The Rare Barrel
940 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA
Phone: (510) 984-6585
Status: Open Fridays and Saturdays
The rising tide of sour beer's popularity now has a Bay Area home base with the opening of The Rare Barrel, a Berkeley brewery and tasting room dedicated entirely to sour brews. Now open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, the new spot fills a niche market with a host of sour flavors, ranging from golden to amber to red and dark brews. Jay Goodwin, previously of Orange County's acclaimed The Bruery, is behind the project, along with his father Brad Goodwin and friend and homebrewer Alex Wallash.
Although the brewing takes place off-site, the Berkeley location will play host to the aging, blending, and bottling stages and will serve as a weekend taproom for visitors to sample the wares. The Rare Barrel team has been brewing and aging their for beers for a full year now, and they debuted a variety of sours at this opening over the weekend, from SKUs Me (a golden sour beer aged in oak barrels) to Ensorcelled (a dark sour beer aged in oak barrels with raspberry) to Fields Forever (a red sour beer aged in oak with strawberry). See a list of all their beers on tap here.
For visitors who need a break from all that mouth-puckering sourness, The Rare Barrel tasting room will also feature two rotating non-sour guest beers on tap, plus two guest wines. Right now they're pouring Melange #3 from The Bruery and The Publican from Societe Brewing Co., along with a white rhone style blend from Donkey and Goat and a grenache from Eno Wines. Visitors can balance out their drinking with paninis in combos like turkey, pesto, and goat cheddar or sliced apple, Bellwether Carmody cheese, local chevre, and chicory. (Both are served on Acme ciabatta.)
The name "Rare Barrel" is derived not from the relative uniqueness of sour beers, but from the team's dedication to identifying their finest barrels of sour beers in an annual tasting of their barrel house. Using the expertise of craft beer experts, brewers, brewers, cicerones and foodies, they hope to determine the very top barrels of sour and name the top finisher, which will be poured at a yearly party, the ultimate "The Rare Barrel." For now, the crew is spending weekdays honing their brews, so the tasting room is only open on Fridays from 4-10pm and Saturdays from 2-10pm. They may expand their hours once everything is up and running.