The Trappist - Short Report on Opening Night
As beer geeks, we couldn't pass up an opportunity to visit the Trappist, a new bar in old town Oakland focusing on Belgian beers, on opening night. We arrrived at around 8 p.m. and had to wait about 30 minutes to get in (the place only has a capacity of 49 and they were wisely exercising crowd control that night). Although it is small, it is a very nice place - exposed brick walls, iron work, a few barrel tables in the back. Clientele appeared of the neighborhood, with a few of the beer community types thrown into the mix.
But what about the beers, right? They had, I think, 20 beers on tap and a good size bottle list. As expected, the selection veered heavily toward the belgian and belgian-style. We stuck with the taps for that night (will have to go back to check out the bottles, but the City Beer really has the market on that). We tried: Caracole Ambree (really interesting Belgian amber with only a hint of sweetness, lots of malt, and a fair amount of hops); Houblon Chouffe (the consensus in our group was that it tastes better from bottle than on draft); the Carolus Grand Cru (excellent - maybe my favorite of the night, by a nose over the Caracole); St. Bernardus Trippel (not that interesting). In the non-belgian category, we also had an Avery Old Jubilation and Avery IPA (always happy to see Avery out here) at last call. I had a sip of someone's Anderson Valley Brother David, which we found much better on draft than in the bottle.
Apparently they have cheese plates, but otherwise the food is minimal. It is a small place, but a definitely fills a great niche. We will definitely be back (and often).
460 8th Street, Oakland, CA
Around 3:30 to 4:30 on a hot Sunday afternoon this place was less than half full and pleasantly cool. Great and unusual beers on tap and reasonable prices:
Brasserie d'Achouffe Houblon Chouffe 9% ABV 25cl $6
Chimay Cinq Cents Triple 8% ABV 30cl $6
Brouwerij de Glazen Toren Saison d'Erpe-Mere 7.5 % ABV 33cl $8
Van Eecke Poperings Hommel 7.5% ABV 33cl $6
I've tried to go there around ten times now and this was only the third time there were any seats. Even 15 minutes after opening on a weekday it's usually packed.
Went by last night, Wednesday about 8pm. Packed to the gills. At one point
five of the maybe twelve people sitting at the bar were talking on cellphones.
This annoyed my companion enough that we left after the first beer, heading up
to the also-new Franklin Square wine bar which was empty and fantastic.
Despite the communication-minded crowds, the Trappist looks like it's going to
be a real nice part of the neighborhood once things calm down a little. Must have
been 50 beers on the extensive and pleasantly-priced beer list.
re: uh ... art
The two guys behind the bar were casually talking to each other and puttering around. They never once made eye contact with me and my friend as we stood at attention hoping to order. There was a woman clearing glasses, and since she appeared to be the only person who realized she had a job to do, we asked her if we could order, and she took care of us. Thanks! If I had a new business, I would be working very hard to make everyone who walks in feel welcome. Trappist -- you need to work harder if you want to keep the crowd. Great beer is not enough. If I can't find a seat, and the bartender ignores me, I won't come back. Get your sh** together because I really want you to succeed.
No, service was beyond terrible on my one visit. I didn't mention that aspect because they've only been open a few weeks and doubtless are still in the learning process (and their huge initial success and flood of customers can't be making it easy).
Still, anyone heading there should be aware that it's a tiny place, so sardine cannish on an early Wednesday evening I expected to find half the crowd stacked head-downward, and service is currently capricious and chaotic. I have no doubts things will get much better but personally I'm going to hold off for a month or two before my next visit.
re: Robert Lauriston
Yes, they have been very crowded (it is a small place). We went twice over the weekend, and it was much less crowded last night. In terms of beers, we took the opportunity to look at the stellar bottle list and enjoyed the following:
Kiningshoeven Quad (draft) - a little too sweet, but good dairy/butter finish
Carolus Tripel (draft) - strong citrus, banana, but nice balance
De Ranke XX bitter Belgian Golden Ale - kinda boring, just hops, La Chouffe better, but supposedly the hoppiest made by the entire country, not necessarily bad, but more novelty than anything else
Picobrouweru Alvinne - Gaspar Ale - wow, fantastic ... Hop and sour together. Really super drinkable. Surprised that more not make this style (small brewery .. You would know that if you knew flemish). 115 ibu
Poperings Hommel Bier - nice, typical Belgian sour note, not overwhelming; great mouthfeel, is the sad friend that nobody wants because it is standing next to the Gasper... But you should take the chance if you can't get the Gaspar!