The confectionary plant in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is initially depicted as a forlorn place. Five Golden Ticket holders eventually get to know Gene Wilder’s malevolent whimsy, but at first, it looks as forbidding as a medieval fortress or Edward Scissorhands’ house. (“Nobody ever goes in, and nobody ever goes out,” the tinker tells a curious Charlie Bucket.) As a plot device, it’s effective. But considered from an urbanist angle, it could not be a bigger failure.
Temescal Brewing in Oakland takes the unapproachability out and inserts a pink door instead. Once inside, you’ll be greeted not by Oompah-Loompahs moralizing in song, but by pastel wall art that looks like an Etsy store that sells the components of the Saved by the Bell opening credits and a lemon-yellow neon sign reading “no jerks.” There are black-and-white striped pillows and free popcorn. By the standards of its peers, it’s almost cutesy.
Still, pink door or otherwise, it’s almost impossible to hide the industrial equipment that makes a microbrewery a brewery. Of course, if there were ample space to conceal the fermentation tanks, the place wouldn’t necessarily be very micro and it might be hard to find a home in a real-estate market as tight as ours. But there’s no shame in putting mash hydrators and grist cases front and center, either. Collapsing the distance between production and consumption welcomes the drinker into the fold, and makes everything about the operation feel as approachable as a corner bistro with 12 tables. That you can also fill a growler straight from the proverbial tap without having to pay for a docent-lead tour the way you would at, say, the Guinness Brewery in Dublin is another draw, especially for people who live within walking distance.
At Temescal, those growlers get refiled for either $7 (750 ml) or $16 (two liters). One good indicator that this is a place to chill was that on a recent visit, the five beers on tap all had ABVs of 6.5 percent or lower, with three being outright sessionable, at or under 5 percent. And taken together, they represent a good cross-section of what a contemporary brewery ought to offer, with a blonde ale (Cat Nap), a dark mild (Bank Holiday), a pale ale made with wheat (Weekend), an IPA (Good to Go), and a porter (Search Party). That sounds almost resolutely un-trendy, but it may have been pure chance: Head brewer Wade Ritchey — who did a stint at Cellarmaker Brewing in SoMa — does have a keg-conditioned saison called Tip Toe. If you want a flight, and you should definitely give them all a whirl, it’s only $10 for five fairly generous pours. (The only downside is that Temescal doesn’t provide racks or labels, so you’re sitting outside, you’ll likely have to make at least two trips from the bar — and remember which is which.)
But it’s worth hanging out in that beer garden.
As an inveterate IPA fan, I assumed I’d gravitate toward the Good to Go, but it was the toffee-caramel flavor of the Bank Holiday that lit my fuse. In terms of doing something rather original while catering to an almost universally liked flavor, however, the chamomile-heavy Cat Nap was a shrewd creation.
Spacious outdoor patios can accommodate people pushing strollers, even if the world at large doesn’t always, and at Temescal, a chocolate milk will only set you back $2 (and no risk of falling into a chocolate river and going up a pipe). Beneath the strings of lights, a cycle of food trucks stakes a claim: Doc’s Classic comfort food one day, Filipino food from The Lumpia Company the next. As it’s open until 10 p.m. or later six nights a week, you can drink these quaffable beers until what passes for the wee hours when we’re talking about an outdoor venue in a neighborhood where more people sleep than work.
It may be that we’re entering an era when every residential neighborhood has not just a local dive, a craft cocktail bar, and at least one restaurant with a good wine list, but also a microbrewery of its own. SoMa, Dogpatch, and the Bayview have plenty of breweries among all the many city blocks zoned for industry and full of old buildings on large parcels. While those neighborhoods are also home to many thousands of people each, breweries have also appeared in places with considerably higher population densities: The Lower Haight has Black Sands, the Mission has Southern Pacific, Bernal Heights has Barebottle, and the Sunset has Social Kitchen and Sunset Reservoir. It’s becoming hard to keep up with all the Bay Area’s new breweries even at the rate of visiting one every other week or so, but there’s a lot of untapped neighborhoods yet.
Temescal Brewing 4115 Telegraph Ave. 510-899-5628 or temescalbrewing.com