West Coast Beers

Earlier this month I was out in San Francisco, and of course I took advantage of that to try some west coast beers that we can’t get out here.

Conveniently, the 21st Amendment restaurant/bar was right down the street from me. That was my first stop, as I was also starving. The food was quite good, and the beer great. It was fun, too, since I did a hop progression: Pale Ale, IPA, Double IPA. First was the 12th Anniversary Pale Ale. This one didn’t thrill me, but at 4.9%, it was quite tasty. Next was their Brew Free! Or Die IPA. I’d had that one before in NYC, but I like to try beers as fresh as possible. It was great. Last was Batch 800, a Double IPA. It was like a double Brew Free!, at 9.1%. Really good. Quite heavy, yet just short of syrupy.  I don’t tend to like syrupy beers.

The one beer I really wanted to try again was Russian River‘s Pliny the Elder. The first time I had it was in 2010 at Russian River’s brew pub, and I didn’t love it. I found it too grapefruity. But I know that beer tastes change over time, so I wanted another go. This time, I really liked it, especially as it warmed up. So smooth and well-balanced.

The only other beer I had which was not an IPA was an Anchor Steam. At the time there was nothing better available. But pretty damn San Francisco.

Later on that night, I made a pilgrimage to the very famous Toronado. Although the Pliny would have been an obvious choice, I’d already had one. So I got a Russian River Blind Pig, a regular IPA to Pliny’s double. It was very good, but no Pliny. After that I had a Bear Republic Double Apex. Holy crap that was strong. Very boozy; too much for my taste. But I do love Bear Republic, so I’ll always try something new from them. Next day I ran with the Hash House Harriers, which always involves beer at the end of the run, and sometimes before. It started and ended at the excellent Rosamunde Sausage Grill. Before the run, I had a Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. I love that beer, first having had it on cask a couple of years ago. Ballast Point never seems to disappoint me. After the run, I had two from Ninkasi, the Maiden the Shade IPA and Tricerahops Double IPA. I really wanted to like them, but found them both underwhelming. Just nothing exciting about either. But I did love the Maiden the Shade label. It’s in the font of Iron Maiden‘s logo.

Next day was a quest for beer to smuggle back with me to NYC. City Beer Store was highly recommended to me, and it didn’t disappoint. Really excellent store. They have shelves and coolers full of excellent craft beers, plus a bar area. Besides the selection of taps, you can also drink any bottle you buy there. There’s another cooler of bottles behind the bar filled with rare beers, which you can only drink there. While there, I tried a Ballast Point Dorado, a very heavy Double IPA at 10% ABV, but damn can Ballast Point hide that, as well as the syrupyness. Delicious. I wanted to take a bunch of bottles back to NY, and fortunately I was meeting up later on with an old friend who had a car, so I went back with her to do go shopping. While waiting for her, I popped into Whole Foods, where ironically they were doing a beer tasting for Coney Island and He’Brew beers (Schmaltz Brewing Company). I tried the He’Brew Hop Manna IPA, which I did not like. Almost lager-ish. IPAs never seem like a good idea from breweries who tend to make lagers, at least in my opinion. At dinner I had a Drake’s IPA. Nothing exciting. But…

The bottles I brought back with me were Drake’s Aroma Coma, Pliny the Elder, High Water Brewing‘s Hop Riot IPA, and a bottle of the Ballast Point Dorado. We get plenty of Ballast Point in NY, but I wasn’t sure if or when we would get the Dorado. Packing the bottles ended up pretty easy, especially since I had at least 20 lbs. to spare in my suitcase. One 10′ roll of bubble wrap and a roll of packing tape from FedEx was enough to protect them. Sure enough, they made it back to NY safe and sound, along with a note inside the suitcase that for everyone’s safety, my bag was inspected, but under strict supervision. I hope they liked my beer selection. The Pliny goes without saying.  The Drakes Aroma Coma was fantastic. Just an absolutely delicious IPA.  So much more flavor than the regular Drake’s IPA, and a lower ABV.  6.75% vs. 7%.  The Hop Riot was disappointing.  Just nothing thrilling at all.

Overall I’d say it was quite a successful trip.


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