Friday, March 31, 2006
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.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Monday, March 27, 2006
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Saturday, March 25, 2006
What's going on at Toronado? Everything! They've got the beers, they've got the crowds, and they've got the attitude. As one of the premier beer bars in the country...yes, the country...they do not fail to disappoint. My only disappointment is that I did not stay longer :(
I suppose that my first wrong move is that I opted for the 3-mile walk from my hotel in the Union Square area to the bar in The Haight neighborhood. (Healthy, but time-consuming). Anyone around the San Francisco area 30-40 years ago will remember this area. Although, it's become a bit more gentrified over time, it still holds on to some of its free-loving, free-being feel for which it's become famous.
In my short visit to Toronado, I only enjoyed the Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA. A classic West Coast hoppy ale. A phenomenal chance to enjoy a beer that is a bit more difficult to find on the East Coast. Then, I met a gentleman named Paul Hayward. I was already planning to head next to Magnolia Pub & Brewery approximately 3/4 mile up the road closer to Golden Gate Park. He was headed there too, so I decided to leave Toronado early and meet up with him there. So, while I did not have the chance to sufficiently sample the beer menu at Toronado, I could immediately sense that they have a great thing going there.
The atmosphere is so relaxed, so unpretentious, but with some of the best beer from around the country and around the world. The draft list numbers approximately 50 and the bottle menu lists around 100 beers including some of the best and hardest to find beers. The decor, as you can see from the picture to the left, is also quite interesting. Signs, tap handles, bottles, bumper stickers, etc. adorn the walls. The service was adequate without being pushy or obnoxious. If you're in the San Francisco area, and do not make the effort to get here then you are certainly missing a great opportunity and experience.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Case in point; there exists an official San Francisco Brewers Guild. They even publish a guide/map of the member establishments across the city. I'm not aware (though, probably not the best person to ask :) of organizations like this elsewhere in the country. (Plus, in all candor, I'm only aware of what they have done through their brochure and their unfinished website. But, hey, are they not on the right track thinking about the "right stuff"?) Do any of our readers know of these sort of groups around the U.S. or around the world?
So, I'll end at this point because I will have plenty to say (as usual ;-) in upcoming writings about San Francisco beer bars, brewpubs, and breweries. We look forward to hearing from any of our readers with similar experiences in this great city.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Monday, March 20, 2006
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Friday, March 17, 2006
Fat Head’s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Anyone who follows the beer bar scene in the United States has probably heard of Fat Head’s. You may not have been there yet, but you most likely have read of them in a beer paper or heard of them mentioned in a discussion of bars that maintain a consistently well-developed draft list. If you have been there, then you should probably agree with my statement.
In a city with a significant beer history and current scene respected in many circles, the South Side district in Pittsburgh offers Fat Head’s with its approximately 40 draft lines and one cask conditioned offering. Plus, they recently added a second-floor merchandise and 6-pack shop (see picture at bottom).
Accompanying the fine beer list is lengthy food menu serving up everything you would expect in the form of pub grub; from buffalo wings to burgers (very large burgers) to soup and sandwiches and salads. Plus, with TVs within easy viewing distance of practically every seat, Fat Head’s is a destination for watching your favorite sporting event as well. But, back to the beer.
On this particular Sunday afternoon at Fat Head’s, our visit just after noontime still had us waiting approximately 20 minutes for a table of four. The crowd tends to cover all types from young and single to families with children. While we waited we had time to enjoy our first brew.
My drinking buddies and I started with Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale and Rogue Mogul IPA. It was standing room only at the bar, but this could have been partly because the ACC championship (which Duke University won) had just started on TV. We had the chance to enjoy these fine beers and check out the merchandise shop upstairs. Finally seated, we ordered some excellent wings (Cajun Comfort and Garlic Parmesan sauces), sandwiches, and salads.
With our food we ordered the Oatmeal Stout from Erie Brewing Company, the Nugget Nectar from Troegs, the 10 Years Alt from Victory Brewing, and the Troegs Beer Union Brown Ale. No complaints were heard from anyone! The beautiful thing about Fat Head’s is that for starters it has all the makings of being just a “normal” bar. No pretentions, no attitude, no hassle. Then, layer on the good food, ambience, and friendly waitstaff. And, for good measure, add a phenomenal beer list.
Without going into too much wordy detail (see the picture above for current tap list and left for bottle list), the available drafts will always comprise many beer styles from breweries (small, medium, and large) around the world.
In my many experiences at Fat Head’s, the beers are served appropriately and have never disappointed. Though, this time I must say that I was disappointed because I had really wanted to try two different beers which were still on the draft list but had already been sent on their way obviously with other similar beer lovers (For the record, they were Great Divide Titan IPA and Bell's Two Hearted Ale; note to self, keep on the lookout elsewhere for these beers to try!)
Short conclusion here should be obvious. When in Pittsburgh, if you visit one place only (unless you want to visit a brewery like Penn, Church Brew Works, or East End), make it Fat Head’s. You should not be disappointed.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
The two prevailing stories are that growlers used to be metal beer pails used to transport beer to workers and or to a person's home and that a certain packaging company created the glass version of the growler. Some mention of the origin of the word being rooted in growling stomachs of hungry workers or growling pails of carbonated beer is discussed as well.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Monday, March 13, 2006
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Even though this wouldn't be considered by most to be a high quality beer bar, the word 'beer' is in the name of the establishment....so, what the heck?! This was the kickoff to our Pittsburgh hockey trip to see the Flyers play the Penguins.
Approximately three hours from home to Clearfield, Pennsylvania and we were sitting in front of Troegs Rugged Trail Nut Brown Ale. There were also beers from Appalachian Brewing, Guinness, and Smithwick's. So, while the beers here might disappoint many "beer geeks," the food menu here is what steals the show.
You may remember in 2005 a young college woman who finished a 6 pound burger challenge (11 pounds with all the fixings). It was at Denny's where she conquered the challenge.
While we only tackled the 1/2 pound burgers, we can vouch for the vastness and quality of the food menu. Everything is available here from buffalo wings (with at least 20 sauces), to burgers, to salads, to sandwiches, to Italian, to Irish, to Mexican, and the list goes on...... There were many TVs (plus a couple of large-screen as well) to satisfy the sports crowd.
The service on this particular Saturday early afternoon was also quite friendly. In a nutshell, this may not be a beer destination, but if you're passing through North/Central Pennsylvania and are hungry, Denny's is a great place to stop.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Friday, March 10, 2006
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Monday, March 06, 2006
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Friday, March 03, 2006
Hello? Is anyone still out there? Ok, I think I may have heard a noise....or maybe it was my own browser answering. Well, anyway, we've been up to some other work over the past week and have seriously neglected our posting duties. So, let's get this thing rolling again.
To kickstart, I have some notes for you from last Saturday's (Feb. 25th) Vertical Barleywine tasting at the General Lafayette. The General Lafayette Inn & Brewery in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania has been pouring quality brew for approximately ten years. It's reputation, under the guidance of Chris Leonard and Russ Czajka, has continued to grow by leaps and bounds. And these barleywines being showcased give a peek to the uninitiated into the good things going on at the General.
What does a vertical barleywine tasting look like? Well, take a cask conditioned barrel of each of the last five years of barleywine and sit them up on the bar....tap 'em and they shall come. And come they did. By the time that I arrived around 2 p.m., it was standing-room only. But, by some stroke of luck, there was one barstool sitting open in front of the taps. I had been painting doors and doing household chores all morning, so I was happy to sit front-and-center.
With a lineup of good brews on tap and five years' worth of barleywine to choose from, it was a difficult decision. Chris made things easy on me by spreading a placemat in front of me and serving up 6 ounces each of the 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 barleywines.
Hopefully, you will be able to read the tasting notes provided on the placemat in the picture to the left, along with the IBUs and ABV measures. Now I was set for the next 2 hours :)
Since I was by myself for this tasting, I decided to act the beer geek role, complete with notepad and camera on the bar. Unabashedly, I began to scribble away. But, the notes got carried away, so I've distilled them down here for you. Instead of the traditional notes on each beer, and for the sake of brevity, I've ranked the five barleywines with a brief note of the most distinguishing feature to me of each beer.
2003 McGlynn's Ghost - A moderate nose, that explodes into a fully-packed flavor bursting of rich malts, alcohol, and very noticeable and present, but not overwhelming, hop flavor
2002 Lafayette's Revenge - An extremely well-balanced beer of malt and alcohol flavors that is reminiscence in mouthfeel of a good-bodied port; very similar to the 2003, just a 1/2 step down in "wow factor"
2004 The Phantom - A softer and thinner brew with faint citrus flavors; therefore, a bit faster drinking than the preceding two
2001 Barley Standing - A bit like the '03, but with noticeable tartness; some grapefruit flavors
2005 The Phantom - A cloudy caramel colored beer with a heavy alcohol aroma and not an extremely long-lasting flavor; the alcohol brings a "warming" feeling for sure :) Young and not quite that well-rounded, but give it time!
By the end of my afternoon, I made a few new friends and enjoyed The Grim Reaper Imperial Stout (recommended). And, oh yeah, a growler of The Olde Curmudgeon Old Stock Ale made its way home with me to share with Adam (recommended, but only a pint's worth).
p.s. Hopefully, the gentleman to my right had better fortunes after his stop at the bar. He was only there because his broken-down car was towed to the service station across the street! Couldn't talk him into a barleywine or anything more adventurous than the Pale Ale.....but at least he did enjoy it.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
- The Belgian Cafe - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed (brief) January 2008
- For Pete's Sake - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed June 2007
- Marathon On The Square - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed (brief) May 2007
- Zot - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed (brief) April 2007
- The Foodery - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed January 2007
- South Philadelphia Taproom - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed May 2006
- Tria - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed March 2006
- Bridgid's - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed March 2006
- Monk's Cafe (Pizza Port & Russian River dinner) - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed January 2006
- The Black Door - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed November 2005 [Now Closed]
- The Foodery - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed November 2005
- Independence Brew Pub - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed November 2005 [Now Closed]
- Ludwig's Garten - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed November 2005 [Now Closed]
- Grey Lodge Pub - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed October 2005
- World Cafe Live - Philadelphia, PA - reviewed September 2005
- Monk's Cafe (St. Feuillien dinner)- Philadelphia, PA - reviewed September 2005
Suburbs of Philadelphia, PA
- TJ's Restaurant & Drinkery - Paoli, PA - reviewed December 2008
- Vidalia Marketplace - Lansdale, PA - reviewed January 2008 [Now Closed]
- Teresa's Next Door - Wayne, PA - reviewed (brief) June 2007
- Stewart's Brewing Company - Bear, DE - reviewed June 2007
- Cosimo - Malvern, PA - reviewed (brief) May 2007
- Destiny Brewing Co. - Phoenixville, PA - reviewed June 2006 [Now Closed]
- Which Brew - Easton, PA - reviewed April 2006 [Now Closed]
- General Lafayette Brewery - Lafayette Hill, PA - reviewed February 2006
- Victory Brewing - Downingtown, PA - reviewed January 2006
- Sly Fox Brewery - Royersford, PA - reviewed November 2005
- Flying Pig Saloon - Malvern, PA - reviewed November 2005
- Bethlehem Brew Works - Bethlehem, PA - reviewed October 2005
- Firewaters - Glen Mills, PA - reviewed September 2005
- Iron Hill Brewery - West Chester, PA - reviewed August 2005
New York City, NY
- Blind Tiger Ale House (with liquor license) - New York, NY - reviewed July 2007
- The Collins Bar - New York, NY - reviewed December 2006 [Now Closed]
- Essex Ale House - New York, NY - reviewed December 2006 [Now Closed]
- Blind Tiger Ale House - New York, NY - reviewed September 2006
- Stout, NYC - New York, NY - reviewed September 2005
- Heartland Brewery - New York, NY - reviewed September 2005
- The Ginger Man - New York, NY - reviewed September 2005
- Standings Bar - New York, NY - reviewed September 2005
- Burp Castle - New York, NY - reviewed September 2005
- Hop Devil Grill - New York, NY - reviewed September 2005
Washington, D.C. and metro area
- Dave Alexander's R.F.D. - Washington, D.C. - reviewed December 2005
- Dogfish Head Alehouse - Gaithersburg, MD - reviewed December 2005 * Dogfish Head Addendum
- The Brickskeller - Washington, D.C. - reviewed August 2005
- RedBones BBQ - Somerville, MA - reviewed May 2006
- John Harvard's - Cambridge, MA - reviewed May 2006
- Cambridge Brewing Co. - Cambridge, MA - reviewed May 2006 [Part 1] [Part 2]
- Beer Works - Boston, MA - reviewed May 2006 [Part 1] [Part 2]
- Linwood Bar and Grille - Boston, MA - reviewed May 2006 [Now Closed]
- Brasserie Jo - Boston, MA - reviewed May 2006
- Harpoon Brewery - Boston, MA - reviewed May 2006
San Francisco, CA
- The Irish Bank - San Francisco, CA - reviewed July 2006
- 21st Amendment - San Francisco, CA - reviewed March 2006
- Anchor Brewing - San Francisco, CA - reviewed March 2006
- Gordon Biersch - San Francisco, CA - reviewed March 2006
- Johnny Foley's Irish House - San Francisco, CA - reviewed March 2006
- Magnolia Pub & Brewery - San Francisco, CA - reviewed March 2006
- Rogue Ales Public House - San Francisco, CA - reviewed March 2006
- San Francisco Brewing Co. - San Francisco, CA - reviewed March 2006
- Thirsty Bear Brewing Co. - San Francisco, CA - reviewed March 2006
- Toronado - San Francisco, CA - reviewed March 2006
- Barclay's Pub - Oakland, CA - reviewed February 2008
- Father's Office - Santa Monica, CA - reviewed February 2008
- Casey's Irish Pub - Los Angeles, CA - reviewed January 2007
- T.H. Brewster's (at Sheraton Four Points LAX) - Los Angeles, CA - reviewed January 2007; return visit February 2008
- Bonaventure Brewing Company - Los Angeles, CA - reviewed January 2007
- Bo's Barbecue & Catering - Lafayette, CA - reveiwed December 2006
- E.J. Phair - Concord, CA - reviewed December 2006
- Anderson Valley Brewing Co. - Boonville, CA - reviewed September 2006
- North Coast Brewing Co. - Fort Bragg, CA - reviewed September 2006
- Russian River Brewery - Santa Rosa, CA - reviewed September 2006
- Iron Springs Pub & Brewery - Fairfax, CA - reviewed September 2006
- Marin Brewing Co. - Larkspur, CA - reviewed September 2006
- Moylan's Brewing Co. - Novato, CA - reviewed September 2006
- Half Moon Bay Brewing - Princeton-by-the-Sea, CA - reviewed September 2006
- Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing - Santa Cruz, CA - reviewed September 2006
- 99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall - Santa Cruz, CA - reviewed September 2006
- Elevator Brewing - Columbus, OH - reviewed October 2008
- Great Lakes Brewing - Cleveland, OH - reviewed September 2008
- La Cave du Vin - Cleveland, OH - reviewed September 2008
- BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse - Addison, TX - reviewed August 2008
- Central Market - Dallas, TX - reviewed June 2008
- Big Buck Brewery & Steakhouse - Grapevine, TX - reviewed June 2008
- Five Points Grill - Birmingham, AL - reviewed September 2007
- Ale Asylum - Madison, WI - reviewed September 2007
- Dave's Pub - Birmingham, AL - reviewed August 2007
- Twain's - Decatur, GA - reviewed (brief) June 2007
- Gibney's Pub - Atlanta, GA - reviewed (brief) April 2007
- Max Lager's - Atlanta, GA - reviewed April 2007
- Big River Grille & Brew Works - Lake Buena Vista, FL - reviewed November 2006
- Selin's Grove Brewing Co. - Selinsgrove, PA - reviewed July 2006
- Barley Creek Brewing Co. - Tannersville, PA - reviewed July 2006
- Great Dane Brewing Co. - Madison, WI - reviewed June 2006
- The Old Fashioned - Madison, WI - reviewed June 2006
- Willimantic Brewing Co. - Willimantic, CT - reviewed May 2006
- Otto's Pub & Brewery - State College, PA - reviewed May 2006
- Johnstown Brewing Co. - Johnstown, PA - reviewed April 2006
- Brick Store Pub - Decatur, GA - reviewed April 2006
- Vortex Bar and Grill - Atlanta, GA - reviewed April 2006
- Old Harbor Brewery - San Juan, PR - reviewed March 2006
- Church Brew Works - Pittsburgh, PA - reviewed March 2006
- Fat Head's - Pittsburgh, PA - reviewed March 2006
- North Country Brewing - Slippery Rock, PA - reviewed March 2006
- Denny's Beer Barrel Pub - Clearfield, PA - reviewed March 2006
- City Steam - Hartford, CT - reviewed October 2005
- The Brewer's Art - Baltimore, MD - reviewed August 2005