Steph’s West Coast Beerventure

Steph’s West Coast Beerventure

Steph recently spent a couple weeks roaming from San Fransisco to Las Vegas, hitting up some awesome beer spots on the way…

San Francisco is a phenomenal city. The people, the sites, the bridges, the food, and… the beer. I enjoyed them all.

On our first night, we stopped at La Trappe Café, a Belgian bistro and Trappist lounge. The bar in the basement boasts 15 local and unusual beers on tap, as well as an impressive bottle list. I told the bartender that I was from the Philly area, and that I’ve gone to Monk’s many times, so I wanted a beer that I “couldn’t get at Monk’s.” He recommended a beer they had just gotten in from Spain, a pale ale called Pura Pale. It was quite delicious!

After that, we trekked up the hill a few more blocks to the Rogue Ale House. After being greeted by rocking music and a chalkboard sign saying, “Seat yo’self,” the very welcoming and social bartender served up a Fresh Roast Brown Ale. I also grabbed a bottle of something delish to sample on a future episode.

New Belgium beer stand at O.co Coliseum

New Belgium beer stand at O.co Coliseum

The next day we drove to O.co Coliseum for the Sox/A’s game.  I was blown away by the craft beer selection in the ballpark. Stands offered beers from Anchor, Lagunitas, Pyramid, New Belgium, Red Hook, and Kona, among others.

After the game, we toured Pyramid Breweries in Berkeley, CA. We had to wear hairnets and safety glasses, and we weren’t allowed to take pictures in the brewery itself, but the tour was interesting and informative. Following the tour, we sampled a few of their beers including their new seasonal, Curve Ball Blonde.

We then went to one of America’s first brewpubs, Triple Rock Brewery and Alehouse, also in Berkeley. A notable beer here included “Lead Belly”, a simple pale ale brewed only with the Ales for ALS hop blend. The beer was inspired by the Louisiana blues legend who succumbed to ALS after a 13-year music career. Another was a Cascadian Dark Ale called ”Midnight Special,” named after a traditional folk song recorded by Lead Belly.

Beer and pizza from Pizza Orgasmica and Brewing Company in San Francisco

Beer and pizza from Pizza Orgasmica and Brewing Company in San Francisco

The next day we went to Pizza Orgasmica and Brewing Company for lunch after exploring Chinatown and the financial district of San Francisco. The pizza here is delicious. I was ecstatic to create my own vegan pie, while Rich enjoyed a shrimp and garlic pizza. Their IPA paired well with lunch.

Later, we visited ThirstyBear Brewing Company. This organic brewery served up a variety of beers alongside Spanish cuisine. I enjoyed most of the beers in the sampler, but it was the Kozlov Stout aged in French oak wine barrels that previously held hop flavored whiskey that was most memorable. Wow. This complex, interesting, delicious beer made me a ThirstyBear fan.

21st Amendment Brewery has a restaurant located only a few blocks away from AT&T Park. Even though it wasn’t a game day, the place was still packed. I snagged up the last seat at the bar and enjoyed a Dähm Kölsch, then took a peek into the brewery.

The next day we explored the city by car, following the scenic 49-mile drive. One of our stops was Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant. While most people sat at the tables with the view of the beach, I sat at the bar with a view of the brewery.

21st Amendment brewpub in San Francisco

21st Amendment brewpub in San Francisco

I had the  Saison du Chalet de La Plage and the Darkside Belgian Stout, then met Brewmaster Aron Deorsey, a former homebrewer with a chemistry background. After attending the 22-week extensive brewing program at the University of California at Davis, he worked at Pyramid Breweries, then started at Beach Chalet in 2003.

For lunch we went to Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery. I had the Big Cypress Brown, a 3.7% American brown ale, which was one of my favorite beers I had the entire trip. The creamy mouthfeel, nutty flavor, roasty aroma… it was just delicious. It’s the kind of beer I could sit and drink all day. And everyone that knows me knows that I don’t usually drink the same beer twice.

Visiting Social Kitchen and Brewery was an experience. We scanned the area for a parking space for at least a half hour, then I jumped out of the car to “quickly buy a growler.” Once inside, I was encouraged to try a few samples, many recommended to me by the guy sitting next to me at the bar. I settled on filling my growler with the Waterfront Porter and left. If you go here, take public transportation.

So even after our parking woes (or lack of parking woes I suppose), we drove to the infamous beer bar,Toronado Pub (for those wondering, we got a space right out front after circling the block only a few times). This place is as awesome as everyone says it is. I was very lucky to get a seat at the bar because it was packed. There was one bartender, and even though she was crazy busy, I didn’t have to wait too long for a beer. While the bottle list was tempting, I stuck with a Sierra Nevada Hoptimum on cask. FYI: this place is cash only.

The next day we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and headed north. After hiking in Muir Woods, we had lunch at Moylan’s Brewery and Restaurant in Novato. The Dragoons Dry Irish Stout was really good, but my favorite was Hopsickle. Wait. When did I start loving hoppy beers so much? Oh yeah, and make sure you order the garlic fries.

Beer line-up at Moylan’s Brewery and Restaurant in Novato, CA

Beer line-up at Moylan’s Brewery and Restaurant in Novato, CA

 Our next stop was Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, CA. The new taproom and outdoor space were awesome. I had the A Little Sumpin’ Wild Ale while sitting outside enjoying the California sun. During a stop at the brewery store, I met the brewery dog, and did a little shopping. I probably would have spent hours here if it wasn’t for the anticipation for our next stop…

Russian River sampler

Russian River sampler

Russian River Brewing Company. Finally. Located in Santa Rosa, CA, this is by far one of my favorite breweries. They make some of my favorite beers ever, including Sanctification and Supplication.

The beer sampler included 14 beers, all delicious. Some notable ones I had for the first time included Propitiation, a barrel aged sour porter, and Row 2, Hill 56, a 100% Simcoe hop pale ale. I may have gotten some beer to go, but don’t tell Wayne and Dan.

After that, we made a quick stop at Third Street AleWorks, also in Santa Rosa. The beer here was good, and the bartender was super friendly. The Stonefly Oatmeal Stout was my favorite.

Our last stop of the day was Bear Republic Brewing Company in Healdsburg, CA. I wish I could have sampled more beers here, but after a day of brewery hopping, I chose only one beer. Luckily I had chosen wisely because the Prickly Pear Big Bear, a nice sour stout, was quite enjoyable.

Southern Pacific Brewing in San Francisco

Southern Pacific Brewing in San Francisco

The next day we visited Southern Pacific Brewing in San Francisco. The ten thousand square foot warehouse has been transformed into a bright, expansive bar, restaurant and brewery, complete with an upper mezzanine and outdoor patio. I had the California Blonde, which was citrusy and refreshing.

After that, we toured Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco. This is a popular stop for beer lovers. We made our reservations seven months in advance. We spent almost two hours at the brewery touring everywhere from brewing area to the hop room and the bottling line to the cellar. We also sampled eight of their beers including the Fort Ross Farmhouse Ale from the Zymaster series.

Next we visited Speakeasy Ales and Lagers. The 1930s prohibition-era decor kept us wondering if any mobsters were going to walk through the door. The creatively named beers include The Witness, Vendetta IPA, Payback Porter, and Scarface Imperial Stout. They sell beer to go in bottles and growlers, which have suspicious looking eyes on them.

Beers at Speakeasy Ales and Lagers in San Francisco

Beers at Speakeasy Ales and Lagers in San Francisco

Another awesome spot was City Beer Store. Part bar, part bottle shop, this place has serious options for beer geeks. I picked up a bottle of Almanac Beer Company’s Farmer’s Reserve No. 3, a sour beer, of course, to enjoy later.

We ended our day with a Giants game at AT&T Park. This part also had a great selection of craft beers, including an Anchor Brewing Company stand.

After an incredible day at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, we spent the night in Bakersfield, CA, where we dined at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewery. This was my first time at one of the chain’s locations, and I enjoyed the food and beer.

The next day, we visited Mojave National Preserve, then we made it to Las Vegas where my incredibly awesome uncle met us at our hotel with a growler of Red Rock, an Oktoberfest beer fromBarley’s Casino and Brewing Company.

Bar at Boulder Dam Brewing Company in Boulder City, NV

Bar at Boulder Dam Brewing Company in Boulder City, NV

We headed out and had dinner at Boulder Dam Brewing Company, located just a few miles from the Hoover Dam in Boulder City. I enjoyed a beer sampler alongside my tasty veggie burger. The Hell’s Hole Hefeweizen and Awesome Blossom IPA were the standouts.

Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped at Hi Scores Bar Arcade in Henderson, Nevada. This place boasts a light up beer menu. Let that sink in for a moment. You open the menu, and it lights up. Oh yeah, they have arcade games you can play for free including Ms. Pac Man and Asteroids. And since it’s Vegas, they have video poker at the bar. I enjoyed a Rolle Bolle by New Belgium Brewing Company.

The next night we explored Freemont Street and ate at Triple 7 Restaurant and Microbrewery located in the Main Street Station Casino. I enjoyed the view of the beautiful brewing equipment while sampling their beers including the Marker Pale Ale and Black Chip Porter.

The next day we explored Death Valley, and I needed something serious to quench my thirst, so we went to the Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas. The huge German pretzel and liter of Hefeweizen was just what I needed to recover from the hottest spot on Earth.

Our last brewery of the trip was Big Dog’s Brewing Company, not far off the Strip. The Dirty Dog IPA was hoppy and fresh.

Dan, Wayne, and I have often talked about our grandfather and how much he enjoys beer, but our Uncle Chuck, who lives in Henderson, Nevada, loves beer as well, and he has good taste when it comes to beer. While visiting him, he introduced me to many tasty beers including Hop Ride IPA and Calico Brown Ale by Tenaya Creek Brewery in Las Vegas and Six Rivers Brewery’s Chili Pepper Spicy Ale. (See my New Brew Review here!) He also had me try Blue Diamond Brewing Company’s Riverside Resort Light Beer, which he calls the “worst beer in the world.” The verdict? I only took one sip of it.

Check out some more pics from Steph’s Left Coast Beerventure

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  1. Pingback: Steph’s New Brew Review: Toaster Pastry | Beer Busters

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