Tuesday, June 16, 2009

San Francisco beer tour by bicycle

Things have been going well in NYC, but I have really needed a break from my office monkey job.  Since I was already blowing wads of cash to come out to Oakland for NHC, I figured why not make it a week's vacation, get some time to totally not think about work, and see some new sights.  So after a long 12+ hour double brewday at Sixpoint on Saturday (the groundwater is getting warmer this time of year which means knockout takes 90 minutes instead of 45), I threw some stuff in a bag in the most disorganized, last minute effort to prepare for the trip, and headed out Sunday morning.  I was pretty exhausted from a long week, so on Sunday I just hung out around North Beach and the Green Tortoise Hostel, ate a huge burrito picked up a 6 pack of Full Sail Amber (one of my favorite "gateway" craft beers), and turned in early.  
The Green Tortoise is snugly nestled between many family entertainment institutions like the one above, in the very touristy and very affluent area of San Francisco called North Beach.  It's an area where a lot of the famous Beat writers used to live, but now I doubt you could find a house here for less than 3 million.  That's just a guess though. I got a pretty early start on Monday and headed out to a bike rental shop where I picked up this speed demon.  Well, OK, it's a slow hybrid, but it was nice for touring the city and I wasn't in the mood for speed.  The helmet was a must, as I was on unfamiliar ground and planning on drinking.First I needed some coffee, so I took Clarissa's recommendation and headed down to the Mission District to Ritual Coffee.  Almost got hit by a taxi on the way down (my fault).  I was still un-caffeinated and suffering from some pretty bad allergies.  I considered it my warning for the day to be careful in my innebriated travels.  After some Sumatran French press and a cheese danish I was feeling pretty good and hopped back on the bike for my first stop:The 21st Ammendment is a big supporter of the BN, so I really wanted to check it out first hand.  I had a half pint of the Tasty pale ale (the Pro-Am recipe brewed by Mike McDole), and it was pretty awesome.  Tons of hop delivery, and a resiny body.  If you are looking for balance, you WILL NOT find it in this beer.I also tried everything else they had on draft.  Sadly, the Brew Free Or Die IPA was not on tap, but only available in a can.  I have a feeling I will get to check it off the list before I leave the bay area though.  

My favorite beers were the Dahm Kolsch and the Belgian pale ale called Primus.  I was not a big fan of the Watermelon Wheat at all.  From my tasting notes:  "Fresh melon aroma, but then again it had a slice of watermelon on the glass.  Flavor:  dry Jolly Rancher with bready wheat.  On second pass, smells strongly of seaweed and wet dog."  

I met Jesse, the head brewer, who was a really nice guy.  I kept looking for Sully, but I didn't see him.  I figure I'll see him at NHC at some point.

I couldn't help but stop and take a picture of this spa, and wonder if the offer a special on happy endings.   I was on a budget though, so I had to take a pass.

So instead I stopped a Vietnamese noodle joint for some nourishment.  This bowl of vermicelli, BBQ pork, beef, prawns, and an egg roll was delicious!  I could really eat this more often.

Jesse, the brewer at 21A, recommended Magnolia Brewpub as a must-stop, which is located in the Haight-Ashbury.  First I had to make my way up some pretty steep hills though, which totally  kicked my ass!  What can I say, I'm not in that good of shape and not used to steep hills;  we just don't have them in NYC.   This photo really doesn't relate the steepness of the climb, since it was taken from the top where the hill levels out a bit more.
OK, that was a legitimate climb!

After that is was off to Haight-Ashbury proper.  Haight street itself is pretty scary.  It's an over-commercialized parody of what it once aspired to be.  Just see below for a perfect example.  It pretty much sums up every storefront on the street.  I'm sure there are a few cool places, like Amoeba Records, and Magnolia was pretty cool, but mainly it's just fly-paper for tourists and crazy hippies.

Here is Magnolia Brewpub, where I tried a couple of beers.  The ambiance was great, and the 2 beers I had were pretty good, but not great. I've had (and sometimes brewed)  better homebrewed IPA's and Belgian wits than the ones I tried here.  The IPA wasn't bad, just not the west coast IPA I was expecting.  It's sessionable, clean,  and moderately hoppy.  The "Wit Rabbit"   tasted like it was brewed with an American ale yeast, with no Belgian esters for complexity.  The spicing levels of orange peel and coriander were just right though.  It was also clear as a bell, which again makes me think it was not brewed with a wit yeast, and probably used wheat malt as opposed to raw wheat.

I met a really nice guy wit his wife at Magnolia who reminded me that the legendary Toronado beer bar was right down the street, so I made that my next stop.  I ran right in to two friends from out east who were here for NHC:  Paul Kaye, and my friend Todd, below, from Philly.

Let's just say many treats were available.  I stuck with the Moonlight Brewery and Russian River beers though.  When in Rome, right?  

I was planning on hitting up some other stops, but after I got back to the hostel, ate some pasta, and laid down for a minute, jet-lag and the long day kicked in and I was sleeping like a small child.  

In a few minutes I should be heading out to Russian River with Doug.  I'm pretty psyched, and I wonder if we might get a chance to meet the legendary Vinnie Cilurzo

1 comment:

Darren Alff - BicycleTouringPro.com said...

A beer tour by bike! An excellent idea... and a great way to spend a few days exploring a new place.

Have you been to Germany yet? That would be a great place to do a beer drinking bike tour.