Founded in 2015, Berkeley’s Fieldwork Brewing Co. has grown quite rapidly, with a presence in craft beer establishments throughout the Bay Area and beyond, and its own taprooms now open in Berkeley, Monterey, Napa, Sacramento and San Mateo.
While Fieldwork is well-known for IPAs and its tap lists are pretty hop-heavy, it also brews lagers, sour beers, European styles and dark beers. The San Mateo taproom has a very laid-back vibe, with casual outdoor seating and plenty of friendly servers.
It took me three visits to the San Mateo taproom to pinpoint why I didn’t enjoy the brews there quite as much as the exact same beers at other beer bars. While the beers are the same well-crafted brews, they seem to be served at a lower carbon-dioxide pressure, because they rarely pour with any head and taste a little flat, something that could be easily remedied.
I tasted a variety of Fieldwork brews on a recent visit.
• Ancient Mariner, a 4.8 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) gose, poured a slightly hazy, very pale straw color, and featured a mildly tart lime aroma. The flavor was also delicately tart with hints of lime and salt, and the brew was very light in body, crisp and refreshing. The citrus tartness lingered on the palate long after the final sip.
• End of Years was an Altbier with a clear, orange-copper color and a nose of bready malt and earthy hops. At 5.2 percent ABV, the beer was very dry with a medium-light body. While the bready malt character was also apparent on the palate, the hops were much more prominent in flavor than in aroma, though the beer was still well balanced, with a pleasant dry, crisp finish.
• Batch 2 Pale Ale highlighted pine and pineapple hop aromas and a hazy, dark-gold color. The light-bodied 5.3 percent ABV beer kept its malt character in the background to allow the hops to shine. The flavor included tart tropical hop notes of green mango and papaya with a touch of pine. The moderate hop bitterness persisted through the finish.
• Synchronize Swatches IPA was a very hazy straw color and despite its light body and 6.6 percent ABV showcased some sweetness, though that may have been hop-derived rather than a product of residual malt character. The aroma was slightly sweet with fresh berry and orange zest character, and the flavor also featured berry notes along with mild pine and a moderate sweetness that lasted into the very fruity finish.
• Mocha Choco Latte Milk Porter lived up to its name, with an aroma that struck an enjoyable balance among the chocolate, coffee and lactose sweetness. Dark brown in color with ruby highlights, the beer tasted reminiscent of an iced mocha from Philz Coffee, medium sweet with elements of semisweet cocoa and slightly fruity fresh-brewed coffee. The finish of the 5.8 percent ABV beer was moderately sweet, and long lasting with a velvety, luxurious body.
• Saint Thomas IPA was a Northeast-style hazy IPA featuring Mosaic hops that created a complex aroma of gooseberry, grapefruit and pine. The bitterness level was relatively high for a Northeast-style IPA, and the pine, grapefruit and tropical fruit hop notes were quite pronounced on the palate. Hazy gold in color with moderately high carbonation relative to other Fieldwork brews, the medium body provided a touch of malt sweetness to balance the pleasant, lingering bitterness after the last sip.
Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.