Breaking Beer Boundaries: My Flight at Moraga’s Unconventional Canyon Club Brewery

Canyon Club Brewery is a strange anomaly of a place. Located in Moraga, California–a normally sleepy town in the East Bay–Canyon Club is a vibrant and trendy brewpub that seems to have sprung out of a field on the town’s East side.

You wouldn’t expect to find amazing microbrews at a place that’s crammed next to some open fields and an Orchard Supply hardware. But there Canyon Club is!

On a recent visit, I tried a flight of the popular local restaurant’s stranger and more “out there” beers. Here’s a look.

A massive microbrewery in a field

My Flight

In a style befitting its strange location, Canyon Club serves not only the standard kinds of drinks you’d expect in the Bay Area (lots of excessively hoppy IPAs with punny names based on local places), but also some unusual style.

My flight consisted of the following:

  • Oat to Joy
  • No Guilt Involved
  • Cruel Summer
  • Spring Loaded

Oat to Joy is an oatmeal stout served with a nitro system that gives it a super creamy head. It’s a lot like a Guinness on steroids, or a boozy version of the Nitro Cold Brew you get at Starbucks. 

To add to the weirdness, the only description of the beer on Canyon Club’s menu is written in verse: “Joyful, joyful, we adore thee Oatmeal Stout; Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; Drive the dark of doubt away; Giver of immortal gladness; Fill us with a pint a day!”

No Guilt Involved was my favorite on the flight. It’s a barley wine, which I had never tried before. At 10% ABV, this is an intense brew that tastes a bit like a Trappist ale from Belgium. 

Cruel Summer is a Saison, which again isn’t something you necessarily find at a brew pub.

Spring Loaded is a Bock beer. I honestly don’t actually know what that means. This brew was perfectly drinkable and also ultimately perfectly forgettable. 

The beers

Pairing With Food

Another nice thing about Canyon Club is that their bar food is actually delicious. That feels more in line with the East Bay and Lamorinda area, which is a surprisingly good food mecca.

I had brussels sprouts, bavarian pretzels, and a quesadilla with my brews. All were tasty. If you’re just going for drinks, I suggest pairing the flight with a delicious round of the pretzels. 

They’re small, fluffy and salty, making them the perfect foil to Canyon Club’s unconventional beers.

This Is Why We Have Microbrews

Brewing equipment on display

Ultimately, my beer flight at Canyon Club is a solid reminder of why we have microbreweries, and why the Bay Area in particular loves them so much.

A powerfully alcoholic, very bitter barleywine would never have mass market commercial appeal. You won’t see Anheuser Busch mass producing a beer like this anytime soon.

Yes, some big breweries have gotten into the IPA game, probably because microbreweries were doing it first. But are any of them going to produce a nitrogen-powered oatmeal stout? Probably not.

With their smaller footprint and devoted local audience of beer snobs, microbreweries can afford to be more experimental with their offerings. Even if a given beer fails (looking at you, Spring Loaded), it’s not a problem–they can just try something else.

That culture of experimentation leads to some truly unexpected and delicious discoveries, like several of the beers on my flight at Canyon Club. And it means that microbreweries are constantly innovating, and their offerings thus change all the time.

That’s a perfect microcosm of the Bay Area, with our constant search for novelty and innovation. Seen through that lens, it’s perhaps not as surprising that a large microbrewery would thrive in a techie suburb like Moraga.

So if you find yourself out East of Morga Commons, stop by Canyon Club for a beer flight. By the time you go, the beers on offer will probably be totally different than the ones I tried. And that’s a great thing!

Microbreweries like Canyon Club will keep experimenting and innovating, as long as beer enthusiasts like ourselves keep consuming their strange and exotic fare. Let’s encourage them, shall we?

Canyon Club, 1558 Canyon Rd, Moraga, CA 94556,

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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