Beer Warrior tours California and Las Vegas
Thursday 22nd November I departed from Heathrow airport, bound for San Francisco. A 10 hour flight meant the arrival time in the US was early afternoon due to the 8 hour time difference. As this was the fourth Thursday in November most outlets were closed on arrival due to the holiday of Thanksgiving. So an early night was taken to prepare for a day out on the Napa Valley wine tasting train. This trip included a gourmet three course lunch and a chance to taste some of the local wines. Arriving back in the city by late afternoon meant a free evening to visit some of the city’s brew pubs. First on the agenda was the Thirsty Bear on Howard Street 7 regular beers are usually on tap and with the occasional seasonal beer available. So I chose to partake in the taster tray of a 3oz serving of each available beer for 75c a glass.
1. Polar Bear
2. Golden Vanilla
3. Valencia Wheat
4. Brown Bear
5. Meyer E.S.B
6. Koslov Stout
7. Howard Street I.P.A.
The seasonal beer available was a strong barley wine type beer definitely an acquired taste. Cask ale is available every Tuesday.
Having sampled all the beers and a small glass of my favourite, the I.P.A accompanied by good conversation with an American who actually knew what beer was all about, it was time to move on.
Next stop was the Gordon Biersch outlet on Harrison Street. Situated on the bay front almost under the Bay Bridge a good place to watch the world drift by. I was offered a free sample of all the beers available:
1. Hefeweizen, 5.5%
2. Pilsner, 5.3%
3. Marzen, 5.7%
4. Schwarzbier, 4.3%
5. Blonde Bock, 7.0%
Seasonal beers were available also. A pint of the Schwarzbier followed to wash down a snack of chicken wings.
On the way back to the hotel there was time to visit the 21st Amendment on 2nd Street for a nightcap the beer range here varies including seasonal beers such a Watermelon Wheat. I sampled the American Pale.
Saturday was time to visit the famous Golden Gate Bridge, the Presido and the Golden Gate Park, when it was time for lunch the Beach Chalet situated on the Great Highway on the Pacific Coast seemed the ideal place. This place is worth a visit just to see the murals on the wall. To accompany lunch was a tasting tray of the following:
1. VFW Light,4.8%
2. California Kind, 5.6%
3. Presido India Pale Ale, 6.3%
4. Ocean Beach Oktoberfest, 5.8%
5. Riptide Red, 5.6%
6. Golden Gate Porter, 5.5%
Other beers are available at different times of the year.
Saturday evening led to revisits to Thirsty Bear and Gordon Biersch
Sunday dawned and it was tine to ride the famous San Francisco cable cars. For $18 you can buy a 3 day passport for all public transport within the city. After a few rides up and down the hills the ideal place to spend lunchtime was the San Francisco brewery on Columbus Avenue 8 beers were available and after a good chat with the barman I was able to sample them all. Beer range here also varies but the following were available on my visit.
1. Andromeda Wheat
2. SF Pale Ale
3. Shanghai I.P.A
4. Earthquake Red
5. Gripmans Porter
6. Rainbow Stout
7. Albatross Lager
8. Emperor Norton Lager
When it was time to move on a ride on the steepest cable car line, the California-Van Ness line, seemed to be a good idea, as Tommy’s Joynt is situated on the corner of Van Ness and Geary. This is a traditional bar catering for all kinds of drinkers. A least 6 beers are available, I had chance to sample Big Daddy IPA from the local Speak Easy brewery and Pyramid Hefeweizen. I also became involved in the celebrations as the 49ers managed to win at football (the American variety). After a brief siesta an evening meal in the famous Chinatown preceded another visit to the San Francisco brewery and a late night, early morning (2am) at Tommy’s.
Monday was time to leave my heart in San Francisco and move on to the Sequoia National Park. This is the home of the largest and the third largest trees in the world. Ideal if you like seclusion, the restaurant serves Sierra Nevada Pale Ale so all is not lost in the beer stakes. However, be prepared for an early night as 7pm is closing time. For the more adventurous there is a local bar, the Sierra Inn, is worth a visit. Only bottled beer sold but Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Fat Tire from the New Belgium brewery were available. After 2 nights chilling out it was time to move on in the direction of Death Valley.
Friday was time to journey to Las Vegas, but a visit to Badwater, the lowest place in the western hemisphere, 282 feet below sea level, preceded the journey. Standing by the sign stating the elevation a slight panic ensued as it started to rain.
Friday night was spent in Hooters, the choice of my brother-in-law, who was celebrating his 50th birthday, and wanting to view the ladies dressed in their skimpy orange shorts, Sierra Nevada was my tipple of choice again.
Saturday was time to explore Las Vegas and view the different types of buildings. A visit to the Magic Mile Mall soon threw up a surprise as I stumbled upon the Sin City brewery. Four beers were available
1. Premium Light Lager
2. German Wheat beer
4. Irish Dry Stout
After sampling all, I settled for a pint of the stout.
The indoor thunderstorm every half hour was very intriguing!
After more exploring the city an early afternoon visit to the Ellis Island Brewery and casino, on Koval Lane, was next on the agenda, again 4 beers available all at the impressive cost of $1 a pint (16oz serving).
4. Hefe Weiss
As evening was drawing on a trip to the Stratosphere tower to view the lights of the city was the next call and a wonder back to the hotel via the Monte Carlo casino which used to house a microbrewery but is now a bar serving beers from micro breweries from around the States. The only drawback was the noise from the music playing extremely loud.
A helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon was the highlight of Sunday, the coach driver being kind enough to detour to the Crown and Anchor. A little bit of Britain in Las Vegas complete with Guinness advertisements, dart boards, HP sauce to accompany the fish and chips and sherry trifle for pudding.
Nitrokeg versions of English beer were available but I wasn’t going to stoop that low so I decided to stick to the Sierra Nevada Pale which was on tap. The sight of waitresses in short skirts did compensate for a lot. The beef Wellington was very tasty also; traditional English Sunday roast also on the menu.
Sunday evening it was on to the Triple 7 brewery at Main Street station, 4 regular beers are brewed with seasonal brews also available.
1. High Roller Gold, 5.0%
2. Marker Pale Ale, 5.6%
3. Royal Red Lager, 4.5%
4. Blackchip Porter, 4.3%
Seasonal beer available on the night was a spiced pumpkin ale.
Monday morning was time to leave the gambling city behind and head for Los Angeles, after browsing local hotel maps it was decided that Anaheim was the place to stay. Home of Disneyland and other theme parks. Monday night remained alcohol free after a shopping trip to Downtown Disney.
Tuesday saw a trip of the local landmarks such as the Hollywood sign, the walk of fame, Farmers Market, Venice Beach with a glimpse at the eccentrics working out at Muscle Beach. Tuesday night was spent at JT Schmids restaurant and brewery on East Katella Avenue, a short ride from the hotel in a cab. Five beers were available:
1. JT Light, 4.6%
2. India Pale Ale , 6.0%
3. Hefeweizen, 5.2%
4. Emils Amber, 5.2%
5. Extra Stout, 6.7%
The stout and the IPA were my favourites here.
Tuesday after a day at Knotts Berry Farm theme park, the first theme park in America, no overtaken by Disney it was back to JT Schmids to sample the atmosphere there post hockey game. Fortunately the Mighty Ducks won so it was not hostile.
Thursday morning dawned and it was to LAX for the journey home to earn more beer tokens for the next trip.
Beer tasting notes are from brewery notes and not my personal feelings, but all in all there is no reason to stick to Budweiser, Coors or Miller on your next visit to the States.