Monday, April 21, 2008

Shall we put a wrap on the Toronado Barleywine Festival? (Magnolia and 21A while we're at it?)

In addition to the results and few pictures that I gave to you almost two months ago, here's a bit more of a wrap-up from one day in San Francisco that included the Toronado Barleywine Festival, late lunch/early dinner (linner?) and many beers at Magnolia, and a "nightcap" at the 21A (21st Amendment). Timely, it'is n't, but hopefully you'll enjoy just the same.

The Barleywine Festival produced some judged winners from Lagunitas, Stone, and Deschutes Super Jubel, Drake's Frankenwein, and Schooner's Old Woody as my top, let's see that's, four of the afternoon. Bringing in a surprise honorable mention was (new to San Francisco) Wunder Brewing's Old Knuckledragger. As Jay had mentioned, it sure was odd seeing the draft menu above the bar with a bunch of empty slots while the taps were pouring many of these unique brews. I'd share the tasting notes, but I get a feeling that after all this time that has passed, it likely won't interest you all that much.

Ironic that we ran into Dave McLean on the way out the door. We were ready for serious table food, the likes of which only Magnolia could satisfy at this point. And there he was to keep us from it. We chatted for a while about happenings at the pub, his (relatively) newer Alembic further down Haight near the Park, and his ties to Pennsylvania. Great guy Dave is, it was a shame that we were headed in opposite directions.

We then strolled the half mile or so up, and down and up, Haight to Dave's Magnolia. It was just one of those picture perfect San Franciscan days; we could have walked to the ocean. Inside Magnolia, the mayhem was much more subdued than Toronado. But with Strong Beer Month staring us dead in the face, there was no shortage of beer loving fans there to get their Strong Beer Month card punched (yes, seriously. PBW 2009, take note). We scored a table after a few minutes of waiting, then were pleased to see Kelly (newlywed Kelly that is, congrats to Ben the, sounds weird, is that like Bob the Builder?) come over to our table to see what we wanted for drink and food. I've run into Kelly a couple of times in the past. She certainly exudes the all-around great vibe coming out of the atmosphere at Magnolia...and Ben adds to the good vibe coming out of the kettle...a good pairing, I must say, of two fine people.

So we did the whole strong beer thing, putting back the strong beers with the Old Thuderpussy, Promised Land (Proving Ground "on steroids"), and Smokestout Impy really standing out along with the food we've come to expect from Magnolia. With these unique beers available for Strong Beer Month, I was still missing the Saison de Lilly. It was also my first time at Magnolia not putting back at least one each of the co2 and cask Proving Ground IPA. Too many other goodies. The saison gods were smiling on me, though, as it was available the following day at the Celebrator Anniversary Party.

Free range, organic, locally grown, sustainable, etc. You'll find this kind of language all over the well-conceived fresh menu. We jumped into a cheese plate and other light snacks to add to our food base, had our tickets punched for the 6 strong beers then regretfully went back to Toronado....cuz some things just gots to be done! I figure by the time I return to Magnolia, the renovations that they've undertaken will have been completed. After 10+ years in business, they're taking the care to polish and improve for the future. You can read more about the changes over here.

After another completely delightful walk (this time mostly downhill, or was that the beer's influence?) and stops into a few of the Haights "unique" stores, we wound up back at Toronado to polish off a few more samples of barleywines. Perhaps not too surprisingly, we saw others who had made the same bounce between Toronado and Magnolia...and later, 21st Amendment. At the Toronado, winners had been announced, kegs of beer were being knocked off one by one, darkness was falling, but the crowd's enthusiasm was rising. The perfect weather probably had something to do with it. If I recall my notes correctly, the Russian River Old Gubbilygotch was the first to go.

Just around the time we decided we would hop across town to the 21A, Justin Crossley and The Brewing Network crew rolled in. They were doing the crawl in the opposite direction, coming from 21A and moving westward to Toronado and on to Magnolia for dinner. This would be the first of a few run-ins with these guys during the weekend.

After a zippy cab ride across town, we drug our growing-weary bodies into 21st Amendment. It had been a long day of carousing through the city and putting many barleywines and other similarly strong beers behind our belts, so the pep in our step was going a bit flat. We chowed on a pizza (ugh! no garlic fries), completed the Strong Beer Month punchcard, got our souvenir glass, and called it quits. After faking the walk, we grabbed a passing empty cab and went back to the hotel to recharge for Sunday, which held in store for us the Celebrator 20th Anniversary Party. You've already seen the pictures over here and the stories over here. It was a great day that I finally got to share with Patty three of my favorite San Franciscan gems.


Anonymous said...

I visited your site today and think we both could really benefit from exchanging links to each other. We could either do a reciprocal link or a three way link trade which would be most beneficial to both of us as it is a one way link to each other. Our site is

With the three way link trade we would add a blog post on that linked to your main page and 2 sub pages via keyword. In return you would link back to The advantage to this is that you get 3 links back from in return for linking to

If you are interested in swapping links please let us know, email us at

Thanks for your time.


Kevin said...

I would certainly wait to see what is going to happen with Chad Johnson blog before I made any trades but that is just me.

Anonymous said...

Great post, I really enjoyed it. I will have to bookmark this site for later.

The Senator said...

Hey Im in one of the pictures! Way to raise my internet fame a bit. That day was a wonderful day, one of the Toronados best yet.