Beer enthusiasts gather in East Bay

Justin Mutch,

Drake’s hosts annual ‘Hopocalypse Day’ in San Leandro

The sun was out, kegs were tapped, food trucks were cooking and music was blaring from within the industrial maze near Downtown San Leandro. It was like a farmers’ market, but with beer instead of fresh produce.

Drake’s Brewing Company held its yearly “Hopocalypse Day” on an unseasonably warm day on Feb. 3. Hundreds of beer lovers from all over Northern California came to sample a wide selection of specialty India Pale Ales (IPAs) created by 17 different breweries from all over the West Coast.

“It’s hot as hell out here,” event-goer Josh Koch said. “But there’s beer.”

Patrons were also given the opportunity to sample and purchase pints of Drake’s exclusive Hopocalypse IPA line, which is only brewed in January and bottled in February each year. The Hopocalypse line features four different ales: Green Label, White Label, Blood Orange Red Label and Black Label.

Attendees were especially excited for the Black Label IPA, which was Drake’s latest addition to the Hopocalypse lineup. At 13 percent alcohol by volume (abv), it is one of Drake’s most potent triple IPAs to date. For reference, the abv of a standard IPA is only around 6.5 percent.

An India Pale Ale is a specific type of ale that is intentionally brewed to possess a higher alcohol content than most other types. It is called “India Pale Ale” because in the old days of beer making, brewers in Europe wanted to ship their beers to the East. To keep their product from going bad during the long trip, they brewed it a certain way to yield a higher alcohol content.

Nowadays, beer is made much more safely so there’s no actual need to increase the amount of alcohol. People enjoy IPAs simply for the taste as well as the enhanced buzz from their high abv. IPAs are known to taste especially crisp and bitter, otherwise known as “hoppy.” Double IPAs — also called Imperial IPAs — use twice the amount of hops of standard ones, and triple IPAs use triple the amount. For most American craft breweries, the goal is to create the hoppiest IPAs in the world.

It is hard to live in the East Bay without being familiar with Drake’s. Founded in 1989 and widely regarded as the Bay Area’s premier hipster craft beer company, it is recognized nationwide for its array of award-winning craft brews, such as its Denogginizer Double IPA, Best Coast IPA, Jolly Roger Imperial Red Ale and 1500 Pale Ale. Drake’s also operates a restaurant in Oakland called Drake’s Dealership.

Its odd location at the abandoned Caterpillar factory near downtown San Leandro makes it a prime destination for events, which are hosted on a regular basis. Hopocalypse Day is one of its more popular gatherings, since beer enthusiasts tend to enjoy the variety offered by the many other breweries that come to give samples of their product.

One such brewery, Russian River from Santa Rosa, surprised the crowd this year when it set up a keg of its highly-anticipated Pliny the Younger IPA, a follow-up to the award-winning Pliny the Elder IPA.

Dozens of patrons immediately lined up to sample this ale, and the keg was depleted within a half hour, leaving many patrons unable to experience it.

“Well that sucks,” complained event-goer Javier Morales. “We waited in line, in the hot sun, for nothing.”

Luckily there were plenty other beers available. Faction Brewing served its popular Hop Soup Double IPA. Turlock’s own Dust Bowl Brewing Company served its famous Therapist Triple IPA. Additionally, the entirety of Drake’s beer selection was available for sampling in its onsite restaurant, the Barrel House.

The event lasted from noon to 5 p.m., and by the end it was clear that most attendees were fatigued from the heat and the constant alcohol intake.

“I need to get home and take a nap,” one patron said to a friend as the two were leaving toward the event’s end. “Then let’s drink more!”

Most patrons left with at least one pint of Hopocalypse in hand. The purchase limit per person was six pints, with one pint costing around $20.

“I don’t care if it’s $50, I’d still buy it,” said one obviously inebriated man when asked about the price.

The Hopocalypse line is now available to the general public, but only on tap at local bars, as well as at both of Drake’s restaurants. It will only be offered for a limited time, so those looking to experience this super exclusive ale are encouraged to do it soon. After all, the Hopocalypse only comes once a year.