The Rockridge newcomer brings craft cocktails, farmers market-sourced fare, and beaucoup beer to the neighborhood.

By Anneli Star Josselin Rufus – Oakland Magazine

What’s more fun than sipping rare whiskey? Sipping it monthly. With likeminded friends. While learning from master distillers — maybe the very ones who made the liquid you’re sipping while listening — what distinguishes each brand and brew and how to enjoy more rare whiskeys even more.

This has been possible in Rockridge since Beer Baron Bar & Kitchen opened there in March, serving craft cocktails, farmers market-sourced fare such as the wildly popular Belgian-style duck-fat fries, and of course beaucoup beer.

As at its other three locations — in Pleasanton, Livermore, and Santa Rosa — Rockridge’s Beer Baron runs a Whiskey Club, launched last year: Members get drink discounts, dibs on selected barrels, and access to monthly meetings where distillers spend hours “talking about what they do, why it’s so special, and which foods pair best with what they make,” said Harpreet Judge, who co-owns the Beer Baron group with his brother Raj.

They grew up in Livermore, “where our dad had a bottleshop. Helping him in the shop sparked my passion for craft beer, so when I turned 21, we bought our first bar” — a Livermore dive bar, which, two years later, they rebranded into Beer Baron.

Now 30, Judge “was walking along College Avenue thinking of expanding in this area,” when he noticed the space near Chabot Road formerly occupied by Toast Kitchen + Bar, which boasts a roomy outdoor patio.

That patio clinched it. Now mixologists climb a sliding ladder to pluck bottles from among those hundreds thronging shelves that rise from floor to barrel-stave ceiling behind the copper-topped bar, their amber-colored contents glinting softly.

Beer Baron’s beverage director Jeremy Vadurro “is like a mad scientist,” Judge beamed. Among his creations is a milk-punch cocktail that takes three days to make and is served in little ceramic vessels resembling milk cartons.

Connecting with brewers and distillers worldwide, Vadurro discovers whiskeys “made in such small batches that they’re not available to everyone. New vendors now bring their whiskeys to us,” Judge said.

“When I got into this business, not a lot of places like this existed. I went to my favorite spots, put together pieces I liked, then added some more pieces to make my own spot.”


Beer Baron, 5900 College Ave., Oakland, 510-338-3464,