This week’s Throwback Thursday a beer trip to San Francisco
Original post date: May 23, 2006
When I visited San Francisco little over a week ago I had two missions. One was to relax and enjoy good times with friends I don’t see often enough, people while not blood are in my book family. Then there was the second mission to see as many of the San Francisco area breweries as possible. I think I accomplished both.
We arrived on Friday and immediately I could smell something in the air, beer and it smelled damn tasty. After our crew arrived we had lunch, gathered our necessities and headed off in a cab.
Well one group did, but our group had the cabby from hell. I explained where we were going he replied.
“I dunno where it was.”
‘Great’ was my immediate thought, the only cabbie who doesn’t know his own city. I tried to explain again and he began to shout
“I don’t know where it is” in heavily accented English.
At this point I pulled out a map and explained roughly how far south he would need to drive us from our Union Square hotel to the area of the brewery. As I explained the location he interrupted once again.
“No No No I know how to get there but don’t know what is there.” He proceeded to explain three more times, shouting.
At this point I nearly told the bastard to pull over and go in search of a less surly cabbie. I was on vacation and I didn’t need this crap, if I had been alone I know I would have done it too. But considering I was there with two friends it seemed too much a hassle to bother them with the cabbie claimed to know how to get there and so we put up with his attitude.
Eventually he dropped us off at Speakeasy Ales and Lagers a nondescript commercial building a long ways from downtown. The place was rather quiet and empty when we arrived, not the most promising sign when your looking for brewers and beer, but it was my plan and tour so I had little choice. I marched up the dock entrance like I knew exactly where it would take me. In a way I sort of did know, I was going into a brewery. I hoped.
I knew we were in the right place when I saw the pallets of two row malt and the Speakeasy eyes gazing at me. Hard guitar licks played on an echoing stereo system and the smell of malt in my nostrils proved I was in the right place.
I had called their phone line and left a message I had five for a tour on that Friday, leaving my number in case they wanted to call back with questions or confirm. I never got a reply I meant to call back and confirm but I got busy and it never happened. I knew the brewery was open on Fridays so we took our chances.
The first person we met was Big Mike, aka the brewer, I liked him immediately. He didn’t have us on the tour list, but there was only another couple for the tour so they had plenty of room for us on the tour. After a few minutes wait he poured us a few pints to keep us entertained while we waited for the start of the tour. Their beers were malty, strong, and the imperials aggressively hop. I was in heaven. They reminded me of Stone beers, but more balanced in construction.
Big Mike lead us on a tour of their facility and I suspect he realized I wasn’t your average drunk visiting the brewery. I asked about hops used, temperature control, malt, yeast and every other question a homebrewer could come up with it. Mike seemed to enjoy the questions because it allowed him to pass along more than the regular “We boil here, we age it here, we bottle it there” tour.
I was impressed by their standards and commitment to excellence, but not at the expense of enjoying life, it is beer after all.
After the tour we returned to the tasting area, where their usual Friday afternoon open house is hosted.
While there I spoke with Chris in Sales, we had a great conversation about California beers, the recent microbrewery industry move to canning, and getting their beers into Flagstaff. Also while their beer is available in seven states, it’s evidently available in Finland. A bar there some how got a supplier to bring it in and they love it. Good for them but I’d hate to pay their prices for a pint. But considering Speakeasy’s beer it’s worth the trouble.
My first beer was an Imperial Amber which was big, bold, and hoppy. It didn’t fit my mood of what I wanted to drink, but I knew I could drink it far easier than anyone else in the group so I suffered through it. Okay I didn’t really suffer, it was beer.
From there I moved over to their Bootlegger Black Lager which I had sampled earlier and found to be excellent, well balanced and no esters, exactly like you want a Black Lager to be. I intended to find a Black Czech lager I had discovered a few years ago while in San Francisco, but this was the best I could do. That said I wasn’t in the least disappointed.
Last of the beers I have distinct memory was the Old Godfather Barley Wine-Style Ale , while not aggressively strong at 10.2%, it’s a deadly beast. It’s smooth and as balanced as any pale ale I have ever had. It was far too drinkable for something that strong. I wish I bought a growler full of it. In the end I did buy a growler, just because of their distinctive style, but having it filled with their Bootlegger Black Lager made it no trouble at all. Having to use later for my homebrews is only icing on the cake.
A short while later we piled into a cab to our next stop, 21st Amendment.
Postscript: Writing could be stronger, but I like the narrative structure. I have great memories from this trip.