Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

Soused in SanFran – Part 6: Wine Day. Ugh.

This here is Part Six of the Grand Caliventure of November 2011.
For Part 1, make the clicking to here.

Saturday started bright and early with the arrival of Sissy. She had driven into SFO from whatever God-forsaken wilderness camp she teaches at. Apparently it was snowing there that morning, while the weather in SFO was around 60°. We packed up, since we’d be staying overnight, and headed down the street to Sissy’s Honda CR-V.

Just like Reservoir Dogs. Only not at all.

I was the chauffeur for the day, with the agreement that I wasn’t going to be the driver for beer day. We headed out of the city (SERIOUSLY, gigantic hills) an across some silly bridge that people make a fuss over. The plan was to grab the 101 (in NH it’s called 101, in CA it’s THE 101) north-ish to Sonoma County where we’d be spending the day winery hopping. JJ took over camera duties while I drove (Sissy neglected to tell me until we got there that her left rear tire was practically flat. 12psi isn’t going to cut it) and about an hour later we arrived at destination number one, Rochioli Vineyards & Winery.

OooooOOOOOOoooh! Purty.

My buddy Bybee was working at this place as a harvest intern (grape slave), and it was by coincidence that the Lady Friend chose it as our first stop. However, he was actually down in SFO for the weekend, so we didn’t get to catch up. We went into the tasting room and the girls dove right in. During the chit chat, it was discovered that our server was actually from Marblehead, MA. Interesting. After the tasting, we went outside for some photo ops, and a fluffy cat came ambling up the walkway. Though we all crouched down to pet him, he wasn’t really interested in any of the attention, and proceeded to push his way through the group. Later on, we found him sitting on a table watching us, and he croaked out a few weak grumbles as we walked by. The others thought he was growling, but he just had a gravelly voice, and this time seemed to appreciate the patting I gave him.

Moo cows!

The next stop was Arista Winery, which was a reccomendation from the woman at Rochioli. There was a fire burning in the fireplace, which certainly took the chill off, since it was rather dreary and damp outside. The server here was very friendly and joked around quite a bit making the experience generally more fun. Even though I wasn’t tasting, I enjoyed this place, since they didn’t take themselves quite as seriously as most wineries. Breweries are usually somewhat easy-going but something about wine makes people think it’s deadly important.

Sissy at Arista.

Next up, John Tyler Wines. This place had a German Shepard (I think) that JJ wanted to bring home. I munched on the breadsticks they had just sitting there in wine glasses waiting to be nibbled. It was here that Sissy decided to tell me about the nearly-flat tire. Not tasting the wines really doesn’t give me much to say about these places. This one had more tourist crap for sale than some, but having a pet around is usually good for some points in my book.

Danjur! Poizin!

Armida Winery was our lunch destination, but the tasting was first. I really liked the packaging/label design of these wines… a bit more bold and graphic than the other places, with wax-dipped bottlenecks and skull-and-crossbone logos. The bottles, labeled as “poizin,” come packaged in coffins. Cool. Apparently the name was no joke, as JJ took a sip of the chardonnay, made a face, and declared “This tastes like my ______.” …well, it was a term for a bodily orifice, and not the girly happy one. The other one. The one in the back. I stared at her, unable to speak, as about 37 horribly inappropriate comebacks instantly flashed through my mind, and all jammed trying to get out of my head at the same time. All I managed was “Oh?” She went on to clarify “Not that I KNOW what my *orifice* tastes like. But this wine tastes like my *orifice*” The tastings started catching up with the group at this point, as the Lady Friend and Sissy were talking very animatedly, with hands flailing about, just what you want around glasses of wine. Neither seemed to hear JJ’s revelation, though I found it endlessly amusing. Quote of the day. We ventured outside to a deck overlooking a winery vista, and had a picnic lunch of french bread, cheese, and fruit. It would have been lovely on a nicer day, but the stiff breeze really made it not-so-pleasant.

Pictured: vista.

It started to pour, and we made our way to J Vineyards & Winery. The gps told us to turn left, when it really meant turn right, so we went about three miles in the wrong direction. Lovely. We banged a U-ee and found the place. J is known for their sparkling wines, so I was actually going to join in on the tasting for this one. JJ, however, wasn’t feeling great, (maybe it was the *orifice* wine) and took a time-out in the back seat while the Lady Friend, Sissy, and I dashed from the car to the entrance. Unfortunately, when we got there, a gaggle of screeching harpy women (some sort of bachelorette party) was clustered under the overhang staying dry, while effectively blocking the door from us. These hags were all in their mid-30s and older, but dressed like they were going to the prom. Look missy, your prom was in 1984, it’s time to let it go. I’m guessing they were already a couple wine tastings deep, as their banshee howls pierced my eardrums whenever one of them made an apparently amusing remark and the others showed their amusement with shrieks that woke up every dog in a seven mile radius.

We finally got in and managed to sneak ahead of the spinster brigade. The tasting started upstairs with some sort of, um, white, wine, then proceeded down the hall and over a walkway flanked by rows upon rows of enormous fermenting tanks. There was a… red… wine… at the end there, and we tasted until the seagull screeching women started heading our way. We made a hasty retreat and went downstairs to the main lobby/ giftshop/ tasting area. This is where the sparkling wines were poured, and had a very glitzy looking wall behind the bar with sparkly stones embedded in it. There were three sparklings, though they sold for like $90 per bottle, so we didn’t purchase any. Apparently it’s so expensive because they are aged for like 10 years, and that’s pricey real estate; sitting around taking up space for years and years is a rather large investment for the winery, so they pass the markup onto YOU. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between their $90 bottles and a decent $30 bottle, so I wasn’t too impressed with their setup. It was more showy and touristy than the smaller places we had been visiting that morning. We snuck back to the car and got a pic of a surprised JJ waking up from her nap. She’d do horrible things to me if I published it here, so below is a pretty picture of some grape vines.

Grape vines, as promised.

The final (thankfully) stop of the day was Mauritson Wines, where another buddy of mine, Murs, is also a grape slave. We didn’t discover this until Murs met us later on for dinner. Mauritson was pretty uneventful, as the group started falling apart. I wasn’t tasting, and JJ had thrown in the towel. We amused ourselves by watching the two yellow labs constantly beg for cheese and breadsticks at the bar. They were relentless. The Lady Friend and Sissy did their tasting, and were even considering swinging by ANOTHER winery, but I was kind of done by this point. Six is more than enough, thanks.

So, it was back to “downtown” Healdsburg to check into our motel. JJ was cold and damp, and insisted on cranking the heat up, while I felt like my innards were being slow-roasted, and stripped off as much clothing as was possible in mixed company. We bounced around on the beds a bit, and snacked on some cookies (because being a grownup is AWESOME) before grabbing a cab into the center of town. The original plan was for us to simply walk there, since it was MAYBE a mile away, but the pouring rain made that decision unlikely. The cab came to about $5, and dropped us off at our dinner location, BEAR. REPUBLIC. BREWHOUSE.
Now it’s time for some fun.

Soused in SanFran – Part 5: SFO D2 City Beer, Blu, and the rest

This here is Part Five of the Grand Caliventure of November 2011.
For Part 1, make the clicking to here.

Yup. Still Friday.

So, we hit Magnolia for a delicious lunch and tasty beers, then the Alembic for a superb cocktail. With Ke$shia Ho joining in, we were off to the City Beer Store. It’s a beer store. In the city. BUT, (important detail) they also have a BAR, so you can drink while you shop. It also means you could sample something before deciding to buy a bottle. Or, you can enjoy your newly-purchased bottle right there. ! ! ! Why. Don’t we have this. In Boston. Question mark. I mean, besides the fact that they’re so puritanical and immature that they won’t even allow happy hour here. But, we were in SFO, and in a beer store, so there were no thoughts of Assachusetts except choosing what I was going to bring back with me. Good stuff on tap too… Dogfish Head 120, Stone Double Bastard, Russian River Pliny the Elder… things like THAT. ON TAP.

Part industrial basement, part craft beer wonderland.

So, while the Lady Friend and Ke$hia chatted and sipped on some Pliny the Elder (yes east coast… they had Pliny ON TAP) I was let loose in the store to browse the hundreds and hundreds of craft beer bombers. Apparently, City Beer had just completed a renovation, but as it’s kind of concrete-and-beam place to begin with, it didn’t make much difference to me. I guess they went through a much-needed expansion to make room for more beer. I spent about 20 minutes just browsing before enlisting the help of Stephanie, the clerk who was way too helpful. I pitched it to her as “Ok, pretend you’re from the east coast. You can’t get many of these beers there, so where should I start?” to which she replied, “Uh, I AM from the east coast, originally.” I forget where, but I want to say it was one of the Carolinas. So, we set about playing a beer scavenger hunt of sorts. They had tons of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, a legendary dIPA and a beer I was specifically going to obtain, as well as a selection of their Blind Pig IPA. I had never SEEN these beers before; I had only read about them. Joyous.

Among the other selections were beers from New Zealand (Epic Brewing) and Alaska (Midnight Sun Brewing), and some more familiar Ballast Point, though I had never seen their Sculpin IPA around Boston before. Stephanie suggested some beers from Alpine Beer Company outside of San Diego. She said they got several cases in the day before, and it was flying off the shelves, so grab some now. I grabbed some because I didn’t expect to ever see it again. The Nelson golden IPA was delish, and I have yet to try the bottle of Pure Hoppiness. They also had some IMMENSE bottles of beer, at 3+ quarts (96+ oz), which I didn’t know existed, with a Grolsch-style cap and a $90 price tag. For a sense of scale, that’s a normal 12oz Dogfish Head in between some Andre the Giant bottles of Duvel and Stone. I have no idea what the size of that bottle is called, but I’m going to call it “A Juggernaut,” as in “barkeep, bring me your finest Juggernaut of ale, post haste!”

Once the selections were finally made, Stephanie rang up the total, and I packed them for shipping, which was an adventure in itself, though all eventually arrived safe and intact. Precious cargo.

Precious cargo indeed.

With the grand beer acquisition completed, Ke$hia drove us downtown to her bar, Blu Restaurant,(apparently there’s one in Boston too) as she was starting her shift. Blu has a very open feeling, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Market Street. When we were there around 5, the sunlight was streaming in the windows with an orange glow, offsetting the dark, glossy, marble bar. We plunked down at the end of the bar and Ke$hia poured us a Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA. It had a slight hoppy nose, with an equally slight hoppy bitter taste up front, but then delved into a nutty, almost peanut flavor. Quite odd, but pretty good. From there, we actually squeezed in a Rule 37 cocktail, an original by Ke$hia, The French Blues.

The French Blues
– 2 oz gin (Bombay Sapphire)
– 1/2 oz lime juice
– 1/2 oz simple syrup
– small handful of fresh blueberries
– sink 1/2 oz blue curaçao
– flamed orange peel garnish
– fresh blueberry garnish
– champagne to top

Lightly muddle the blueberries in a mixing glass and pour in gin, lime juice and simple syrup. Shake and strain into a champagne flute. Sink (opposite of a float) blue curaçao to bottom of glass and top with champagne. Garnish with flamed orange peel and blueberries.

So, with the gin, lime, simple syrup and champagne, it’s a relative to the French 75, using lime instead of lemon. The blueberries add an interesting element, but not much flavor. Overall, I found it decently boozy from the amount of gin dumped in, but otherwise nice. I think the ratios could use a little tweaking to bring it into balance, and wind up with something interesting. The elements of the curaçao and flamed orange add even more citrus into the mix. You could even do a his & hers pairing by making a blue one as shown and a pink version using Chambord or other liqueur in place of the curaçao, and perhaps a raspberry garnish.

The drinks were tasty, but we had to run to meet JJ and her husband for dinner at a deep dish pizza restaurant called Paxti’s, apparently pronouced “Pah-chees” (yes, we went to SFO and had Chicago-style pizza). Here our troubles began. We got on the right bus, but in the wrong direction, which took us on a half hour sightseeing detour only to wind up exactly where we started. After another 20 or so minutes of travel in the correction direction, we speedwalked the two blocks from the bus stop to the restaurant. During all of this, the Lady Friend got increasingly distraught about being late, causing JJ to hate her forever, or something like that, and suffered a mini-meltdown on our quest. It would have been fun to yell “get a hold of yourself, soldier!” and pull a Patton, but I’m secretly a nice guy, despite what you read. After regrouping, we arrived at the restaurant, looking about in confusion, as JJ was nowhere to be found. Patxi’s? Yeah, they have several locations. We were at Hayes Street, JJ was at Fillmore, 2 miles away. The Lady Friend looked like she was going to curl up on the curb and stay there forever, but I could only laugh at the absurdity of the whole thing.

We hailed a cab and sped over to the correct Paxti’s encountering some of the steepest hills I’ve seen on the way. Seriously, who decided to put a city here? It’s no joke. Upon arriving, we found JJ and husband, who were no worse for wear, had ordered a couple pizzas while waiting for us so that it would come out of the oven promptly. The Lady Friend calmed down enough to order a Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA (on tap!) and I had a Lost Coast Downtown Brown, which was roasty-toasty and delicious. The pizza arrived and was A-MAZ-ING. Seriously, go there. It was everything deep dish should be, and really made me realize that there’s a distinct lack of decent deep dish in Boston.

After stuffing ourselves to the gills, we caught a (correct) bus back to the apartment. I thought we might rally and hit up another place, since it was only 8pm, but once JJ pulled the cork on a bottle of wine, the dread settled in that this was the end of the night. I should have struck out on my own to find some local establishments distributing intoxicating liquids, but instead sat there and listened to the two hens clucking about everything under the sun. Le sigh. Really really should have gone exploring. And by exploring I mean drinking. Because the next day was the dreaded wine day, and it would be a long one.

Soused in SanFran – Part 4: SFO D2 Alembic

This here is Part Four of the Grand Caliventure of November 2011.
For Part 1, make the clicking to here.

Not your turn yet, Sissy. But soon.

Following our delicious lunch and tasty beers at Magnolia, the Lady Friend and I started heading down Haight Street towards our next destination, the legendary Alembic Bar. We were pointed straight into the vortex of hippie ground zero, strolling cautiously past Haight-Ashbury, the epicenter of the flower children. Yes, it was weird. We saw a man in his 60s, with gray hair and beard, wearing a short, Catholic school girl pleated skirt and knee socks. I don’t care, that’s just not ok. I kind of hate The Haight. I needed a protective suit like Cartman when he rescues Kyle before SF destroys itself.

My boy, we are pilgrims in an unholy land.

Then we saw it: The Alembic. A cocktail bar that has frequently landed on “best bar” lists throughout the country. It’s hard to tell what lurks behind the dark tinted “A”-embedded door amidst the wandering stoners shuffling by on the sidewalk. Sure, if we had more time, I would have liked to take a peek at Smuggler’s Cove, Bourbon and Branch, and Rickhouse, but there were other destinations that required some precious time allotment. We pulled the heavy door open and took a brief moment to let our eyes adjust to the dim light and muted tones of the interior, a welcome change from the blaring sun and psychedelic hues of Haight. The narrow space with high ceilings was dominated by a sturdy wooden length of bar, and three shelves overflowing with nearly every conceivable liquor and liqueur. A touch of light lazily drifted in through a yellow-tinted skylight towards the rear, and opened up the back seating area. Everything was wood, tan and dusty, and had an aged patina except for the glossy glass bottles that stretched for a great distance. The antithesis of pretension. This is exactly as it should be. This is what a cocktail bar needs to be. This is home.


Vintage light bulbs rappelled down from the ceiling provided more aesthetic quality than luminosity. Though there were a handful of patrons, conversation was light, and subdued, the loudest sounds coming from the jarring maraca rattle of ice in metal shaker. The Lady Friend lolled through the cocktail menu, while I marveled at the array of amaro, the wonderful whiskies, and the rows of rums. They have more types of rye than most bars have whiskey, rum, and gin combined. The cocktail list consisted of a double-sided sheet, one side old school and one nouveau. She eventually settled on a Blood and Sand, and was surprised to find that it was actually a known classic. She enjoyed it, but my home bar currently lacks the necessary cherry brandy (Heering) to recreate it. Though the recipe contains scotch, hers was made with Russell’s Reserve 6yo Rye. I availed myself of some of their Campari, requesting my new bar benchmark, the Negroni. Disappointed with the UTTER failure of a previous “cocktail” bar, I was confident that I wouldn’t have the same troubles here. When I requested Plymouth specifically, the heavily tattooed bartendress simply nodded and said “that’s what we use.” Beautiful. It also contained Carpano Antica vermouth, which lent a much spicier and vivacious note to the taste, bold enough to stand up to the brutish Campari, with little on the nose but fresh orange peel. Wonderful.

This. This is my goal. This is the bottle collection I want in my home bar.

I had been in touch once again with Ke$hia Ho, who agreed to meet up with us while we sipped our drinks. She and I chatted for a bit about various cocktail nonsense, and pointed out various unusual bottles to each other. When our glasses finally dried up, we steeled ourselves for the hippie horrors that lay outside, and ventured on. Happily, she brought her car, complete with MN plates, and we sped out of Peaceland, never to return. The next destination was another I had been looking forward to: the City Beer Store. Why was this a big deal? Stay tuned, and I’ll get to it.

Soused in SanFran – Part 3: SFO D2 Magnolia

This here is Part Three of the Grand Caliventure of November 2011.
For Part 1, make the clicking to here.

I’ll try to break these up a bit more for readability and sanity. Mostly my sanity.

Also, we’ve just gotten to Friday morning, so Sissy, you’re going to have to hold tight.
We’ll get to your part.


Friday’s first booze stop and lunch destination was the Magnolia Pub and Brewery, which, from the reviews I’d read, was highly recommended for both their food and beers. We hoofed it through the little “Panhandle” park and uphill to the corner of Haight and Masonic, dangerously close to Hippieville. However, it was around 11 or so, and the flower children weren’t out in full force yet, though a couple street urchins lounged about on the sidewalks nearby.

Once inside, we found refuge from the great unwashed hordes lurking on the streets, and discovered a rather aged decorating scheme to the pub. Antique patina-ed mirrors, a mosaic tiled floor, dubiously murky ceiling stains, chalkboard menus and lots of dark, heavy wood create an old-timey steampunk vibe that was a refreshing change from the shiny new brewpubs that lack the charm of their time-ravaged brethren.

Pictured: character.

Two things immediately hit us in the face when we walked in: steam, and the overpowering smell of barley malt. The temperature in the place had to be at least 75°, which felt tropical compared to the crisp autumn climate outside and entirely fogging the windows. If there were any doubts about this place being the real deal, the boiling wort under the floor made a persuasive argument. We sat at the bar and ordered a couple beer samplers from the bartender, Sal, who was extremely friendly, and looked like he was Zach Braff’s cousin. There were nine house-brewed beers on draft that day, so the Lady Friend and I split the list to get a taste of each. The flight includes six beers of your choice, which come in a unique, triangular-shaped, wooden tray of sorts, and your selections are thoughtfully written down on a little postcard. There were some interesting brews here, outside of the standard pale ale/ IPA/ stout offerings of most brewers.

Plus, they’ve won some medals. BEER medals.

Rosebud Belgian Ale
Nose: Similar to my bottle of Meletti Amaro. Sweet, with some eucalyptus and menthol.
Taste: Fizzy, carbonic bite. Mild, soothing flavor. A little cinnamon, a little wheat. Sweet.

Barking Pumpkin Pumpkin Ale
Poured VERY dark, almost like a stout. Very dark ale.
Nose: Pumpkin spicy with a roast quality. A sickly sweet roast that the Lady Friend pegged as “pecan pie.” Molasses.
Taste: Pumpkin spice start, eases to a bitter roasted bite in the middle.

Proving Ground IPA
100 IBU! Hopped with Simcoe, Stirling, Cascade and Washington.
Nose: Lovely hop! Citrusy sweetness.
Taste: Bitter, then sweet, then bitter, then sweet. A hectic jumbled start, eases to a resinous grapefruit bitter that lingers. Frenzied and awesome.

Dark Star Mild
Nose: English style malty bitter, like an English bitter ale. Roasted with some slight chocolate underneath.
Taste: BITTER roast on tongue. A strange sweetness I couldn’t put my finger on. Not milky, but some vanilla, with a mocha coffee finish. Couldn’t quite pin down that sweetness though. Intriguing.

Weekapaug Gruit
Had to ask about this one… a gruit is an herbal mixture for bittering beer without using hops. This one contained yarrow, rosemary, chamomile and anise.
Nose: Herbal. Eye-opening. Again, eucalyptus and cough medicine, as in an amaro. Roasted malt underneath.
Taste: Sweet. Herbal succulent. Lady Friend got potpourri, while I went with amaro, and Sal agreed with me on this. Very strange, and would be a good digestif. Don’t know that I would enjoy a whole pint, but very glad I tasted this one.

Blue Bell Bitter
Nose: No discernible nose. SLIGHT cereal sweet, though there was quite a bit of barley aroma in the air which made our nosing rather difficult. The tall highball style glasses helped funnel some scent out of the beers, but even with a good swirl, I couldn’t get anything out of this one.
Taste: Nice hop bitter start. Eases to a watery malt wash. Nice and mild. Very drinkable.

There was a bit of overlap in the lists, and we both had the Rosebud, Barking Pumpkin and Proving Ground IPA. These are the other three that were in the Lady Friend’s flight.

Long Break Bitter
Nose: Nice citrus hop. Lady Friend got some apple. Poured with a nice yellow straw color.
Taste: Mild hop bite. Carbonic. Clean. Light and refreshing with a hint of lemon.

New Speedway Bitter
Nose: Sweet. Light barley – not like a heavy malt aroma. Cereal grain, fruit.
Taste: Cereal sweet. None of the heavy malt syrup.

Kalifornia Kölsch
Nose: Cereal sweet. Typical Kölsch, with a slight pils staleness.
Taste: Slight sharp bitter, but otherwise light and clean.

Somewhere in the midst of our tasting, we perused the menu, which was very artfully designed and crafted. Seriously, it was really nice, without being over the top. Totally fit with the rest of the aesthetic of the pub… an elegant vintage style with a patina of dust and years of service. The menu fare itself was apparently brand new, as they had recently changed their food offerings. I delighted in a fried chicken sandwich, which was moist, lightly fried and tasty, served on a soft, fresh baguette (we literally saw the bread guy carrying in bags of baguettes) with gooey melted cheese and salty fries. It really was excellent. Fresh and delicious. They Lady Friend decided to test out the gastropub leanings of the place, ordering a grilled cheese made with goat cheese, mushrooms and kale.

We both immensely enjoyed our meals, and eavesdropped on the bar staff’s conversations involving one of the customers across the room. Apparently, the customer had ordered a Snakebite, which is a half-and-half concoction of lager and cider. There was a mild debate amongst the staff as to how to make it, with one of the servers arguing that it specifically had to be half pilsner. It was a moot point, as the bar won’t even serve it. They will give you two beers and let you mix it yourself, but for reasons that weren’t quite clear, they won’t make it for you. It probably has been shown to cause cancer and birth defects, just like everything else in California. These stupid signs were in every bar, and I was surprised the next day when there wasn’t a placard in the shower telling me that water increases the risk of drowning.

Silly regulations aside, Magnolia was fantastic. Of course, we were there for an early lunch, so I have no idea what the usual scene is like, on a Friday night for example. They really did live up to their gastropub claims, without being douchy about it. Our bartender Sal was very friendly and helpful, and unless they’re pumping in fake steam and barley smell, it’s a true brewpub. Go there.

Sidenote: For New Englanders, you CAN get a Snakebite at the Coat of Arms pub in downtown Portsmouth, NH. After you’ve had a few, go across the street to the infamous Gilley’s and get some wonderfully greasy diner food served in an old dining cart.

Soused in SanFran – Part 2: SFO D1

This here is Part Two of the Grand Caliventure of November 2011.
For Part 1, make the clicking to here.

Hold on to your butts, this is going to be a long one.

The dawn did done diddly dawned Thursday morning as JJ and her husband scurried about the apartment and left for work and classes, respectively. The Lady Friend and I eventually changed out of sleepy pants and rallied for the day’s adventures. The one certainty on the schedule was a lunchtime visit to 21st Amendment Brewpub, but after that we were open until tentative happy hour plans with JJ. We decided to walk, since it was a couple miles away, and I like to wander and do some street shooting. Went down by the water to see the Bay Bridge on the way, and then were plenty ready for lunch and beer.

Slightly bigger than Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth, NH. Slightly.

21st Amendment Brewery is a brewpub in the South Park area of SFO, and is apparently near AT&T Park, a baseball stadium that is a whopping 11 years old. How cute. Fenway is almost 100 years old, so suck it California. 21st is, of course, named after the Twenty-first amendment to the Constitution which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment of nation-wide prohibition. I’ve had several of their canned offerings including the Brew Free or Die IPA, Hop Crisis ImpIPA, and Hell or High Watermelon (of which I believe there’s still a can in the Lady Friend’s fridge.) While they don’t have an official sampler of their beers, you can order a sample of each, which we did. However, the normal canned beers (which apparently are canned in Cold Spring, MN) were not on the list. They might have been on tap, but we were at a table instead of the bar, and didn’t get a look. Here’s what we got:

We tasted right to left.

Ninkasi Total Domination IPA (Guest Brew)
Nose: Apple fruit. Slight malt. Very light and airy aroma.
Taste: Green, unripe tree/ stone fruit. Tart, apple.

Rammstein Bavarian Wheat
Nose: Banana clove. Sweet and aromatic. The Lady Friend described it as “circus peanuts” that marshmallowy orange candy.
Taste: Initial spiciness, eases off to a banana/ bubblegum wheat flavor.

Roasted American Amber Ale
Nose: Roasted malt/ barley. Not a coffee roast, but a TOASTED aroma.
Taste: Burnt toffee. Not syrupy. Not quite toast-like, but essence of golden brown crust, like fresh baked bread. Slight copper metallic, but very slight. We both really liked this one.

Fireside Chat Dark English Ale
Apparently they’re canning this one, but I haven’t seen here yet.
Nose: Very weak aroma. A stir with a fork yielded some slight fresh-baked cinnamon bread aroma.
Taste: Cinnamon raisin bread. Gives way to a slight syrup maltiness with a touch of roasted bitter.

Schooner’s Oatmeal Stout (Guest Brew)
Nose: Roasted oats. Yep.
Taste: Bitter coffee, but eases off. Very smooth. Finishes with a roast bitterness lingering. Nice.

Two Rivers Granny Smith Apple Cider (Guest Brew)
Nose: Apple juice. Tart and sweet.
Taste: Tart start. Mouth puckering. Not too sweet, but finishes nice and apple-y. I’m not generally a cider fan, but this one was really nice, and not too acidic.

It was very lumber-y inside.

Following our sumptuous repast, we started wandering around with thoughts of heading down to a beer store where I planned to do some purchasing. However, though it began as a brisk, sunny day, by mid-afternoon it started to rain. Then pour. Plans for walking several blocks were aborted, and we about-faced to head towards Union Square. I had gotten in touch with a friend of mine from my former company, Qwadd Grafficks, who I met by chance on a tour of a printing plant in Wis-cahn-sin. She also turned up on one of our ski/snowboard house trips to Killington/Pico in Vermont (SnoHaus 2010). She left Qwadd to travel to France earlier in the year, and was now working as a bar manager in SFO. She traveled with two other Qwadd ex-pats, who, following the trip, became wine harvest interns in Sonoma County. Ke$hia Ho is a plucky little Asian girl with dance moves that demoralize any white boy within a seven-block radius, except perhaps Trevtastic. She rocks a New York fashion-sense, despite her Minnesota upbringing, and since I saw her last has developed quite an appreciation for, and knowledge of, cocktails. She had Thursday off, and agreed to meet us in Union Square, then hang out for the afternoon.

The Lady Friend and I ducked into a dark Irish sports bar to dry ourselves, just off of Union called Lefty O’Doul’s, who is apparently some former baseball player. It was appropriately dark, dank and bar-like, so we grabbed a couple stools at the end of the bar and ordered up two Anchor Porters. When in Rome. Sidebar: it also happened to be International Stout Day. A porter may or may not technically be a stout, depending on who you ask, but I had the oatmeal stout sample at lunch so THAT TOTALLY COUNTS. Louie, apparently a regular, was having a grand old time a few seats down slurping Heineken’s and hitting on the female waitstaff, who are plainly used to his advances. Ke$hia Ho strode in after a short time, and we departed for a bar called Top of the Mark, a hotel bar with commanding panoramic views of the city. Though the rain had stopped, this unfortunately meant hiking, and I do mean HIKING, up several of the steepest hills mountains I had ever encountered in a city setting. It’s not even funny.

The view was pretty nice.

So, Top of the Mark is a ritzy little cocktail and piano bar, and we flipped through the extensive drink menu looking for a tasty tipple. However, something quite alarming caught my eye: the Top of the Mark Negroni, made with Ketel One Citron, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Wait… what? A Negroni made with VODKA?? Guess what tardclowns, THAT’S NOT A NEGRONI. I should NEVER have to specify that I want GIN in a Negroni. Ugh. They lost all credibility for that one. Unbelievable.

Despite the waiter’s near unintelligible accent, we managed to place our drink orders, with Ke$hia Ho sipping on a French 75 (she had some champagne earlier in the day and wanted to keep the theme going) and the Lady Friend trying what she thought was a Tequila Sunrise, until something tasted a bit off. Turned out, she got a Tequila SunSET, which was Stoli, 1800, Grand Marnier and Grenadine. Take a tequila drink and dump in some vodka. What is the matter with this place? Anyway, the cocktails were pricey, the waiter unsuccessfully attempted claw his way through the English language, they massacre classic drinks, and we spent our time there next to a group of business types drinking Bud Light. In a cocktail bar. The only reason to go here is to see the views, which were very nice, but after you’ve seen it, there’s no excuse to go back. Also, the bathroom, while elegantly decorated, had the distinct bouquet of a thousand haunted farts, with strong overtones of wet dog. Time to leave.

So, leave we did, thankfully taking the bus instead of walking, to a bar called Harry’s to meet JJ for happy hour. Yes, SquirrelFarts, there is a Happy Hour. We’re not in Boston anymore. Nothing too special about Harry’s… casual, but nice, and dark. There were $3 drafts, including Lagunitas IPA and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Awesome. The Irish Lad isn’t a fan of Lagunitas IPA, though I’m still not quite sure why. I think it’s slightly pine bitter, but delicious.

As we were chatting, a girl came up to our table calling Ke$hia by some other name… I forget what. After some confusion, we figured out that apparently Ke$hia is this other girl’s doppelganger. When the other girl turned up, it was a pretty close match, and mild chuckling ensued. We had a few munchies until JJ arrived, looking rather drawn and haggard. A nice pint of Sierra Nevada revived her, and we all headed to a Peruvian restaurant for dinner, though some of us would have much preferred a slice of pizza.

The place was named Fresca The roasted chicken looked tasty, and that happened to be the one thing on the menu that the kitchen was out of. Super. So, I said I didn’t want anything else, and started doing some tasting notes on my Cuzqueña Peruvian lager (no nose whatsoever, a slight skunky “green glass” lager taste with some cereal grain sweetness. Also of note: it’s allegedly the only South American beer that adheres to the Reinheitsgebot; the German purity law that says beer must be made only from water, barley and hops.) I’m not sure if the notebook did it, (although I have had strange things like this happen before) but all of a sudden the waiter came back saying there was magically ONE more chicken in the kitchen, and would I like it? Um, sure. Maybe they thought I was some sort of reviewer or critic, but whatever the reason, I got my chicken. And it was tasty. As were the accompanying french fries I very nearly inhaled.

After that we called it an evening (since it was a work night for JJ). Ke$hia hopped a bus with plans to meet up with us again the next day, and the remaining three of us stumbled back down Fillmore to the apartment for another night of futon slumber. This was just day one: more drinking adventures to come!

Soused in SanFran – Part 1: The Pregame

This here is Part One of the Grand Caliventure of November 2011.

The Lady Friend and I had been discussing a trip out to California, for a number of reasons. She has a friend living in San Francisco, and Sissy moved out to some God-forsaken wilderness camp in Sonora, which is in the Sierra Nevada range. The Lady Friend loves Sonoma wines, and there are a number of legendary breweries in the area, so we made the plans and left Boston on Wednesday evening.

We parked next door to an old friend. Should’ve stopped for a quick preflight IPA.

We had some time to kill in Terminal C at Logan before the flight, and there happened to be a Boston Beer Works location right near our gate. Why, yes, a tasty beverage would be lovely before the flight, I though to myself, and helped myself to a Back Bay IPA, followed by a chicken sandwich and fries for dinner. When the bartender handed me the beer, she said “Have a nice flight,” and I pulled a Brian Regan by saying “You too!”

Yeah. Starting the trip off like an idiot.
Back to beer, the first of the voyage:

Back Bay IPA
Boston Beer Works

Nose: Mild hop bitter. Light cereal grain sweetness.

Taste: Hop bitter – piney. Sharp start, but eases off quickly. Clean, but dry hop resin finish makes you thirsty for more.

While sitting in the crowded restaurant, a group of three thirty-somethings shuffled in and parked at the table next to us, and set off one of my biggest peeves: ordering proper drinks. Keep in mind, we’re in Boston Beer Works, a small, local franchise of brewpubs that make some tasty beers. With a suspected hometown of Malden, Revere, or Lynn the first girl, clad in a green Red Sox hoodie, asked what the lightest beer was. Sigh. “The Pub Light,” was the waitress’s reply. Her male counterpart ordered a blueberry beer, and the second girl ordered a Pinot. There was an awkward pause until the waitress prompted her for more clarification “Pinot…?” “Grigio,” was the decision. Yes, Malden, there’s more than one kind of Pinot. Thanks for the info. After a few minutes, the fourth member of the group joined, and initally asked for a White Zin, prompting a visible shudder from the Lady Friend, (she’s a red zin drinker, and white zin is kind of her kryptonite) before having a Reisling. You know what? Here’s a vodka and Sprite, since apparently you just want sugary alcohol.
So, you’re at Boston BEER Works, and you’re ordering white wine. I understand that selections are limited at the airport, but there were several other restaurants they could have gone to without invoking my anger at hearing a light beer, a fruit beer, and two white wines ordered at a brewpub franchise. Here’s the deal: get on that plane, and don’t come back. There’s plenty of other douchebags just like you in Everett. Or Chelsea.

After a long, dark flight, where I exhausted my entertainment possibilities (including a masochistic viewing of “Engineering Disasters”) after about 45 minutes and elected to just put my head facedown on the tray table, we finally arrived. We taxied to the apartment where we were staying, which belonged to Lady Friend’s friend JJ. They met on their French winey trip some years ago and have visited and traveled together since. JJ is une petite fille blonde originally from West Virginia. Like Country-Roads-Take-Me-Home-type West VA. She had visited SquirrelFarts HQ earlier this year for a small cocktail party, and christened me with an appropriately Bacchanalian pseudonym, so we were previously acquainted. She has a soft, southern lilt that amusingly comes out only after a glass or two of wine. Over-hyphenation irritates her. Her husband is in dental school, and graciously allowed the Lady Friend and I to crash at their apartment for our trip. This would be SFHQ in SFO. Time to hit the futon and prepare for the adventures to come; the imbibing would begin in earnest on the morrow.

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