Oakland’s newest bar specializes in beer’s fruity cousin, often ridiculed: the shandy

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Oakland’s newest bar, Two Pitchers, doesn’t specialize in beer. Rather, it focuses on the fruity, light and often ridiculed cousin of beer: the radler.

A radler refers to a mixture of beer with juice, often citrus juice or lemonade. (Some people call it a “cooler”; it’s the same thing.) The term originates from Bavaria – “radler” comes from the German word for “cyclist” – where a century ago a pub owner started mixing beer with lemon soda as a post-race refreshment for tired bikers.

“It’s a style that has been looked down upon,” said Tommy Hester, one of the co-founders of Two Pitchers Brewing Co. When the company launched its first radler eight years ago, there had no examples of crafts available, he said. Most of what people knew about radlers came from mass-produced brands like Lindeboom.

Since then, Two Pitchers have made it their mission to rebrand radler as a high-quality craft drink. Now, opening his first faucet room, Hester said he hopes they can introduce even more Bay Area people to the radlers.

The faucet room, open Nov. 3, occupies what was once an auto body shop at 2344 Webster St., Oakland, with bars and seating that sprawl across both indoor and outdoor spaces. They planted trees, commissioned murals from Oakland muralists, and found vintage German brewery tables to plant outside. The space is supposed to be comfortable, Hester said, with plenty of sofas and lounge seating. “We want your friend to own an apartment in a warehouse and invite you for a drink,” he said.

Lovely’s, the East Bay pop-up that won a devoted following for its classic dinner, will provide the food at Two Pitchers. Fans of Lovely’s smash burgers will no doubt be delighted to see the pop-up reappear in a new home.

The tap room of Two Pitchers Brewing Co., a company specializing in radlers, a blend of beer and juice.

Courtesy of Jake Dudley

The idea for Two Pitchers originated when Hester and his business partner, Wilson Barr, were on the Williams College baseball team in Massachusetts. Both – you guessed it – were pitchers. They bonded over the love of craft beer and began to dabble in home brewing. Neither had heard of a radler until Barr took a trip to Europe and tried them out there.

After college, they moved to the Bay Area with the dream of opening a craft brewery. But the space seemed so crowded, Hester said. As 22-year-old inexperienced home brewers, they weren’t sure they could compete. So instead of brewing regular beer, they decided to bet on radlers, believing that no one else was producing them at a really high standard. Without the capital to build their own brewery, they contracted with existing breweries to brew their recipes. Two Pitchers makes a basic beer, then mixes it with juices or other ingredients.

They have had some success; Two Pitchers radlers can be found at stores in the Bay Area and beyond, including Whole Foods. While their signature flavor of grapefruit and blood orange follows the familiar formula of adding citrus juice to beer, many of their other radlers are getting much more creative. A limited-edition winter version called Bayou, for example, mixes a milk beer with a cold brew of New Orleans chicory.

One thing you won’t see produced by Two Pitchers: hard seltzer. “We never wanted to be just another tough seltzer,” Hester said. “But we think we are in a generally similar niche,” because it is fruity, easy to drink and low in calories. Some of their radlers, like Waterboy (watermelon and lime) and Disco Queen (a “rosé radler”) have between 100 and 110 calories per can.

Although Two Pitchers never brought a non-radler product to stores, Hester said they would serve regular, unflavored beer at the bar as well. On tap, they’ll have their Baseline Lager (another baseball pun), which forms the basis of several of his radlers before the juices are added. There will also be guest taps from local breweries. “We realize that radlers are not for everyone,” Hester said.

But they’re hoping the bar will introduce more people to these beer concoctions – and show them that lager mixed with lemonade doesn’t need to be sweet, Hester said. “They are simply delicious. Light and refreshing.

Two Pitchers Brewing Co. Open November 3, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday to Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. 2344 Webster Street, Oakland. 510-999-4939 or twopitchers.com.

Esther Mobley is the San Francisco Chronicle’s lead wine critic. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @Esther_mobley

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