Monday, 6 July 2015

Freewheeling in Frisco

No need for breakfast angst today. Plenty of congealed barbecue in the fridge.

This is my last day in San Francisco. Tomorrow I’m off to San Diego for three nights. With a side order of Mexico. When did I last visit a new country? That’s a good question. Almost three years ago when I went to Canada for the first time.

What’s plan for the day? According to my itinerary document, I’m free until 6 PM. I just have to fill my time until then. If only I could think of something to do. I know – maybe I could drink beer in a bar. That would make a change.

My itinerary also has a list of beery pubs not too far from my hotel. Most I’ve either already visited or don’t open until too late. Leaving a single candidate: Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen. Which supposedly has 18 draught beers. That’ll do. I put on my walking shoes* and head East.

It’s nicely overcast and not too hot. Lovely weather for a walk. Partly through what I call the Piss Quarter. Dodgy hotels with grand names and liquor stores line its streets. People sit on its pavements. I wouldn’t, given the smell. I’m even tempted to hose down the soles of my shoes on return. A dazed girl with matchstick legs seems to be making a drug deal with two well scummy blokes. I love this city.

Jasper’s isn’t at all what I’d expected. Much more modern and upmarket. And rather bland. All the excitement of a 1960's airport bar. The dullest sort of modernity imaginable. As drab as John Major in monchrome.

I’ve no excuse. I could easily have checked on the internet. It’s on the ground floor of a hotel. Rather swanky looking, in fact. Well, swanky in comparison to the piss palaces I’ve just passed.

As usual, I park my fat sorry arse at the bar. It’s pretty quiet, despite being midday. A solitary suited gent to my right, a middle-aged couple to my left. All drinking wine. Not a great sign. At least I don't have to look at the sorry seating from here. In front of me is a proud army of spirits.

The friendly young bearded barman (aren’t they all nowadays) tells me it’s Taco Tuesday, they’re tasty and cheap. Mr. suit to my right seems to agree. He’s tucking enthusiastically into a row of three. “Maybe later,“ I tell him, “I need to work up an appetite first.” I start on that straight away.

Pine Street Atom Splitter $7

Ah yes! Here’s the murk! Hazy copper. Not much aroma. A subdued citrus thing going on. Like music played several doors away. I guess it’s a PA rather than an IPA (the internet confirms this). OK, but nowt special. What Do I care? I just want something wet and alcoholic to fill the afternoon.

Looking at the prices here, I realise Toronado is dead cheap. I could have gone there again today, but it’s a bit of a walk. I’m getting a bit tight as I try to pay for everything with cash from my book sales. I only spent $30 yesterday and had two pints of Pliny!

There’s a Golden Corral ad on the TV. It makes me want to vomit. Literally. Bad associations from last year. Best have another beer.

Anchor Zymurgy Luxardo $8 6% ABV
Reasonably clear, very dark amber colour. Smells a bit like it’s got Goldings in it. But ingredient guessing is a mug’s game. Not so keen on this. Has a boiled sweet flavour and a weird caramel twang**. Luckily I’ve a side order of Buffalo Trace. That’s really nice: sweet, spicy and with a touch of lemon. Dead good.

Last night with Brian was dead cool. We chatted away like crazy all night He’s a great guy and brews brilliant beer. Odd how you can only meet someone a couple of times but become good friends.

Stone Enjoy By 9.4% ABV
Pale yellow, clear (once you wipe away the condensation). Yippee!. Smells absolutely fucking lovely. Every sort of citrus. That’s what I call an American IPA*** – juicy as a sexually aroused lemon.

I do believe my appetite has just walked through the door. It was worth waiting for him. I get a taco. $3 and pretty damn good. Especially with a good dousing of hot sauce. I’m tempted to get another.

I’m a lucky git. Getting to visit all sorts of places and meet all types of people. Even though this trip isn’t working out exactly as planned, I’m having all kinds of legal (and morally acceptable) fun. Not travelling every other day is relaxing. I’ve had chance to look around and get to know San Francisco a little. Not that I’ve seen any of the sights. Other than Toronado and the Haight.

Stone Enjoy By 9.4% ABV
Again. Say what you like about Stone, they brew some dead good beer. And I don’t say that just because I’m meeting one of their brewers tomorrow. I hope. The whole San Diego thing has gone pretty much tits up. But, hey, if you don’t try failure is inevitable.

I’m a bit buzzed. Unsurprisingly after those Double IPAs and bourbon. Time to walk home and have a bit of a lie down.

A bloke sat next to me at the bar in Toronado complimented me on still writing on paper. Is it really any different from writing on a computer? I’m not convinced. I think I write the same whatever the medium. Except with handwritten stuff I sometimes can’t read it all. I guess I am more honest in my notes. Some stuff I’ll never publish. Like . .

[Redacted section]

Luckily the walk back is pretty flat. Except for the last chunk of Sutter street. No getting around that. Next time I’ll try to find a hotel that isn’t on the top of a hill.

21st Amendment, the brewpub location of tonight’s event, is downtown. I get a cab with what I think is plenty of time to spare. Except I have to cross the Financial District. And it’s rush hour. We inch from one traffic light to the next. I’ve barely time to grab a beer before the fun starts.

I’ve been invited by Chris Cohen to speak to the San Francisco Homebrewers Guild. A, er, home brewers’ club. About brewing historic beer. It seems I’m an expert on the topic. How did that happen?

The brewer talks a little before I’m on. He’s miked up. Just as well because it’s loud. We’re in a small first floor section, while below in the main bar a raucous after work crowd roars and bellows, glasses clink and chairs rumble.

It’s always a bit odd, these few minutes before I go on. Especially for unscripted chats like tonight’s. What exactly am I going to say? “Hello, I’m Ron Pattinson, beer historian. Buy me a beer.” Once I start, the words are always there, somehow. But there are always a few moments of doubt before.

How long do I speak for? 30 minutes? 45 minutes? I’ve no idea. I genuinely completely lose track of time. That’s how much I enjoy listening to my own voice. Home brewers are a good audience because they ask good questions. OK, there’s the occasional annoying smart arse, trying to show off how much he knows. Thankfully not tonight.

I shift a few books and chat beer when my talk is done. I don’t stay too late. My flight tomorrow is at 10:15 AM. Meaning I’ll need to be checked out by 8 AM. A couple of beers keep me company until it’s time to put out my lights. Something that takes little effort. Especially after Mr. Laphroaig has paid his nightly visit.

* My only pair of shoes. Not just the only pair I have with me, but the only pair I own.
** Actually it contains Maraschino cherries. Could explain the sweetness.
*** According to Stone it’s a Double IPA.

Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen
401 Taylor St
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States
Open  6:30 am – 12:00 am

"Brewer's Loft" at 21st Amendment brewery
563 2nd St,
San Francisco, CA 94107

The San Francisco Homebrewers Guild


Jeffrey Bell said...

Ron you don't half hate walking places

Mat said...

A bit disappointing you felt the need to pull out a section. As someone who lived in SF and the greater Bay Area for quite some time, I felt you were nailing many of these places on the head, positive thoughts or otherwise.

Ron Pattinson said...


not sure I get what you mean. What section am I pulling out?

Ron Pattinson said...


it's my age. ANd the hills. I'm not used to them any more after decades in Holland.