Monday, February 18, 2013

Tour de Bière 2013

Saturday was the third annual Tour de Bière, a fundraiser put on by The Grand Cru to benefit the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. We had perfect weather for the ride, and as in past years, the tickets for it sold out quickly. I'm not the only one who enjoys beer and bikes, particularly in support of a good cause.

We started in San Leandro at Drake's Brewery. They were kind enough to open early and offer tours. While we were checking in, we started with coffee from Bicycle Coffee Co. and breakfast snacks. The location was new to the Tour de Biere, but Drake's has been around since 1989. It was founded by Roger Lind and originally known as Lind Brewing Company. With 50 people on the ride, we had to split into smaller groups to go on the tour, so it took a while for everyone to go on it. On the tour we heard about the brewing process at Drake's, but also about one of their specialties, barrel-aged beers. Normally after brewing, fermenting and filtering, a beer is pretty much ready to drink. Barrel-aged beers put the beer into oak barrels for further aging. The origin of the barrel, whether from wine-making or some other alcohol production affects the taste, as does charring the inside of the barrel. The beer is aged for varying periods, and the result is something unique. The one we sampled was darker, a bit smokey, and slightly sour. I loved it, but it's not to everyone's taste.

After Drake's, we headed past the Oakland airport and into Alameda. After a brief rest stop on Bay Farm Island, we rode along the estuary and onto the island of Alameda (which wasn't always an island.) There we were greeted by one the mom of one of the riders who had made us fresh cookies! The ride along the estuary was particularly beautiful, as there were numerous shorebirds and other waterfowl.

From Alameda we headed through Jingletown up along the estuary towards Jack London Square to Linden Street Brewery in West Oakland. There we were greeted by Andrew, head brewer and co-founder (Adam was busy in back watching a test batch being brewed.) Linden Street is partnering with James Sybahout of Commis and Hawker Fare to open a restaurant adjacent to the brewery in Linden Street (I reported on this back in December.) As a result, things were a bit chaotic in the tasting room, and much of the furniture had been moved outside. Andrew told us about the story of Linden Street (the first production brewery in Oakland since the 1950s) and kept us well-supplied with tastes of LSB's four beers. They brew "session beers", which are lower in alcohol than many beers today. The lower alcohol (generally 4% to 5%) allows you to drink more beer over a session without getting too drunk too fast. At Linden Street we were joined by El Taco Bike, which gave people the opportunity for a tasty snack.

Then it was up through West Oakland and Emeryville to Aquatic Park in Berkeley, and on to the Trumer Brewery. We again broke into smaller groups for a tour of the brewery. Trumer is unusual in a number of ways. First, they make only one beer, Trumer Pils. The first Trumer brewery started in Salzburg, Austria, in 1601, and is still family owned. They pride themselves on making a pure, bright pilsner, so when they OK'd making Trumer in the U.S., the quality of the water was a big consideration. EBMUD water from the Sierra Nevada was perfect for their needs, but they still had to do a lot of back-and-forth to satisfy the exacting standards of the main brewers in Austria. At the brewery they have a quality assurance lab that tests the beer to make sure it's up to their standards. Trumer then opened their tasting room to us, where people enthusiastically drank some Trumer Pils.

Our final stop was Pyramid Brewery, which is also in Berkeley not far from Trumer. There we took over the patio and sampled a few of Pyramid's beers. Some people ordered food, while some went on a tour of the brewery. They don't allow photos inside the brewhouse, but there was interesting stuff to learn. We heard about Pyramid's history, from their founding in the Pacific Northwest to their expansion to Berkeley and several subsequent mergers. After the tour, the rest of us got food and some more beer, and sat and reflected on the day.

It was another great Tour de Biere. There was about 20 miles of cycling on the tour, and I had another 17 or so to and from BART and home at the start and end of the tour, so it was a lot of riding. But the tour part was very flat, with the biggest hills being over the bridges to and from Alameda. Thanks to The Grand Cru for organizing it, to Drake's, Linden Street, Trumer and Pyramid for hosting it, Bicycle Coffee Co. for the coffee Clif Bar for the snacks, and to everyone else who made the day possible.

Lots more pictures from the tour:

There's a great write up by Jenny Oh at Bay Area Bites with more pictures.

Read about the Tour de Biere 2012.


Phil said...

Awesome writeup, Gene!

Unknown said...

Great write-up and photos! Are you on Flickr? I'd love to favorite the one of me & TBO. :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for the kind words! The photos are on Picasa/Google+.