The Rare Barrel – Berkeley CA

It is certainly rare to find a brewery that only brews sours. Thankfully The Rare Barrel has a few guest taps available for those who might be dragged along but don’t appreciate sours. The tasting room is a bit out of the way and it is worth driving to where you think it is rather than trying to park down the street because they have a good amount of parking between the road and the front door. Probably the only major complaint they tend to receive is the lack of tasters available, which was only partially true when I visited because they did serve one beer in five ounce pours, the second anniversary beer (they had the second anniversary celebration the day before I visited). Otherwise their beers are exclusively available in 10 ounce pours for around $8 a piece. Though this seems expensive to some people it is typical for sour beers.

Rare Barrel 01

Taplist when I visited.
Taplist when I visited.

Rare Barrel 04

Because they don’t offer tasters of the other beers served I only had two different beers when I visited, the Second Anniversary sour and the Impossible Soul barrel aged sour with cherries. The second anniversary sour was a bourbon barrel aged red sour. It had a mild bourbon flavor and lots of smooth oak flavor that was balanced nicely with the fairly light sour kick at the end. It poured a smooth reddish brown and was a tasty sour. The Impossible Soul poured a gorgeous red/orange color and was quite smooth with a tart cherry finish. Some consider this The Rare Barrel’s version of a kriek, which is fitting. It was a bit different from other krieks though I haven’t had a ton of the style. I enjoyed the two beers that I was able to taste while I was there.

2nd Anniversary Sour
2nd Anniversary Sour
Impossible Soul
Impossible Soul

Besides the lack of tasters I was quite annoyed by the general loud atmosphere and poor acoustics. Though most tasting rooms tend to echo a lot this one was even more noisy than others and made it hard to relax and enjoy the beers. Part of the draw for the brewery is the exclusivity with most of the bottles and growler fills limited to members. As someone who would not want to sign up for such a thing anytime soon I thought the visit was nice but not particularly memorable. Though it is great to have a brewery that always has sours available, I found the atmosphere at Fieldwork to be more to my liking. If you know people into sours they probably would appreciate knowing when you visit as they may want you to pick up some bottles for them.

Wide open tasting room with high ceilings.
Wide open tasting room with high ceilings.
Massive stack of barrels aging beer.
Massive stack of barrels aging beer.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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