When you look up on line what to do and see in San Francisco, there’s that bridge of course, as well as trams, various piers, and a vibrant outdoor street culture (cafes, bars, etc) in various different quarters of town. I’m struggling though because I dropped into one of the main tourist districts, Fisherman’s Wharf and its surrounding area, where, quite frankly, they seem devoid of decent pubs. This obviously causes great consternation, but I am not put off. The quest for beer is too strong an urge just to give up on. Luckily just up the road I come across Red Jack Saloon where for my first refreshment of the day I dive into a pint of the local amber Prohibition Beer. It’s 5% strength and has a distinct orange tang to it, so I know I’m definitely in California.
The problem with Red Jack Saloon is that there’s a baseball game going on, which is making for an extremely noisy atmosphere – the local Irish residents are clearly supporting their Boston kinsmen, which the rest of the locals seem to be taking objection to, something to do with the Irish team playing a local Bay team. I was hungry and they didn’t do food either, although they did have WiFi, which I looked up 8 bars in another part of town that all came highly recommended for their craft beer.. . NB I won’t be visiting anymore than one tonight. i set off up (and I mean “UP”) through the streets to pay a visit to San Fran’s famous Chinatown for a flounder in black-bean sauce, which settled the stomach after a long flight. I hopped into a taxi who took me down to the Pi Bar. First of a few drinks I sampled in here was the Golden Road Berlinerweiss from LA – I tend to make an attempt to try the local beers, but given the last bar with the Boston game going on, I will also have to give the Boston Chocolate Chilli Bock a tasting too. The Golden Road is a great sour beer, and a good introduction to the evening, which like the beer is turning a little fresh and crisp. However, before I move onto the East Coast, I sample a very local ale: Anchor Liberty Ale, which despite all the online commentary, is actually more of a style I’m used to back home in the UK – a lovely summer ale, with honey on the palate – not a bit hoppy or IPA in character (always be careful to trust your own nose, not what beer blogs says).
It’s a long bar that is playing pleasant folk rock in the background, low enough that you can (a) hear yourself think, and (b) overhear conversations at the next table as well as neighbours at the bar. Jennifer, one of two barmaids serving tonight, is very jovial and can’t be more attentive, especially given it’s quite busy. Sadly, they don’t to tasting paddles, but because she knows I’ll be trying to sample most of what’s on offer, she kindly suggests that I am served this evening using only half pint glasses. Very wise. The menu is almost exclusively pizzas – unsurprising given they have 2 pizza ovens out back – and I’m tempted to indulge. But, clearly I need another beer to gain enough sense to know what to order. This is the 5th anniversary of the Pi Bar, so they have just celebrated this week – in recognition of the event, obviously they brewed an 8.3% beer for the occasion, their “Fort Point (Pi to the power of 5 – my keyboard won’t let me type that mathematically). It’s a superb Belgian beer that they really should keep on tap at all times – a little banana bread to the olfactory senses, chewy, yet smooth and nutty. Any monk would be proud to produce something like this in the countryside around Gent!
The list, as you can see, is long enough not to go through entirely. Of the 12 taps on offer, I’m now going to finish with my promised Boston ale. And as for the pizza? Well, one of the joys of being on the Atkins diet is that you lose a lot of weight. What is odd is that beer is full of carbohydrates, and despite my consumption of Canadian ales over the past week, I have managed somehow to still shed a kilo or two. My travelling companion in Toronto, Jason, suggested that perhaps we coin the term “Hop-kins Diet”. Certainly, it may have legs – I’m not sure I do, now that I’ve participated in my 4th beer. The Bock is toasty straight away on the nose, very deep dark, oaty, with a mildly roasted coffee sweetness. You absolutely get chocolate (and you’d be disappointed if you didn’t), but I’m not noticing much chilli. However, it’s a splendid pinnacle for the evening, and my Hopkins diet doesn’t seem to need any pizza now. Phew!
I think I’m going to enjoy the Bay area this week – in between some business, I’m sure I’ll be able to mix a little beer pleasure.