12-Hour Pub Crawl: Lively Livermore
Livermore, once a small quaint cowboy town sitting on the outskirts of the East Bay, along Highway 580, has been steadily earning a sparkling reputation as Napa South, known for its award-winning vinos and boutique wineries (Wente being one of the most recognizable names). Amidst the grapevines, however, a new beverage scene is emerging. When Steve Satori opened Altamont Beer Works in 2012, it became the first craft brewery in town since Prohibition ended in the 1930’s. – By Nora Heston Tarte
Other area brewers quickly took notice of the brewpub’s fast success; today, a handful of breweries have set up shop in Livermore, releasing small-batch beers with tongue-in-cheek names. This trend looks to be just beginning. The stops may be fewer and farther between than the big players in San Francisco and San José, but there are easily enough hops to fill the day. A background of beautiful rolling hills and a casual, family-friendly atmosphere create a one-of-a-kind vibe for this booming town, where glasses are filled with local flavors and the patios are always dog-friendly.
10:30 AM Start your morning with local fuel at Story Coffee. This family-owned, pop-up coffee shop is one of Livermore’s best-kept secrets. Brewing beans from Santa Cruz’s Verve Coffee Roasters, Story Coffee takes up shop inside Switch, a local co-working space.
Here, husband-wife team Paul and Alana Halvorsen are at your service. Prep your taste buds for the long day ahead with their signature (and non-alcoholic) whiskey coffee, an easy favorite among locals.
12:00 PM Any tour of the Livermore Valley brew scene should begin with a stop at the original brewery that started it all, Altamont Beer Works. Owner Satori makes a concerted effort to continually grow their menu, so there’s always something new to try. Start off light with a Berry White fruit beer (4.7% ABV), or dive right in with a line-up of drool-worthy IPAs, such as Mr. Nice Guy (7.2% ABV) or Shot Away (6.8% ABV — read about the story behind this beer on page 13). The most popular brew on the list is Hella Hoppy, a double-IPA that boasts a 9% ABV— cheers to getting this party started!
Beers are only available on tap at Altamont, so grab one of their growlers (or bring your own) to fill with your favorites for later consumption and happy remembrances.
1:00 PM Whether you choose to taste your brews chronologically or by distance, Working Man Brewing is your next stop. Opened one year after Altamont, Working Man is just a six minute drive down the road. This microbrewery is on a mission to create hand-crafted, artisan beers with a wink at Bay Area history.
While visiting, taste their current line-up of seven tasty offerings, ranging from a smooth Belgian-style wheat with spicy characteristics (Whistleblower, 4.8% ABV) to a rich and creamy stout (C’est Noir, 10.8%). If you like them hoppy, fill your growler with Old Jabberwokki (see what we did there?). For a more traditional taste, order a pint of their 9 to 5, a crisp, clean, pale ale made for the working man and woman (6.2% ABV).
2:00 PM It’s time to grab a bite to balance all that alcohol consumption. But, no need to pause the drinking. Hidden away in a nondescript shopping center, Hop DeVine serves all the best the valley has to offer —wine, beer, and grub. Fill your stomach with tri-tip sandwiches made to perfection and wash it all down with a brew flight. Large picnic-style tables fill this gastropub, but the best seats are at the bar, where you have a clear view of their high-tech tasting menus — LCD screens that provide everything you need to know about the listed brews, including whether or not they are serving from the bottom of the barrel.
3:00 PM Brian Blackburn and Craig Danielson, the puppetmasters behind newcomer Shadow Puppet, are two self-proclaimed geeks with a love for beer who started, like many, as home brewers. The industrialized tasting room is spacious enough to sprawl out at tables, or gather at the bar where tasters, pint glasses, and growlers are filled.
Take the beer list for what it is and embrace the crafty brewmaster’s quirky combinations of uncommon ingredients. Go back in time with a Kentucky Uncommon (5.8% ABV), a pre-prohibition-style amber ale brewed with a blend of corn and rye. Shadow Puppet also boasts some of the only nitro-brews in the area, including Cinch, a vanilla cream ale with a silky mouth-feel (5% ABV).
5:00 PM According to the old adage, time well spent is never wasted. Well, for lack of a better phrase, Tap 25 might be the ideal place to wind up an afternoon. It’s the first stop on our brew tour that takes tasters to Livermore’s budding downtown, in a coveted area called Blacksmith Square. With 25 flavors always on the ready (hence the name), the focus here is on American microbrews. Revisit favorites from the day or sink your teeth into something brand-new. The day of our visit, they were heavy on the San Diego imports, but also had some Northern California choices peppered in.
Live music, provided by local bands and singer-songwriter types, provide the soundtrack for your boozy early evening hours. Grab a seat on their patio — tucked away but still part of the action so you can take it all in.
A SPIRITED DETOUR
While the craft beer scene has enough offerings to keep you tipsy all day, Livermore’s newest foray into beverages is spirits. Sutherland Distillery takes you to the other side of town for a unique beverage tasting experience. Inside, the true essence of the city is captured in the décor: recycled barrel racks and work tables made from reclaimed wood. Inside each poured glass, this essence is echoed by Sutherland using unique ingredients available in the surrounding rich agricultural lands. There’s no discrimination here when it comes to variety—tip back rums, vodka, rye whiskey, and bourbon before heading out the door.
7:00 PM Bet you didn’t know you could enjoy a rooftop dining experience in Livermore? Aviation Rooftop Bar & Kitchen serves up casual fare that pairs perfectly with area brews. Refuel with a Mexico City burger — fresh ground beef stacked with chorizo, pico de gallo, avocado, and pepper jack cheese. Ten beers, from near and far, rotate on tap to quench your thirst while you satiate your hunger.
Alternate dinner spot: A mainstay on First Street, the First Street Alehouse rotates fourteen international and domestic beers with nods to California’s best microbreweries. Fare is casual with daily specials.
8:00 PM With beers, wines, spirits, and cocktails, Beer Baron is the best place to end your crawl (it doesn’t hurt that it’s just a stumble away from your dinner spot). With more than thirty rotating beers on tap, it’s the biggest draft offering on this list, and the collection doesn’t disappoint. Continue to taste the local flavor or choose a bourbon-based cocktail instead. Live music makes this spot the perfect segue from day drinking to late-night partying. ABV
WHAT'S WHAT AND WHAT'S WHERE
Listed in order of appearance in story. All locations are in Livermore, Calif., unless noted otherwise.
1911 Second St.
Closed on Wednesdays and Sundays.
ALTAMONT BEER WORKS
2402 Research Dr.
Open Wed-Sun (doesn’t open until 4 p.m. on Wed, Thurs)
WORKING MAN BREWING
5542 Brisa St.
Open Thurs-Sun (doesn’t open until 4 p.m. on Thurs, Fri)
1708 N. Vasco Rd.
SHADOW PUPPET BREWING
4771 Arroyo Vista, #B
Open Wed-Sun (doesn’t open until 4 p.m. Wed, Thurs)
25 S. Livermore Ave.
FIRST STREET ALEHOUSE
2106 First St
AVIATION ROOFTOP BAR & KITCHEN
2470 First St. #300
2223 First St.
(They also have locations in Pleasanton and Santa Rosa)
3189 Independence Dr.
Information is provided without any guarantees. Call first.