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.

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