Friday 29 March 2024

San Francisco

I managed a few bars and breweries on the San Francisco part of my holiday.  Here they are in chronological order: 

21 March:  Schroeder's, 240 Front Street

A rather beautiful interior in this German style bar/restaurant offering sausages, schnitzel and so on, and a good range of local and German beers. A 1 litre stein of a German wheat beer cost $25 plus tax, ouch. The wurste were excellent.

Very busy at six on a Thursday, I was worried I wouldn't get in, but it was OK, and the service was prompt and efficient.

22 March:  Almanac Beer Co, Alameda

A very good brewery tap in a large warehouse. Lots of brewing vessels to the rear. I was first in at opening time (This is going to become a theme, think) and was presented with about thirty taps, all unlabelled. The barmaid fiddled with the TV remote and up popped the beer list, from which I chose a rather fine plum sour.

22 March:  Admiral Maltings The Rake, Alameda

Another part of the same warehouse as Almanac also converted into a bar, this one has umpteen craft taps and, joy of joys, two handpumps (Or as they call them here, beer engines.)  I had a very good ESB.

I was startled to discover that it is a maltings, and if you sit at the back of the room you can observe the maltsters at work raking out the barley. I don't think I've seen inside a maltings since I was about five years old.

A big group came in and occupied a long table. They were all drinking whiskey (or maybe whisky?), it's not just a beer place, this.

22 March:  Humble Sea Brewing Company, Alameda

This bar in the corner of a more modern looking building has naked concrete walls and pillars. There were umpteen beers on tap. Oddly, a lot quieter than the last two calls, I think I was the only customer here while the last place was quite busy by the time I left.

22 March:  Faction Brewing, Alameda

Finally for this pub crawl (although the distillery next door has a tasting room as well!) in a repurposed aircraft hanger is Faction Brewing. There is a small front room with serving counter with about two dozen taps, a much larger beer hall behind, and plenty of tables outside as well.  Lots of people were sitting outside despite the forecast rain being imminent.  I think I was the only one inside as I enjoyed a superb strong dark one, Smoked N Oaked Imperial Stout, 9.9%.

23 March:  Tigers Taproom, Oakland

A pleasant plain shop conversion with about sixteen taps, I selected a delicious hazy IPA.  Outside they were operating some kind of food offer, not very satisfactory in the blustery weather, in fact they were hunting for a heavy weight such as a (full) beer keg to stop the gazebo blowing away.

Quite empty at five on a Saturday, maybe it'll be packed later?

What a terrible glass I was given, shaped exactly like a beer can, I really don't like the little taper at the top, it feels wrong on the lips.  (Subsequent bar visits revealed that this is a fairly common style of glassware.)

23 March:  Buck Wild Brewing, Oakland

A converted shed (aren't they all?) this one has a wonderful arched wooden roof which looks newish from the inside, so could it be a new shed?  Umpteen brewing vessels in the back, quality craft beers and food served in the front.

Much busier than the last place, with customers of all ages. Board games seem to be a theme here, and one group of eight adults seemed to be engaged in colouring in.

I had a pint of Clouds of Nelson, a gorgeously sweet hazy IPA, and a very good burger and chips. For "dessert", a terrific coffee stout.

24 March:  Off the Rails Brewing, Sunnyvale

Apologies, I seem to have failed to photograph today's bars.

Off The Rails Brewing is a pleasant standard brewery tap.  I couldn't quite make up my mind about this one. I look around and see pleasant modern decor, plus some rough wooden panelling, so I should be describing the interior as well done, and yet somehow it doesn't work for me.
At three on a Sunday it was fairly empty, just ticking over.

Shall I stay for another beer and some food? Do we need to ask?  The Hazy Lazy IPA was good, the Imperial Stout even better. And the sausage platter was also great.

More people came in than went out, gradually increasing the level of chatter in the somewhat echoey room - The concrete floor makes it a little noisy.

As you can imagine, the great beers and food warmed me to this place, and my previous cool attitude changed to one of admiration. Make of that what you will.

24 March:  Fibbar MaGees, Sunnyvale

"Irish" pubs are the same the world over, aren't they? Yes, but this one is definitely above average, beautifully decorated and with twenty or so beers on draft. I'm afraid that faced with a choice that wide I bailed out and had a Guinness, which was excellent. Before it arrived I had written that it tasted a bit thin after the ten percent imperial stout I'd just had, but to my great surprise it didn't!

Again sparse custom at four on a Sunday, I'm guessing this is not peak time for these places. Nonetheless, some food was being ordered.

Do You Want To Open A Tab?

I should explain something about tabs in US bars for my UK readers. When you go in and order a drink or drinks at the counter they normally ask if you want to open a tab. If you say yes they scan your credit card and hand it back to you. For subsequent drinks, in a quiet place it will just be added to your tab, if it's busy or a different barman they may ask your surname. When it's time to go you ask to "clear out" and you get a computer screen or a piece of paper on which you can optionally add a tip and usually also a signature. Signs warn that uncleared tabs will have a 20% or more often 30% tip added.

25 March:  Eagle Cafe, Pier 39

Not really a pub, it's more of a tourist restaurant on Pier 39 where I had a beer and a breakfast burrito.

25 March:  Irish Times, 500 Sacramento Street

This is a pleasant comfortable bar in one open room, Irish themed but not to excess.

The place was nicely quiet on a Monday evening, unlike last Thursday when it was so busy I couldn't walk down the sidewalk outside let alone get in the door. 

There were at least three sports channels on multiple TVs, I think there may have been more TVs than customers!

I must say I enjoyed my shepherd's pie, accompanied by an excellent hazy IPA from Henhouse Brewing, I forget the name.  I followed that with one called "Cali Squeeze Blood Orange" which is truly delicious, I'll keep a look out for this one over the next few days.

26 March:  No Name Bar, Sausalito

At last, a proper boozer, and what an unexpected place to find one. Sausalito is an up market waterside tourist destination, a short ferry ride from San Francisco, and certainly not at the Blackpool end of the spectrum.  Nonetheless, here's a plain pleasant one room boozer with a handful of regulars at various levels of inebriation keeping it going at three in the afternoon.

I had another tasty hazy IPA here, this one called Mind Haze.

What makes it different from the UK equivalent? Someone is drinking from one of those triangular martini cocktail glasses, you would never see that in a Liverpool boozer.

26 March:  Joinery, Sausalito

Now this was more like I was expecting here, a nicely done out shed in beer hall style. The food looked and smelled good but I just had an oatmeal stout which was great despite the inevitable over-gassing and over-chilling that come from keg beer. It was served in what I can only describe as a fat dimple; it has the traditional pattern of the UK dimple but was more barrel shaped. Does that make sense?

A rather strange, to English eyes, mode of operation here; the only menu - food and beer - is a big sign as you come in, and you order at the counter before finding your seat. No perusing the menu and eventually reaching a decision. There was a slow but steady flow of custom ordering as I enjoyed my stout.
27 March:  Toronado, Lower Haight
I made my way here especially because they were reported to have cask ale, but I only got the last dregs which had a terrible end of the barrel taste, so I rejected it. The barmaid apologised and gave me a much stronger one I had quickly chosen at random from the enormous list for the cask price, very good it was; Humble Sea Tropical Supernova. She had come back yesterday from a visit to Derby!

One bar room plus a side area constitute this proper bar. Every inch of the walls is covered in breweriana, is that how you spell it?  Boosting its credentials as a proper bar, they don't do food and, the only one I've seen so far this trip, they don't take cards.

I had decided on a barley wine for my second drink but the barmaid informed me the cask was back on, a very tasty bitter which purported to be a 6.2% IPA but didn't taste that strong. I think it was Bombay By Boat from Moonlight Brewing of Santa Rosa, not far away.  Very nice, anyway.

27 March:  Old Ship Saloon, Battery / Pacific

This is a pleasant friendly one room bar with an island servery within which the barman was continuously busy serving drinks.  A good choice of craft beer was on offer, I chose Allagash White, a Belgian style wheat beer.  I was a little disappointed to discover it came all the way from Portland, Maine, I prefer to stick to local beers when possible, but it was very tasty.

I also enjoyed a very good sandwich and fries.  On a Wednesday evening the room was pretty busy with what I suspect was the after work crowd, but no problem finding a table.

28 March:  Twin Peaks, Castro

Very good fake antique decor in this historic gay bar where one of the regulars bought me a pint as soon as I walked in!  I had Blue Moon I think.
Some pleasant jazz mixed with chatter in this pleasant pub.
At three in the afternoon all the customers were older men, my benefactor was the only one younger than I. I tried to buy him one back before I left but was refused, so I thanked him and left.

28 March:  Harrington's, Front/Sacramento

A very well done out pub in one open room, with dark wood and bare brick walls, and some Tiffany lampshades. The bar food, wings and so on, looks good.
The place was full of noisy Americans, I think Thursday is the new Friday, perhaps. I perched at the corner of a large table that had two blokes at the other end. Oddly, shortly afterwards they departed leaving loads of food. Are they coming back? Someone from another table came across and pinched a rib, perhaps it is free food for anyone. Sadly I'd just had a hefty dinner so couldn't take advantage.  A waitress appeared and cleared it all away. 

To find out what I got up to when I wasn't in a bar, see here.

Saturday 16 March 2024


Today I headed east to Earlestown where there are a number of pubs overdue for a revisit.  I began by walking past some good targets which I will get on the way back, to Vulcan Village and the Vulcan Inn:

I used up all my Star Trek jokes last time I was here so I won't do that today.  My pre flight checks had shown this as closed, and indeed it was.

Back the way I came and next is the Wargrave Hacienda:

Facebook says it opens at 12:30 but it didn't.  Google says 15:00 but I'll be well away by then.  So two fails out of two so far!

A little further on is the Victoria:

This one was a "closed when it should be open" failure last time I surveyed round here, so I haven't been in since 2010.  No such problem today, and I was soon drinking a Carling in this comfortable two sided pub.

I adjourned to the extension at the back, an empty dining area hopefully ready for lots of food later.

One barmaid was busy inflating green balloons in preparation for tonight and/or tomorrow's celebrations.

I know I seem to write this in almost every pub, but once again this one is nicely decorated, well maintained and spotlessly clean.  It really is a comfortable place, only needing cask ale to make it a favourite.

Next, another pub that, like the Victoria, I had seen open on my way down, the Sunbeam:

A classic down market two sided back street boozer this one, perhaps not as "nice" as the Victoria but still clean, pleasant and comfortable.

Just five regulars were watching the FA cup, the rest of the pub was empty apart from some children in the other side.  I had Guinness this time, it is after all Paddy's Day tomorrow although I was pleased to note there's no sign of it in here.

They've got one of those backwards clocks, so confusing after a few pints!

On to the Old Crow:

I was a little concerned as I approached to see some closed doors, but a closer look revealed an open one, thank goodness.  I seem to remember a similar moment of doubt last time I came here, it does look like it's shut doesn't it.

This large two bar pub was pretty quiet, I joined four or five regulars in the left hand side (No idea if there is a bar/lounge difference.)  There were two or three people in the other side as well.

Clean, well maintained and comfortable once again, and for the third time today a worrying lack of customers on a Saturday afternoon.  I've said it before and I'll probably say it again:  Use it or lose it, people, I can't save all the pubs on my own.

Now, a walk to the other side of Earlestown and the imposing building that is the Griffin:

There's something about this pub, not just the gorgeous building, that makes me rate it highly.  The two bar multi-room interior has slightly quirky and very attractive decor.  As usual, it's well maintained and spotless.

There were almost enough customers in here to create a hubbub of conversation, but the rugger (league) commentary was winning.

I looked at the telly briefly.  Hull 4 Leicester 22 and the stands are mostly empty.  (No, wait, LEI is Leigh)  If they can't fill the ground on a Saturday afternoon then the sport is doomed, I think - Another use it or lose it situation.  I was surprised to see the substitutes pedalling on exercise bikes on the touchline, they don't do that in footie.

The backwards clock salesman did well in Earlestown, here's another one and this time I've had enough beer to be momentarily confused by it.

Having run out of required targets, I think it is time to head for home.

Pub of the day: Griffin
Beer of the day: Guinness
Miles walked: 3.5
Maybe coming soon: Bebington, Canny Farm, Claughton

Saturday 9 March 2024


The direct bus doesn't seem to exist any more, so it was a train into town and the a bus out again that took me to Gillmoss where I started in the modern Marston's construction that is the Vikings Landing.  I had a moment of concern on checking Google maps to see where the bus stop was as I approached and finding the pub marked as "temporarily closed".  It wasn't.

In this standard modern chain dining place the young lady at the "Please wait to be seated" sign captured me before I could sneak past, but once I explained I only wanted a drink she suggested I order at the bar and then sit in the drinkers' area.

Five handpumps but only one beer is sometimes a bad sign but my Wainwright was spot on.  It came in a short fat colourfully decorated Wainwright glass.

A steady flow of customers came in to dine, no one joined me in the drinkers' corner.  I was going to write drinkers' ghetto there but that would be completely unfair as it was comfortable, warm and well appointed, and in no way was I treated like a second class citizen.  I don't know why the word popped into my mind.

I observed operations:  Tables were carefully allocated by the computer and the lady at the door, probably a good idea as it looks like the pub will soon be full.  If you want a meal here on a Saturday afternoon I'd recommend booking.  Having said that, the tables in "my" corner are available as overflow.

By doing their job carefully and efficiently the friendly staff here seem to have created a good successful operation, and they deserve praise.  I contributed, perhaps, by submitting corrections to Google.

On into Croxteth now, and the Lobster.  My internet researches had found multiple reports of a fire last September so I was expecting to photograph a blackened ruin but I was wrong:

Inside I found a pleasant two bar plain boozer, full of locals of all ages, some watching Everton being beaten in the early kickoff, others playing darts, and many just enjoying a drink and a chat in their beautiful local.

The decor in here is the now popular shades of grey, very well done and excellently maintained.

Carling for me, various lagers and Guinness were being sold at a steady rate.

Next, the Abbey Road Wine Bar:

This well done shop conversion hasn't changed much since I was here five years ago, but it's not as busy as it was then.  Nonetheless, seven or eight cheerful regulars were keeping the noise level up, drowning out the football commentary.

Everton lost and the main TV was immediately switched to a music channel - No interest in the post-match punditry.

What a great locals' boozer.

Next I headed for the long closed Sefton Arms:

Oddly, despite having been closed as a pub for many years it has been maintained and cared for and is well fenced off from the street, so someone is looking after it and using it for some purpose, sadly not its original function.  Mind you, I seem to recall it was a bit of a dump when I had a drink here in 1998.

Next, the Western Approaches:

Last time I was here there was a baby celebration of some sort and coincidentally today part of one side was reserved for a function with chair covers, table cloths and balloons.  The entrance into that side was locked and I had to go in the other way.

No staff were visible so I nipped through the corridor to the function half where there were more customers but still no staff.  After a short pause the barmaid appeared and soon served me another Carling, she had been in the cellar changing a keg, I think.

As I always seem to say now, this is a clean tidy well maintained plain boozer.  Perhaps a little plainer than the Lobster, but no less tidy.

A member of staff was inflating bronze coloured balloons, presumably for the upcoming function.  I wonder if the regulars (and I, if I'm still here) will be chivied into the other room when the time comes.

There's just one more open pub near here so it would be daft not to finish in the Lingmell Inn:

The interior of this one is knocked through into one very pleasant room.  It feels perhaps a little up market compared with the previous three ticks but I'm not sure I can actually justify that suggestion.

Decorations were being put up for Mother's Day which, in the UK, is tomorrow.  (I learned to my intense irritation many years ago that in America where I was living, Mother's Day is on a different date.)

Another comfortable pub doing fairly well on a Saturday afternoon.  I couldn't see many eating, but the menu looks good and good value.

A bloke joined his friends at a table with a bag of food from the local chippy which I thought was a bit cheeky in a dining pub.  Ah - wait, they're staff or friends thereof, so perhaps OK.  One of the group collected food from the kitchen.

The decoration team got closer to where I was sitting but erected their ladder without needing me to move.

Time to head for home, I think.  Five pubs all doing a good trade is great to see in 2024.

Pub of the day: Lobster, I had feared finding a burnt out wreck.
Beer of the day: Wainwright
Miles walked: 3.3
Maybe coming soon: Bebington

Friday 1 March 2024

Woolton and Halewood

A chilly damp Friday with no trains saw me on the bus to Woolton from where I soon walked to the CookHouse:

This unusual curved building used to be the English Rose, a two sided pub which still had many original features inside when I was first here twenty-six years ago.  More recently it was refurbished out of all recognition in a pleasant modern style.  The CookHouse is definitely food-oriented but still welcomes drinkers.  It still has the uncommon curved shape to the main room.

The cask ale I enjoyed in 2018 has gone and there was no Carling visible (It's surprising how few pubs don't sell it, only Guinness is more ubiquitous, I think) so I treated myself to a pint of the delicious Neck Oil.  Having written that it occurred to me that I didn't see any Guinness taps either.  I checked on the way out and yes, they only have Murphy's.

Only a smattering of customers at one thirty on a Friday, some eating others drinking.  No one visited the carvery while I was there, I always think this will result in chewy dried out meat.  The menu of pub standards looks good and occasionally a waiter emerged from the kitchen with food for elsewhere in the pub.

Next, how about another unusual building; Will the Grenadier be open?

Yes it is.  Inside this wonderful piece of sixties whimsy is a classic estate boozer.  There has been some knocking through inside but it still has three rooms and two counters in what I assume is close to the original layout.

Carling this time (and Guinness was available), a scan round the room showed almost everyone had a Carling glass, as did I.

Here we had that irritating arrangement of a silent music channel on the TVs and different music on the speakers.  Why do they do that?

Six regulars plus me were the custom at two fifteen, that's poor for a Friday but I guess it's the norm nowadays.

As usual in the 2020s, the furniture, carpet and walls were all immaculate.  When was the last time I visited a truly scruffy pub?

Next, let's tick the Hillfoot.  I thought I was being smart when Google Maps offered me a short cut, but it turned out I was too clever for my own good as I headed across a rather squelchy golf course and then along a narrow overgrown path between houses.  I managed to avoid being cut to shreds by the brambles in the jungle and eventually reached civilisation and my destination, the Hillfoot:

A bog standard chain dining pub, this, nicely decorated.  I entered to a lot of lively chatter, it was very loud in here, but by the time I had drunk an inch of my Carling the big group had departed and it was suddenly much more peaceful.  The music, perhaps turned up while it was busy, was now a little on the loud side but not too bad.  

I wonder if a microphone could be used with a control system to adjust the music level according to the noise in the room?  That sounds like the sort of thing a big pub chain would be interested in, much of their modus operandi seems to involve removing from the local staff any kind of decision making or initiative, so why not take away their volume controls.  Perhaps I've just invented something that could be a lucrative product - Dragons' Den here I come!

I looked out of the rear windows, the beer garden looks good, I bet it is popular in warmer weather.  They've got plenty of tables on the grass and also a number of wooden shelters to keep the sun (or rain) off.  Needless to say there was no one out there today, despite the late afternoon sunshine.

As I reached the end of my pint I looked around again, they are really doing well with most tables occupied as we headed towards Friday evening.  It's only four o'clock but the rush is getting started.

Now on to Hunts Cross station and the Waiting Room:

Good grief, busy or what?  I took my Carling (In a Fosters glass, tut tut) on a tour of the pub, eventually finding a high table to sit at.

So, how to describe this pub, located in the original station buildings?  Pleasant, comfortable, plain, well done are all comments that come to mind.  Whatever it looks like, it is certainly a successful boozer, you'd be hard put to find a seat at four on a Friday.

The music was at the right level, audible but mostly beaten by the hubbub of cheerful chatter.

Now the 89 bus has a weird timetable in which they get less frequent in rush hour so I had to drink slowly and wait for the next bus home.  In the increased traffic due to the train strike they were not managing to keep to time anyway, luckily the live bus map kept me updated.

The big screen was showing horse racing.  One horse had decided he or she didn't want to race, the jockey kicked his heels in and the horse just stood still.  Eventually the jockey dismounted and a groom walked the horse, still unwilling, away from the start.  Horse one, humans nil.

The staff of a local Home Bargains, six or more of them, turned up.  Presumably the unlucky ones had to run the shop until closing time.

The map said my bus was approaching, so time for home.  I did another complete tour of the pub before realising the gents is upstairs.

Pub of the day: The Grenadier, for the interesting building
Beer of the day: Neck Oil
Miles walked: 3.1
Maybe coming soon: Bebington