The Nightcap: Tough decisions at Beer Revolution

on August 12, 2011

The Nightcap is a new series that will feature a favorite Oakland drinking establishment every Friday afternoon.

On a Thursday afternoon at Beer Revolution, a customer stares at a blackboard with a list of 47 on-tap beers written in brightly colored chalk. He’s having trouble making a decision.

“So much up there,” says Chuck Purvis of Hayward as his eyes scan the list of beer names, breweries, prices and alcohol content levels. “A lot of eye candy.”

Behind him there are more options: nine refrigerators with rows of beers in bottles. Purvis stays focused on the taps, though, and orders a Black Magic Rye, made by Iron Springs Brewery, which has 6.8-percent alcohol, for $5. He says he’s looking forward to trying something new, and that’s exactly why he came to Beer Revolution.

“It’s good to get amazing beers you won’t see elsewhere,” he says.

Beer Revolution has nine refrigerators full of beer.

Beer Revolution is a specialty bottle shop and tasting room, located just up the block from Broadway on 3rd Street in Jack London Square. It serves nothing but craft beer—“No macro or corporate beer,” said Fraggle, who goes by one name (“like Cher or Prince,” he said), and co-owns the bar with his wife, Rebecca Boyles. “We still get people coming in asking for Bud Light or Stella, and we try to educate them,” he said.

Beer Revolution opened in February, 2010, with the idea, Fraggle said, of bringing more good beer to Oakland. “There are 264 breweries in California alone,” Fraggle said. “There’s a lot of great beer out there and we want to make sure more and more people get good beer.”

There’s a wooden deck out front of Beer Revolution that fills up during nice days. But even during a sunny day, Beer Revolution stays dark inside. The walls are painted red and the only window faces the street. Punk music always plays on the stereo, and recently delivered kegs stack up by the door waiting to be tapped. (Beer Revolution goes through anywhere from 10-40 kegs a day and the taps rotate daily as well).

On a Thursday afternoon, a few men sit at the bar, as Boyles takes drink orders and manages the deliveries, stopping occasionally to talk beer with a customer or offer advice on what to order. Some people wander in to pick a beer from one of the refrigerators, while others seem to be captivated by the blackboard and all the choices in chalk.

Fraggle said his personality comes out in the bar: “Low key, laid back, with a punk feel to it.”

Before opening Beer Revolution, Boyles ran a health and wellness center and Fraggle worked at West Oakland’s Linden Street Brewery. “We’d been wanting to do something like this for years,” Fraggle said. “Even before we met.”

While the beer selection is obviously the main draw, there’s also weekly special events, like ‘Meet the Brewer’ every Wednesday, where a local brewer appears in the bar. Brewers from Bison Brewery of Berkeley comes by once a month for ‘Meatless Mondays,’ on which beer is paired with vegetarian food from a local restaurant. On Sundays, there’s a barbecue on the deck. “We’re all about building community around us,” Fraggle said.

Fraggle said that the popularity of Beer Revolution has grown so much in the year and a half it has been open that it’s “terrifying.” On its first anniversary on this year, the bar went from 14 taps to more than 40. Fraggle said the plan is to add more.

“We want to keep bringing in more good beer, keep searching,” he said. “It never ends. There’s always going to be something new.”

Photo by Basil D Soufi
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