical flavor profiles. Temescal sells classic, custom-designed flip-top growlers in both 32- and 64-ounce sizes, and a fill-up of fresh beer will cost anywhere from $8 to $25, depending on the style. Worth it.
In Berkeley, the destination for super-fresh hoppy brew is Fieldwork Brewing Co. (1160 Sixth St., Berkeley, 510-898-1203, FieldworkBrewing.com) which probably boasts the most variety of hoppy brew to-go in the region, from traditional California IPAs to the more rustic and "juicier" East Coast styles. They also sell smaller "crowler" cans, too. A popular option that appears to be on regular rotation is the Galaxy Juice IPA.
In Alameda, Faction Brewing (2501 Monarch St., Alameda, 510-523-2739, FactionBrewing.com) is the place for classic West Coast IPAs, but brewed with modern hops. No "hazy" IPAs or trendy bullshit here. But the hoppy pale ales and IPAs remain forever crushable (as the kids say). My personal favorites are the Penske File, if available, and the A-Town, which can only be purchased on the island.
And in San Leandro, the original Drake's Brewing Company (1933 Davis St., No. 177, San Leandro, 510-568-2739, DrinkDrakes.com) is the place to fill your growlers straight from the source — not to mention purchase pretty much any offering from their line of brews by the case. So, basically, beer heaven just off Interstate 880. Pro tip: You can also fill growlers in Uptown Oakland at Drake's Dealership (2325 Broadway).
OK, so all that probably amounted to a 12-pack. But, hey, it's the holidays. Bottoms up.