Friday, March 31, 2006
21st Amendment in San Francisco, CA
Have you visited the 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco, California? What is the best thing about 21st Amendment? Its proximity to downtown San Francisco? (business district, Union Square, Embarcadero) Its closeness to the now-named AT&T Park of the San Francisco Giants? (2-3 blocks) Ok, Ok, let’s get on with this review. As you can already tell, 21A has a lot of good things going for it even before you walk through the front door. As one of the better-known brewpubs in San Francisco (and a hard-to-forget name), 21A has established itself as a destination on anyone’s beer tour of San Francisco. From my research, though, their tap list never seems to be lengthy. The day that I was at 21A, only 3 beers were flowing. The next day they introduced two more, including a cask-conditioned imperial IPA. But, their website seems to indicate that 5 beers at a time may be their maximum. Maybe I shouldn’t quibble because what they do present to their thirsty patrons is respectable. The layout of their space is pretty simple. When you enter the front door from the street, you are first greeted by a square bar. It's a bit awkward, though, with really only two sides that are comfortable for sitting. The third side has a higher, deeper bar and is adjacent to the dining room. In any case, the main dining room of simple tables aligned in rows is overlooked by a balcony of additional dining room seating above the open-air kitchen. For this visit, I immediately jumped into some garlic fries (you can’t avoid these things when in the Bay Area; Gilroy is not far away) and a BBQ Chicken Pizza. These choices went incredibly well with my first brew selection, the E.S.B. This underrated style, the E.S.B., at the 21A was an incredibly delicious, well-balanced, easy drinking beer. Great introduction to their beer. Now, for seconds, I wanted something a bit more complex with bigger flavors. I was rewarded for said request in the form of the General Pippo’s Porter. Who the general is I never discovered, but his beer namesake was delicious. Dark, full of rich chocolate flavors, and yet still drinkable this was a fine example of a quality porter. While not quite as hopped as some porters, I certainly was not complaining. So, this now makes two excellent porter experiences in the month of March, woohoo!, North Country in Slippery Rock, PA and 21st Amendment in San Francisco, CA. So, what next? I’m happy to admit that I returned the next day for a taste of the delicious imperial IPA cask placed atop the bar. A very good IPA served at room temperature just as I’d expect. If I’m not mistaken they choose a different cask conditioned ale to serve their customers each Wednesday. Those generous folks, eh?! As if the beer itself was not enough to bring you in to 21A, the service nicely rounds out the experience. The staff seems to know just how to strike the right balance of being friendly, talkative, and approachable without being overbearing. On my return trip, I made the acquaintance of Brian (uh, maybe that was his name?) who was working the bar and originally from Wynnewood, PA….only approx. 15 miles from my home. As they say, “it’s a small world.” I feel like I still need to know more about 21A. On one hand, I learned the story of the artwork on the walls (probably not interesting enough to explain in this space…..but, ask me if you’d like to know more). On the other hand, I still do not know who General Pippo is! I don’t know the story of the disco ball in the brewing room. I missed out on the iPod night, where customers bring in their iPods with playlists that are played for the entire bar to enjoy. I would also have liked to plan my visit more carefully so that I could have met with Shaun the Brewer. What would be better? How about a Wednesday afternoon baseball game watching the San Francisco Giants, then retiring to 21A for an evening of dinner, cask beer, and music? Note to self: Must plan a new trip now! p.s. If you still have not figured out the origin of the brewery's name, click here.