More options for beer lovers in Berkeley have recently popped up as Westbrae Biergarten and Hoi Polloi Brewpub and Beat Lounge are now open for business. Westbrae had been operating in soft launch mode for several weeks, but officially made its public debut yesterday evening to a lively crowd.
1280 Gilman Street (between Santa Fe Avenue & Curtis Street), Berkeley [map] Ph: N/A Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 11AM-9PM; Fri.-Sat. 11AM-10PM
Soccer fans are in luck, as Westbrae will be providing ongoing coverage of the World Cup on its two large monitors for fans. And as Brazil had squared off against Croatia for the first game, there were plenty of Brazilian flags in evidence -- especially with the second outpost of Pedro's Brazil Cafe on site selling its popular South American casual cuisine to its customers.
There's plenty of seating options, with clusters of picnic tables, wooden lawn chairs, reclaimed wine barrel tables and even a fire pit situated throughout the garden.
Food from Pedro's ranges from $7-$10, with bar bites, sandwiches, salads and rice bowls for sale. And more street food trucks such as Roli Roti should be setting up shop in the future.
In addition to the international, regional and local beers available (pints $6, liter steins $12), Oakland's Ale Industries and Sacramento-based Ruhstaller were both offering free tastings of their craft beers.
Beer is also a family affair for Viet Vu, the brewmaster and owner of The Hoi Polloi Brewpub and Beat Lounge in south Berkeley. "My father got me interested in craft beer due to him being a professional brewer," commented Vu via email. "We spent many years hanging out at brewpubs wherever we were in the world and tasting whatever craft/micro beers that were available in stores or at the pubs. We talked about opening a brewpub or brewery together some day, but then he passed. I thought that was the end of our brewery dreams, but a year later decided to move forward with it." His brother also works with Vu at Hoi Polloi, and his wife pitches in "when she's not working at her '9-5' job."
"Newer businesses were also in the planning stages such as our next door neighbors, Easy Creole, Alchemy Collective, and Empress Vintage. The combination of a changing business climate in the district, complimented by ease of accessibility by public transpiration (Ashby BART's within 3 blocks), and more importantly, a relatively young, ethnically, culturally and economically diverse population resided in the district. We felt that this was the type of neighborhood that we wanted to be in. It really reflected the type of environment that we grew up with in California."
The nano-brewing takes place in the back space of Hoi Polloi with a 3-barrel system that produces "primarily session classic style American ales. We will also produce a variety of lagers, wheat beers, and season beers. Our selection will expand from our two house beers to four house beers. We also have 12 guest taps (which includes a cider offering) along with wine. We have no immediate or future plans for commercial sales, but we are not ruling it out."
And the origins of their quirky name? It reflects their background and work ethic.
"We felt that the meaning of 'Hoi Polloi' defines who we are and where we come from. We grew up in a working class family. Our values solidly align with that class and always will. We felt emotionally compelled to pay homage to the working masses and the common people who built our country and continue to make this community and this country so great. In an era of widening class divide and decreasing economic and social mobility, we felt that we needed wear our pride on our sleeves, so to speak."
The sleek, minimalist bar is lined with stools that faces a brick wall (with movies projected onto its surface) and additional standing room along a narrow wooden ledge. All beers are $5 and wines are $7/glass. There's also complimentary truffle oil and salt popcorn that's freshly prepared onsite for patrons, and you're encouraged to bring takeout from Easy Creole next door.