Dismiss Notice
Get 12 monthly issues of BeerAdvocate magazine and save $5 when you select "auto-renew."

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join our email list →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.

The Rare Barrel

Not Rated.
The Rare BarrelThe Rare Barrel
Grab a complimentary copy of BeerAdvocate magazine here while supplies last.
Based on:
40 Beers
2,533 Hads
Place Score: 96
Reviews: 26
Visits: 109
Avg: 4.42
pDev: n/a
Taps: --
Bottles: --
Cask: N
Beer-to-Go: Y
[ Brewery, Bar ]

940 Parker St
Berkeley, California, 94710-2524
United States
phone: (510) 984-6585 | map

Place added by: pmarlowe on 10-18-2013

No notes at this time.
Place: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | nextlast
Reviews: 26 | Visits: 109
Photo of amano_h
4.68/5  rDev +5.9%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 5 | selection: 4.25

Yet another establishment where the beers speak for themselves so I'll focus on the more yelp-oriented details.

Yes, it's way the heck out of the main area in Berkeley. But I don't care.

Yes, they only serve grilled cheese as their (finger) food option. But I don't care.

Yes, you're severely limited in terms of takeout beer options unless you're an exclusive member of the Ambassadors of Sour. But frankly, I don't care about that either.

What I do care about is the fact that despite all the beergeek hype surrounding this place, the people are extremely humble and passionate about beer and most importantly, the community. Perhaps it's due to the fact that it's located a little off from the main Berkeley, but even the patrons here are decidedly more down-to-earth and easygoing than the ones you find at some of the more student-oriented bars downtown (e.g. Pappy's, Eureka).

Okay fine, so I'm fumbling around the dark here, but I first came here on my birthday and despite the fact that there were about seven of us, Rare Barrel were very accommodating despite it being a busy Thursday night; they even recommended some good places to grab a bite in the neighborhood and apologized for their lack of food choices and all three of the beer servers at the counter comped me a drink each -- who the hell even does that anymore?

As long as they never change who they are, the Rare Barrel can take all my money and keep it.

 1,432 characters

Photo of captaincoffee
4.19/5  rDev -5.2%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 3.75

Very laid back place with the typical industrial feel of many newer Cali breweries. Pretty crowded despite showing up right after opening and within a few minutes of getting my beers the line was very long. Beer is really excellent, but popularity is getting to the place.

 274 characters

Photo of rodbeermunch
4.04/5  rDev -8.6%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25

Outside its shitty Berkeley, inside its smoothed out stone and wood fixtures. Quality is top notch, it does get a little troubling if you drink nothing but their sours, acidic can tear your insides up.

Service has always been good the few times I've been there. Everyone friendly, very important. Selection is good, usually some Cellarmaker stuff too.

 355 characters

Photo of W_Des
5/5  rDev +13.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

Stopped by while exploring Berkeley. I really like this place. It was a really laid-back comfortable atmosphere as you enter and hang out. The bar tenders are attentive and prompt and the beer selection is great with a selection of guest taps to go along with the Rare Barrel sours which was really perfect to grab an IPA as a break in between the great sours. If you are in the Bay area definitely try to make your way out here.

 429 characters

Photo of pmangold
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75

stopped in while on vacation. the selection was great, the staff was helpful and the beers were EXCELLENT. if you're into sours this is a must stop. They didn't have any bottles for sale to go, but a member hooked me up big time as I was leaving

 248 characters

Photo of Phil-Fresh
4.48/5  rDev +1.4%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.25

The brewery is expansive, yet manages to be somewhat tucked away into the landscape, because Rare Barrel uses minimal signage. I was surprised just how big the place is, plenty of room for barrels! The tasting area is essentially a partitioned area of the warehouse -- chill, though can get surprisingly busy (considering it isnt exactly close to BART). The quality is superb; while most offering are wild ales, there are a handful of other non-sour options, all quality. The service is quite friendly and helpful. All around great place!

 543 characters

Photo of Coldstorage
4.34/5  rDev -1.8%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.25 | selection: 3.75

Great vibe. Big room that is a comfortable temperature and plenty of seating. If it's not a special event you will likely find enough room to be comfortable. Great that they allow outside food... nice to have a TRB picnic with friends.

Quality is top notch. They are not a very diverse place but what they do, they do very well.

Service is always friendly... but sometimes overly so. It's frustrating to be 6-7 people back in line while they slowly fill a glass and then have a long conversation with the customer. Dinged .75 points for not always keeping it moving.

Selection is where they have the most room to grow. Even as an "all sour beer" company, it's still possible to be more diverse than they are. Seem to be in a rut with their golden base + fruit and always one or two hibiscus variants on. Hope they can broaden that. The guest taps are always well curated though and provide nice contrast to their own beers so cheers for that!

There isn't a field where this is relevant but these guys are probably about 50% overpriced. Boggles my mind that I can get a world class imported Gueuze that has been through 3 tier distribution for 2/3 the price of a sour beer made locally and bought from the source. People keep paying it so they have no reason to change but I find myself taking less and less of each allocation because my budget cannot go to TRB alone.

 1,371 characters

Photo of Barracudas
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.25

The place is very close to San Francisco, one can even visit to very good breweries in one trip to Berkeley.

This is a very good stop for lovers of craft beer!

 160 characters

Photo of 1000lbgrizzly
4.01/5  rDev -9.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.25 | service: 3.75 | selection: 3.75

-Minimalist. A bar with metal stools, some hardwood tables with metal chairs. That is all.
-Oh, plus a HUGE F****** WAREHOUSE FULL OF BARRELS! F*** YES! Seriously huge space, probably 50 ft. tall ceilings, chock full of barrels housing delicious yummy sour beer nectar. Awesome to witness. They ain't f'n 'round 'round here.
-Very dim, however. Even in the tasting area it was not well lit. Not for ambiance/to set the mood, it was just plain dark. The beer is all in lightproof barrels, no need to worry about oxidation, just let me see what's going on!
-Beers are great. You gotta like sour or content yourself to some guest beers/wines, however.
-Only food is grilled cheese. Which is hilarious. Didn't try it, looks like it'd be good. Really, how do you mess up grilled cheese? Sadly, this probably means you can't bring in your own food. I don't know for sure though, so I won't knock them on my score.
-Service was good. A bit of chit-chat going on, plus resting bitch-faces, but they still got the beers flowing in a timely manner.

A sour-head's dream. Not world class, but really damn good, and for fair prices. Good for a good beer, but I can't imagine hanging out here for an extended amount of time, what with virtually no food and only sours on tap.

 1,262 characters

Photo of BDeibs
4.09/5  rDev -7.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3.75

The sour beer quality is really great and they have a small selection on tap which I assume is a product of being a fairly new brewery with a club to support. Wonderful tulip stemware was used for every pour. I love that they only offer one food item and it is a grilled cheese which is really good and I highly recommend ordering it!

 336 characters

Photo of Jdizzy92
4.58/5  rDev +3.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.75 | service: 5 | selection: 4

Went here when they first open and been a fan of the place ever since. For me, they make the best sours here in NorCal and I even joined their Ambassador club. The place is roomy but gets crowded around an hour after they open and it dies down a couple hours before they close. The people that work there are great and very knowledgeable. I will be coming here for years to come.

 379 characters

Photo of netllama
4.11/5  rDev -7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 3

Really nice vibe in the tasting room. They seem to have around 5 of their brews on tap at all times (always rotating), plus an equal number of guest beers. Definitely get there early, as the place was completely packed by mid afternoon on a Saturday.

 252 characters

Photo of BenHesk12
3.95/5  rDev -10.6%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.25 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.25

Rare barrel has a small tap room in west berkeley and the brewery has been getting a lot of buzz lately being a sour-only brewery. The tap room itself is located inside the brewing facility and has almost a winery look to it with the walls of barrels just beyond the tasting room. The beer is high quality but here the things that prevent me from really loving this place:

-membership fees - why have an exclusive brewery? the brewery is brand new and should be gaining market share not starting out with a membership model.

-price - I know breweries in urban areas have to charge more money, but the beer on tap here is expensive, and 22oz bottles are over $20 each.

-no tasting flights - maybe this will change in the future but currently they only offer full glasses of beer, making it impossible to try all the beers in one sitting. This makes it seem more like a bar than a tasting room or a brewery.

Fans of sour beers will be delighted. Worth checking out but not somewhere I would visit often.

 1,013 characters

Photo of JackDempsy
4.2/5  rDev -5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

The beer selection is only style, so you need to like American Ales that are on the sour note. That said, if you do one thing - then do it right - and they do. This place also has a nice café attached that is better than average. Very good vibe here. It is a nice find.

 270 characters

Photo of teamchevymxer
4.02/5  rDev -9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.25 | selection: 4

Cool place, the closest sour brewery to my house. Their beers are great, but the service can be sub par. they have some great employees like Rob, and some others that rub me the wrong way and are kind of rude like Jeff. But i wont let one bad employee hinder my visits.

 269 characters

Photo of JamLand
4.53/5  rDev +2.5%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

Nice setup inside with both comfy couches/chairs, tables and bar seating. We went on a Friday night, and although busy, the staff were very courteous and seemed to handle the crowds easily. In addition to their own taps, they had another seven or so taps of guest beers from quality breweries like Cellarmaker and The Bruery. I would highly recommend this place if you are any where near the area.

 397 characters

Photo of Deggar
4.56/5  rDev +3.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

Cool joint. Very dark and intimate but also vast. Its set in the front of their storage/brewing facility with no walls to separate. It feels like you shouldn't be allowed in.

Amazing tap list; not only do they typically have around 10 of their own brews on tap, but also 5-8 guest taps that never disappoint. When i went Abraxas and a couple of SARA beers were on tap.

 375 characters

Photo of ronricorossi
4.68/5  rDev +5.9%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.5

Great warehouse space; tasting area is set against an open, expansive backdrop of stacked barrels. Decor's great with couches and tables as well as a bar. AND...right around the corner from Berkeley institution Juan's Place. Who WOULDN'T want to follow up some heavy mexican food with a bunch of sour beer!

 306 characters

Photo of waitwhatamidrinking
5/5  rDev +13.1%

Visited on a whim while in NorCal. Knowledgeable/corteous staff, delicious range of continually impressive sours, and beautiful space. This is a destination.

 159 characters

Photo of Goalcam
4.25/5  rDev -3.8%

Real cool vibe with nice selection of sours on tap to try. Unfortunately no growlers and limited bottles if you're not a member. Also, no food but it's in a nice area.

 169 characters

Photo of ianw87
5/5  rDev +13.1%

A great brewery doing strictly sours. Some outside the box stuff, Coffee Sour!? Great Place, I will be visiting here again. Jealous of the Founders members.

 156 characters

Photo of Tazmaniandavis
4.5/5  rDev +1.8%

Love the beer, love the location, love the atmosphere. It is pretty pricey and gets crazy busy on bottle release days, though. Oh yeah, love the guest taps that they do!

 169 characters

Photo of nmann08
4.75/5  rDev +7.5%

Visited during my trip to San Francisco. This was a favorite place of mine during the entire Pacific Northwest trip. It's in a quiet neighborhood in Berkeley, big building, lots of parking at the main entrance.

The tasting room is actually just a cornered off section of the entire barrel room, which is actually an awesome sight to see barrel after barrel stacked in this giant warehouse. Reminds me of a winery. Their is plenty of bar seating, tables, standing room and even a few couches.

They have several of their beers on tap, but also a handful of guest beers. Everything is full pours and about $7-$9 a glass, which is expected with most sours. They also had bottles for sale, but they were pricey. The one they had when I visited was $30.

Food is limited, just a couple of panini options.

Overall, as a tourist, if you are visiting San Fran/Oakland area over a Friday or Saturday, I would make a trip out here.

 932 characters

Photo of scottfrie
4.45/5  rDev +0.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.25

The atmosphere is that of a lofty warehouse brewery with a small tasting area tucked in the corner. Oak barrels full of beer adorn half the warehouse, with brewing and bottling equipment and storage taking up the other half. The bar and seating area has a clean and minimalist design to it, and there are a couple couches for lounging. Service is always spectacular as the bar staff that works there are always friendly, knowledgeable, and accommodating. Typically there is anywhere from four to eight brewery sours on tap, and their is always something special on their half a dozen rotating guest taps. I wish they had a few more munchies, but typically there are two to three types of paninis available (brought in from a local restaurant). The owners are very welcome to feedback, and they make an effort to make modifications and improvements if necessary (i.e. bottle releases). They also give periodic brewery tours. Overall this is a relaxing place to satisfy your sour fix. I understand why they are currently only open two days a week, but I cannot wait until they have the ability to add more hours. Definitely check them out if you are in the area.

 1,160 characters

Photo of HaveUSeenMyCellar
5/5  rDev +13.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | food: 5

Great Atmosphere, Great Beer, Great Service, Good Food...what more could one want from the place Iovingly call "Rarrel". :-)
Glad someone finally thought to make sours only. And good sours too!!!!

I understand why they are only open Fri.-Sat. (Supply/Demand), though it would be wonderful if they could one day pull-off running everyday.
More seating and tables would be the only other thing I would want changed.
This is one of my favorite breweries for a very good reason.

 475 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | nextlast
The Rare Barrel in Berkeley, CA
96 out of 100 based on 26 ratings.