It was with some sadness that we headed to Berkeley; grumpy kids the night before meant we didn’t get to go to the funky-looking brewery in San Jose that we wanted to visit (Uproar) plus we were moving into our last few days of holiday.We’d decided to visit Berkeley because we wanted to eat at Chez Panisse and had managed to book a table three months in advance (to the day – call me organised). There is also a fab mini-museum of perfume, the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents, on the road behind Chez Panisse, so we did that pre-dinner, but with Jupiter Beer just down the road and The Rare Barrel practically outside our apartment we wisely left the breweries and bars till the day after our posh dinner.
We were really excited to go to The Rare Barrel, specialists in barrel aging sours, and they didn’t let us down. Instantly winning our Best Music in A Bar This Holiday award, with an excellent chilled Sunday afternoon playlist, the tap house is really great with lots of beaten up / comfy looking mid-modern furniture and racks and racks of barrels looking very gorgeous.
My first beer was the tasty Bourbon BA Ensorcelled, a raspberry sour. I also tried their Stephan Shrugged, a golden sour with lavender which was exactly the right amount of floral. We were pleased to see on tap a collab between Alvarado Street, who we visited, and Modern Times who we have drunk and admired earlier on our trip. Stratos was a New England DIPA, so by rights I should have loathed it but … it was great! It had none of the metallic bitterness I dislike (but others crave) and I could have drunk a whole one myself.
The big win at The Rare Barrel for me though was something I’d not heard of before; Lawyers, Plums and Money was a guest fermentation from Mission Trail listed as a plum jerkum aged in 60 year old Flor de Cana rum barrels. I was intrigued. Turned out to be the most heavenly smelling drink, all honey-baked stone fruit and summer sunshine, with a soft but potent taste. I loved it. On investigating once back home, I saw a jerkum is a kind of cider or wine traditionally made in the Cotswolds! And I had to go to California to find it!
We had to move on for various reasons (we weren’t asked to leave, don’t worry!) and so cabbed up to Jupiter Beer for dinner and a few more. We were still holding out for a Pliny the Elder, and initially the waiter was delighted to be able to offer it to us but sadly it transpired not to be available. He was mortified and brought us a comp as an apology, for which there was no need, but really exemplified the excellent customer service we had throughout our holiday.
I, however, did get a Russian River – their North Coast Old Rasputin imperial stout, and also a very nice white shout with coffee but can’t remember whose that was. Food was great, huge as it often is in the States, but also good quality, and the atmosphere was really good. And after that final lovely beer, we left Jupiter and headed home to pack up to return to the UK having had a brilliant three weeks in California.