Road Tripping with Drake’s

At Alvarado Street Brewery with Drake's brewmaster John Gillooly, August, 2016

At Alvarado Street Brewery pairing dinner with Drake’s brewmaster John Gillooly, August, 2016

Need a good reason to visit the San Francisco Bay Area? Here it is: Drake’s.

Every now and then, I’ll mention Drake’s in a conversation with craft beer enthusiasts outside California and someone says they’ve never heard of the brewery. And I think, Poor guy, doesn’t have a clue what he’s been missing all these years.

I can’t tell you when I drank my first Drake’s, but I do remember it was a Drake’s IPA and that after a few sips I was certain we had a future together. It was early-ish in my craft beer education, but I already knew I was drawn to hoppy beers the way some women are drawn to Drake the singer. I even found a clone recipe and tried my hand at brewing it at home. (Let’s just say that Drake’s brewmaster John Gillooly and his brewers do a way better job.) Gradually, I discovered other Drake’s IPA’s like Denogginizer, Aroma Coma and the limited edition Hopocalypse series, all of which deliver the powerful hop punches we West Coast hopheads love.

Christ Nelson pouring for Drake's at Monterey Beer Festival, June, 2015

Chris Nelson pouring for Drake’s at Monterey Beer Festival, June, 2015

If you haven’t had a Drake’s and you’re outside California, you probably can’t get ahold of one very easily. I checked with Chris Nelson (aka The Beer Geek), Drake’s Central Coast Market Manager, to find out where their products are currently available. “Most of California (I think the far north is not covered), Reno area, occasionally in Portland and Seattle.”

Does that sound like a reason for a road trip or what? Even if you can drink a Drake’s at your local pub, it’s worth a trip to the East Bay to enjoy one at Drake’s Barrel House, the spacious onsite tasting room at their San Leandro brewery. Better yet, time your visit for Drake’s 27th Anniversary Party on August 26.

Inside Drake's Barrel House

Drake’s Barrel House in San Leandro

For a very reasonable $35 (pre-sale tix), you’ll get unlimited tastings and a commemorative glass. A $75 VIP ticket includes early entry, a commemorative shirt, a bottle of Aroma Therapy IIIPA and first shot at purchasing some less common bottled beers. They’ll be pouring everything from rare barrel-aged brews to new ones even regular fans haven’t tasted. There will be live music, burgers, BBQ and more. I asked Nelson what he’s most looking forward to at the bash. “This year’s Aroma Coma.”  Answered like a true hophead.

One thing you won’t be able to do at the party is tour the brewery. It’s been closed to the public during Drake’s latest expansion. While Nelson said the work is almost complete, neither he nor the brewery’s website had any official word on when tours will recommence.

Drake's Dealership in Oakland

Drake’s Dealership in Oakland

But there’s plenty more to do on your Drake’s road trip, like stopping by Drake’s Dealership 10 miles up the road. Opened last year and housed in a former Dodge dealership, the rustic/hip restaurant and pub offers 32 taps, wood-fired pizza and an inviting kid- and dog-friendly outdoor area all but hidden from the noise and hubbub in uptown Oakland.

Triple Rock in Berkeley

Triple Rock in Berkeley

For the historical leg of your trip, you’ll want to drop by Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse five miles further north in Berkeley. Why, you wonder? Because it’s where current Drake’s co-owner John Martin got his start. Back in 1984 when John and his brother Reid started the paperwork to open a brewpub, city bureaucrats who had never heard of such a thing initially refused to allow what they thought would be an industrial brewery in downtown Berkeley.

Jupiter's multi-level patio

Jupiter’s multi-level patio in Berkeley

Eventually, the brothers finally got folks to understand the concept. Business went so well that John Martin later opened Jupiter a few blocks away. With 32 taps, a great food menu and a gorgeous multi-level patio, Jupiter pretty much stays packed on weekends.

If this sounds like your kind of road trip but you can’t come till next year, better plan to add a side trip. On July 22 it was announced that Drake’s will open a restaurant and bar in West Sacramento in the first half of 2017.

A taster flight at Drake's Barrel House

A taster flight at Drake’s Barrel House


  1. I always live vicariously through your blog! You have a knack for writing, Leslie. I’m sure Drake’s feels like this is a star in their brewing crown ?!

  2. beardydaly says:

    That’s one of the great things about knowing Chris and Meridith, they always bring care packages for us to London! They are of the opinion that we don’t get enough hops! Not going to argue with that!

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