With my taxi bill cosying up to Dolores and threatening to kick me out of my home, I decide to walk.
I should tell you where I’m going, I suppose. Or maybe why first. Or when. Or how.
Why? Because it’s in walking distance (see previous comment about taxi bill). And I’m getting the hang of getting about in San Francisco: don’t walk up a hill unless you have to.
When? Just before midday.
How? To the right. I’ve only ever turned left on leaving the Majestic so far.
I should have explored more. There’s an offie much closer on turning right. And more. Japantown.
Whenever I travel, I have you’re a fucking idiot Ronald moments. This is one. I could have eaten here rather in that spookily-empty Chinese.
I’m learning about the history of the city, as well as of my own stupidity. My hotel I know predates the earthquake and fire. Lots of the houses look Victorian. Then I find one with a date: 1878. Doesn’t look like the fire troubled this hill.
Almost forgot. Where am I going? Hippy central.
Having read the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers as a small child, and the classic “Needle Sharing on the Haight” as a sociology student, I couldn’t drop in San Francisco without dropping by its old hippy heaven. And Toronado. A legendary boozer.
The sun is shining almost as much as the arse of my kecks. That’s a bad thing. Not a huge fan of hot and sticky. Unless it’s a barbecue sauce.
Drugs Free Zone? Confiscating pensioners’ prescriptions are they? What total shite is that? You may as well declare an Air Free Zone or Dirt Free Zone. Ain’t never going to happen.
Despite the uphill section at the end, the walk is quite fun. In a sweaty really wishing I could afford a taxi sort of way.
Not sure what I expected of Haight Street. Fat Freddy, probably. He was always my favourite. The sort of chav to suck down suds with in a dive bar.
I’m surprised by how small an dive-bary Toronado is. That’s a pleasant surprise. The barman, a sort of burned out old hippy, is convincingly surly in his service. I’m warming to this place already. This is my natural habitat, gut leaning on the bar, my mind freewheeling. Nothing to do but drink and watch and listen. I love pubs.
Now isn’t that a coincidence? There are several Moonlight beers in their extensive cask list. The owner, Brian Hunt, is a friend. And a shit-hot brewer. Whom I'll be meeting later. I start with one of his classics:
Moonlight Death and Taxes $4
Nearly black, tanish head. Just noticed they have two cask Moonlight beers. Damn. Oh well, I wanted to try this again, anyway. Slightly metallic, smoke coffee and toffee. Chocolate, too. This is nice. Fucking nice. Have a second pint nice.
Bum, bum, bum. I just filled my camera’s memory card. And I can’t work out how to delete images, old technophobe that I am.
God it’s cheap in here. Even cheaper than the prices on the menu. Must be some sort of happy hour because there’s a dollar off all the draughts. Cash only, mind you. Pay as you go. I do the leaving the change on the bar thing that I picked up when living in New York.
Time for another beer.
Moonlight Twist of Fate Bitter (cask) $4
Pretty dark for a Bitter. Just about in Dark Mild country. Fairly decent head and it’s in reasonable condition. I was a bit worried about that. Biscuity malt, a pleasant undertone of bitterness, carbonation as soft as a wimp’s handshake. Very drinkable.
Moonlight Bombay by Boat (cask) $4
Much paler than the last beer. More hoppy, unsurprisingly, similar carbonation soft as fresh puppy shit. Bit of citrus. Nice tasting bitterness again. Very nice. Again. Brian really can brew.
Pliny the Elder $5
Very pale yellow, fuck all head. I can smell it from here. Has than lemon washing up liquid thing going on. That is nice. Loads of hop flavour. I can see why people go so crazy over it.
It’s been a bit like a Brian tribute session – all his beers except Pliny. And that has a connection with him, too. It’s what he brought over for me last time he visited Amsterdam.
The barman is pretty cool in a Big Lebowski sort of way. Just asked him if they have Guinness American Lager. They don’t, so I’ve made do with another Pliny. That shows the power of advertising – I’ve seen TV ads for Guinness Lager.
I really like this place. The barman is starting to warm to me, even chatting a little. So different from the full-on trendiness of the Mikkeller Bar. And with much lower prices. 5$ for a US pint of Pliny – how reasonable is that?
I bravely return by foot. By a flatter route. I’m getting the hang of this San Francisco walking lark. In a boring, illogical European city, the streets would follow the contours of the land. And avoid unnecessary inclines.
Back in my room, I quickly unload images from camera card to flip flop. Want to do a bit of snapping tonight. I’ve a dinner date. With Brian Hunt. I couldn’t visit the Bay Area without seeing him. A cool bloke and talented brewer. As today has proved.
The traffic has him running a bit late. I don’t mind. The evening air is cool outside the hotel. And my mind can freewheel with no obligations other than having a good time.
Brian is as bearded, opinionated and fun as ever. We bumble back Haight-wards in his van. This time the venue is that Magnolia.
As I noticed yesterday, Magnolia is big on cask. Thinking about it, most of the places I’ve been to in the US in the last year or so have been. But perhaps that’s self-selecting. Brewers of English-style cask Ales are more likely to get in touch with me.
We sink a few pints, eat and chat. Mostly the latter, as I’m trying to keep my belly from resembling a hippo’s. And Brian has to drive home.
I pick up another couple of Racer 5s as a nightcap. To wash down my eye-closer Laphroaig. Sleep rushes towards me like a runaway train full of drunken soldiers.
Tomorrow I’ve an event with home brewers. Should be able to shift some books there, shouldn’t I?
547 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94117
Open 11:30 am – 2:00 am
1398 Haight St,
San Francisco, CA 94117