“Nunc est bibendum.” (“Now is the time for drinking”) – Horace, Odes
A Diamond in the Rough:
Just recently opened, The Trappist sits in the heart of downtown Oakland on 8th and Broadway. This classically styled Belgium Beer pub and eatery claims to feature 28 rotating taps, over 100 specialty bottle and no corporate beer. Guineas or Fat Tire nowhere to be found, this bar was rated #17 best beer bar in the world, and #1 best beer bar in California by ratebeer.com.
Owned and operated by Chuck Stilphen and Aaron Porter, The Trappist is all about excellence, serving only superior beer in the correct glass and at the correct temperature each selection necessitates. You can enjoy the beer in one of their two adjoining pubs: the Main Pub and the Back Bar. Watch out though, or you might pass the place without knowing it. Nestled into a 1870s Victorian building, both bars feature incredible architecture and woodwork throughout without being conceited, making it easy to get comfortable in the laid back environment.
With no hard alcohol, or wine, beer is king at The Trappist. All the employees at The Trappist regardless of their position are Cicerone certified, meaning, more or less, they are experts in their field; having passed an examination and having gained multiple recommendations from brewers, beer wholesalers, or beer retailers.
I had heard from other experienced guest of The Trappist that the staff at times can be a bit snobbish, not unlike up here in Northwest-I-know-more-about-coffee-than-you-do Portland, OR, so I wasn’t too worried. However I was pleasantly surprised by the staff that day being more then friendly and spending time at our table to explain any and all questions (very honestly) we had.
That day I had the St. Feuillien Triple 8.5% ABV, and the Flying Dog Barrel-aged Gonzo Imperial Porter 9.5% ABV. I've wanted to try the Feuillien Triple for quite some time, and I was pleased with it despite the fresh and fruity makeup of the drink. Generally I am not too keen on the sweet stuff, but this being my starter beverage, the creamy delivery and light bitterness was great.
My second beer was going to be the Rasputin Stout since it’s my favorite stout to date, but on seeing the Flying Dog Barrel-aged Gonzo, I couldn’t resist. I had actually never had a barrel-aged beer before, and the thought of an imperial porter aged in Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey barrels was at least intriguing, despite my doubts that I wouldn't love it. Matured for about three months in the barrel, strong strains of oak were more apparent than the whiskey. If anything I could appreciate the thought behind the beverage. Flying Dog Brewery has always focused on “experimental brews and limited-edition one-offs” never sticking to anything conventional and the Gonzo embodies their mission. Nevertheless, this is something I wouldn’t have every day, much like a Deschutes beer made with coffee I once sampled. The Gonzo is simply a difficult brew to produce. Beer has an age life, and unlike whiskey, will keep aging once it’s in the keg. That said, being in a barrel longer than most brews are even in the keg, the Gonzo can hardly be considered a “fresh” brew (using fresh in the "tasting note" sense).
All in all, the experience was a good one – from the appetizers my brother, father, and I ordered, the diverse selections of beer we sampled, and the service we enjoyed, this is a place I will be coming to again when I’m in the area.
*Also, just finished was a wonderful patio area which will dramatically increase the square footage and capacity of their pub. They’re only waiting on the liquor license.