Local Must

Local MustAlex Wallash, co-founder of The Rare Barrel, shares his story of launching the brewery and his recommendations on where to eat in Oakland as part of the Dirt Road Travels city travel guide for Oakland.

Oakland, California

The Rare Barrel

"I make sour beer. I like to get weird."

Cheese Board Pizza
Chez Panisse
Jazz Night at The Marsh

The Rare Barrel

"I make sour beer. I like to get weird."

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Recommended in:
Oakland, California
Alex Wallash, Co-Owner of The Rare Barrel

My Story

"We got our start homebrewing in college. I was a biology major and I realized that brewing is using the science of biology to make art, to make this beer that tasted so much better than the mass-produced American lagers that I was used to drinking.

Eventually, I found myself studying my homebrewing books more than my biomolecular stuff. My roommate at the time, Jay, is now my business partner and really naively after graduating college we said, 'Hey! We like making beer. We like drinking beer Let's start a brewery!'

But we didn't have any money, any experience, and our beer wasn't that good at the time.

We spent the next five years figuring out how to do all those things and figuring out who we were and what we wanted to be as a brewery. When we connected the dots, it was really clear that it was, 'We're passionate about sour beers. We know how to make them well and there's a serious supply problem for them.'

That's when we decided to focus entirely on barrel-aged sours. We feel like if we focus entirely on sour beers, we're going to learn more about it and when we look back in thirty years, we'll be making better sour beers than if we decided to spread ourselves thin by making IPAs and stouts. So we're limited in what we can make, but we want to make it the best that we possibly can.'

What I Love Most about Sours

"The flavor profile. There are so many unique and complex flavors that you can find in sour beers that are really tough to find in other foods. When I take a sip of a sour beer it gets me thinking and zooms me out of wherever my brain is wandering and just focuses me on the present. I can sit and peel away the different layers of the flavors."

My Advice for Others

"We didn't sell beer for a year because it takes a full year to barrel-age our sour beers. The uncertainty of that first year made it the most challenging year of my life because we had everything invested in the brewery and we didn't know how the beer would come out.

People said we were crazy, and for us, it was, 'Yeah, we're probably a little crazy for doing it this way, but this is what we want to do.'

You've got to choose who you listen to and don't listen to everyone's feedback because everyone does have an opinion. 

You've got to trust yourself, and part of trusting yourself is taking on the acceptance of the consequences too.

There's always the chance of failure and you've got to accept that that can happen, but use that to channel it and drive you forward and to not let yourself fail."

Best Advice I've Received

"Play to your strengths and fuck everything else. 

We've taken that to heart. You have to be cognizant of what your strengths are, play to those and then delegate the things you aren't good at to other people and let them do a better job than you."

What I Love Most about Berkeley

"There's a lot of things I love about Berkeley and Oakland. I love the diversity and I think a lot of that comes from Cal, UC Berkeley, being right in town. With that diversity, you get a lot of different opportunities to try different things, whether that's talking to people from a country that you never had the chance to talk to before, or the food scene, which has really put us on the map."

My Berkeley Musts

"If you can only do one thing, it's got to be Cheese Board Pizza. Otherwise, Chez Panisse is famous and launched the farm to table movement. Ippuku and the Marsh Theater are great too."


The Rare Barrel


The Rare Barrel
Alex Wallash
The Rare Barrel
Cheese Board Pizza
"It's one type of pizza a day, and it's fantastic."
Chez Panisse
"The restaurant that started the whole slow food, organic, locally sourced movement."
"Forget what you think about raw chicken...Ippuku will make you crave it."
Jazz Night at The Marsh
"Jazz nights where locals can just jump in."
The Rare Barrel
"I make sour beer. I like to get weird."

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