Triple Rock Brewery, Berkeley CA

Posted: January 29, 2013 in B^4
Tags: , , , ,

Triple Rock

Triple Rock Brewery

When my turning-21 good friend said she wanted to celebrate at Triple Rock in Berkeley, I felt silly because I’d never heard of it! An alehouse on Shattuck I didn’t know? Dang, I must be slowing down.

But hey, there it is, right on Shattuck near Hearst. Looks like the kind of place that would have an hourlong wait on a weekend night. Fortunately we were here on a Tuesday night, so we managed to squish six people into a four person booth (at a packed house). The joys of being in your early 20s, right? And I’ve gotta say that after a long day of work in which I darn near sprained my left pinky toe, a burger and a beer was pretty much top on my list of things I could possibly want. Walking was definitely an issue, but eating would be no problem.

This is first and foremost a brewery, so I had to start with a beer. A general rule of thumb for me is that IPAs (or anything that’s really hoppy) pair really well with burgers. Why is this you ask?

IPAs (or India Pale Ales) are very hoppy beers (i.e. they have lots of hops in them) – I’d describe the hoppy taste in the same ballpark as bitterness. As a result, the intensity can be too much for some. Not for me though – I find that an IPA before a meal primes my palate for rich, salty foods. And once I am enjoying said gustatory indulgence, the beer helps keep a nice balance on my taste buds.

I was in luck – Triple Rock’s #1 seller is their IPAX. It delivered on all levels – I love citrus-y, hoppy beers. And sure enough, the more I sipped it, the more I was ready for a burger. So let’s move on to the meat of the matter.

In my experience, breweries tend to be extremely hit or miss on the grub side of business – their food is either great, or decidedly meh. So I approached the menu with guarded excitement. A couple choices stood out for me, but I was pretty easily won over by a great combo sported by The Mesa burger: pepper jack cheese, smoked bacon, and chipotle mayo. I was a little surprised that fries cost extra as a substitution for cole slaw – brought my meal total up to $11. Figure a burger and a beer, with tax and tip, will run you about $20.

Food was brought out quite quickly, which was nice, as I was ravished, and expected a looooooooong wait with the packed house.

My first reaction was that I was a bit thrown off by the state of the cheese. It didn’t seem to be all there, though upon further study, the bun just appeared to be hogging the cheese from the burger. OK…that’s all well and good, but it made evident that there wasn’t much bacon – just two thin strips – not enough to compliment a burger sporting bold flavors in a chipotle mayo and spicy cheese.

Before digging in, I opted to add some ketchup and the habanero hot sauce they provided us. Mixed together, they turned into a fiery Hell Ketchup. The chile masochist in me may have put a bit too much on, but not enough to upset the balance of the meal. A fun little twist on routine.

Ah, but enough is enough, Conrad, just eat your damn food already!

I wolfed it down in five minutes flat. It was definitely a spicy burger, no thanks to me. The meat was conservatively seasoned – the effort was there, although it probably could’ve used a bit more salt. This salt lack should’ve been made up for by the bacon, but my suspicions about insufficient bacon levels were confirmed – just not enough bites with that salty bacon kick. But when all of the flavors (including the bacon) came together in one mouthful, the vision was certainly there. The smokiness of the bacon brought out the meatiness of the burger, mixed with the creamy chipotle may (which had undertones of that deep chipotle spice), as well as the upfront bite of the jalapeno in the pepper jack, and my own Hell Ketchup. But at the same time, that was also frustrating – there was a lack of consistency. The confluence of flavors should show up in most, if not every bite – not just a few. That bugged me.

In the end, there was nothing really bad about the burger, but there was nothing very memorable about it either – good, not great. Could be improved with an extra slice of bacon, if you ask me. Which was evidence against my hit-or-miss theory with brewery food – it wasn’t really either (is that a miss? I don’t know? I certainly left thinking I enjoyed my meal!)

As far as the sides go, I’m glad I made the decision to upgrade to fries, but was a bit irked by the fact I had to upgrade to them. They were fine – served warm, seasoned correctly, and went nicely with the aforementioned Hell ketchup. They did their job.

The service was really on point at Triple Rock. Despite being filled to capacity, our waitress came by all the time, and even the manager was taking care of us with a smile. Then the waitress even bought the birthday girl a 21st birthday beer! This was about the time another dinner-goer gifted his 3/4 full pint of beer to me (side note train of thought: Pinnacle Pale Ale – very light, a bit watery, OK but wouldn’t get it again, good beer for the faint of heart.) Can’t say no to that! Made for a nice post-dinner stroll with the birthday girl!

I’d definitely come back here with a group of people – the beer is great, the food is more than passable, and I felt really welcomed by the staff on my first trip here. Probably won’t rock your food world, but it won’t disappoint for a fun evening out.

To finish, some food for thought: we sat underneath their gigantic “Lunch” sign (stole this picture from the interwebs). When I go to a brewery [during the day], I always think, hey, it’s 5:00 PM somewhere. But you know, it’s always lunch somewhere, too – no reason to be ashamed of a lunchtime brew.


Triple Rock lunch sign

The Last Bite:

Burger Rating: B-

Overall Experience (sides, service, cleanliness, price, etc.): B

Keep on nomming!


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