Friday 31 August 2018

San Francisco again

I rise at 8:15. Where are the kids?  They said they’d be here now. I go up to their room.

“Why are you getting us up at 7?”

It wasn’t my watch that was wrong but the clock in my room, which is an hour and a half fast. I get another hour’s kip.

The breakfast consists of sausage – both normal and flat – plus boiled eggs. Plus lots of cold stuff and waffles. Do-it-yourself waffles seem very popular in US hotel breakfasts nowadays.

“At least they gave us plates, Andrew.” Not that he has a plate. Just a coffee cup and a pile of bags of sugar. It look like he’s building a defensive emplacement. And a sullen look. He has one of those, too.

We drop by Bev Mo, handily placed at the bottom of the street. “It’s bound to be cheaper than the corner shop.”

It’s a massive booze supermarket. Andrew is dead impressed. We stock up on beer and bourbon, which we dump back at the hotel.

We’re off to the Cable Car Museum. Not sure which is the best way. But the simplest is straight down Sutter and then across on Mason. Big mistake.

Mason is a huge fucking hill. Crazily steep. I have to pause to catch my breath after every block. Looking back down the hill seems even scarier.

“I don’t fancy walking down that. Maybe we can take a taxi back.”

My lungs are burning. Is that the hill or the onset of pneumonia?

We get to the top of Nob Hill, then have to go down a scary slope. I’m totally out of breath when we get to the museum.

The museum itself is pretty cool, as it’s inside the active engine house. Massive wheels spin, moving the cables under the streets. Impressive and very 19th-century looking.

It’s not a huge museum. But it is free. And they have some old cable cars. Plus interesting stuff about the fire and its effect on the cable car network. Right down my street. And free. Did I mention that?

Chinatown isn’t far away. And it’s just turning noon. Not a difficult decision. Time for lunch. At a random restaurant, I ask “What about here?” The kids give it the nod.

It’s Hunan cuisine, which seems consist mostly of topping every dish with 50 dried chillies. Fine by me. Did I mention that it’s Andrew’s birthday? He orders a celebratory Tsingtao. I go for sake. Diet coke for Alexei. I can see he isn’t overjoyed at his limited drink choices. It is unfair. Especially as he’s been of legal drinking age in Holland for almost two years.

I don’t make the best food choice. Mostly because Andrew orders what I’d been planning to get. My substitute dish is marinated mince and beans. It’s nigh on impossible to eat such finely chopped stuff with chopsticks.

Having sussed out the lie of the land, we take a cannier route to our next destination, Hogwash. With strategic use of a tunnel, the gradient is minimal. At least for San Francisco.  It’s a real shock for the kids, born and bred in the dead flatlands of Amsterdam.

The Hogwash barman is very friendly. I get a sludge IPA, Fieldwork Front and follow or something. Alexie has a diet coke.

“Which town have you enjoyed most so far, Alexei?”

“Tijuana. I could do stuff there.” Alexei says resentfully. By which he means drink beer.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be able to drink in Vancouver tomorrow.”

“Yeah I can finally do something. Unlike this stupid country.”

Alexei has a real monk on.

“Hurry up and finish your stupid beer. All I can do is stare at the wall.”

Andrew has a Moonlight Reality Check Pilsner and three ciders.  I just have the two beers. It’s hard to enjoy them with the look on Alexei’s face. We head back to the hotel. The slope doesn’t seem that steep after the nightmare hill earlier.

“Do you want a beer, Lexie.” I ask when we’re in my room.

“No, it’s a bit early for me.”

“But you’ve been moaning all day about not being able to drink.”

“I just want the option.”

We decide to eat at Upcider, a, er, cider pub. Andrew likes cider as much as his mum. The barman is very helpful and lets me and Andrew try one. Though I go for a Racer 5. I’ve learned not to drink cider on top of beer.

“Have you noticed that they don’t have free refills of soft drinks here like in San Diego?” Alexei remarks.

We order a slider each, plus one order of chips and creole chicken. None of us is that hungry. The food is OK, but not great.

We walk back to the hotel with Alexei. On the way he says: “You were right, dad. It does smell of piss here.”

“I got some shit for writing that on my blog. But I was only telling the truth.”

"The truth isn't always popular, dad."

"Very true, Andrew."

Though Andrew knows what he wants to do later: “I’d like to go to a bar, dad. Like the last one in San Diego.” I have a look on the internet for a bar. There’s one directly opposite Upcider, the Hemlock Tavern. We promise Alexei that we’ll be back by 10 and head off.

It’ a typical American bar, a long counter and low lighting. Though surprisingly few TVs. We take seats at the bar. They don’t have a huge selection of beer. But there is cider. And Anchor Steam, which is what we go for.

“it’s his birthday today.” I tell the barman.

“He need a shot to celebrate. On me. What sort of liquor do you like?”


He pours us both a bourbon. A nice one.

Andrew has a cider next. I’m plodding my way through my Anchor Steam.

Andrew starts to talk to the young woman to my right. Turns out she’s Latvian/Russian, which makes me slightly suspicious. And she asks some very specific questions. Maybe I’m just paranoid.

We do get back by ten. Well, a couple of minutes after.

A while later, we’re a bit peckish and decide to drop by the corner shop. It’s five to eleven, but it’s closed. I ask at the reception where a convenience store might be open. She says Limoncello might be open. She gives it a call. They’re just closing, but will let us in. Which they do unlocking the door.  We get salt and vinegar crisps, cheese and salami. That will see us through the evening.

Slumming sleep shuffles in wearing shabby pyjamas and lays down beside me.

Cable Car Museum
1201 Mason St,
San Francisco,
CA 94108.
Tel: +1 415-474-1887

582 Sutter
San Francisco,
CA 94108.
Tel: +1 415-361-5500

1160 Polk Street, 2nd floor,
San Francisco,
CA 94109.
Tel: +1 415-966-5730

Hemlock Tavern
1131 Polk St,
San Francisco,
CA 94109.
Tel: +1 415-923-0923

1400 Sutter St,
San Francisco,
CA 94109.
Tel: +1 415-638-6361

Thursday 30 August 2018

Me talking about post-war British beer

The title says it all. Me jabbering on about beer in the UK after WW II.

It was weird watching it back. I kept taking a drink of my beer at exactly the same time as I do in the podcast. Spooky.

The book I'm discussing is my latest. Austerity! Which you can buy here. Dead good, it is. Honest.

San Diego

The breakfast room is filled with the happy smell. Bacon. Alexei and I whoop, while Andrew tips 20 sugars into his coffee. But no milk. He’s a bit weird. There are scrambled, eggs, too.

Jim picks us up and takes us to the airport. It’s pretty early, but it leaves plenty of time. Which is how I like it. Especially as I’ve a bag to check in. On account of the two bottles of bourbon, plus the beer, Jim gave me.

Andrew is dead interested in the security procedure. It’s a professional interest, as he does the same job at Schiphol.

Unusually for me, I don‘t drop by a bar before boarding. What am I becoming? Everything I hate. Though it is quite early.

“Don’t worry kids, I am for your real father and not an alien replacement. It’s just a bit early. And I’m still full from breakfast.” I hope that covers my shame.

As I have Sky Priority status and this is a Delta flight, we’re in boarding group 1. I really need to maintain my silver Flying Blue status. It makes life so much simpler.

The flight is quite long. Andrew and I read, while Alexei fiddles with his phone. Private Eye keeps me sufficiently entertained. I’ve almost managed to work off the five-issue backlog.

Rooftops are scraped on the way down

We stand at the carousel waiting for my bag. It never arrives. After 30 minutes of watching the same abandoned, battered bags rotate, we trundle along to the baggage counter. They can see that my bag was on the plane, but have no idea where it’s gone. Wonderful. After an hour or so of messing about, they take my details and we head to the taxi rank.

Our driver is a chatty Ukrainian. Taxi drivers are never American in the US. I tell a lie. I had an American driver in Asheville once. That’s the only one I can remember. Other than the Vietnam vet who operated an illegal taxi at the Staten Island ferry terminal. An interesting, if rather damaged, character.

The ride to our hotel isn’t long. San Diego airport is right next to the city centre. Scarily close if you’re at that end of town, as the planes fly in at roof-top height. We’re pretty close to Schiphol and I thought the planes were low here. In San Diego you could literally throw a stone at them.

After quickly checking in, I say “Time for some beer and food, kids.”

“Not for me, dad. Remember I can’t drink alcohol here.”

“How could I have forgotten? You can have some food and watch me and Andrew drink beer.”

“Great. That sounds like fun. Not.”

We’re staying in Little Italy. “There are more Italian flags here than in Mussolini’s Rome.” Alexei claims. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. There are an awful lot.

Ballast Point is just around the corner. Seems like a good place to go. I’ve been before. Last time they had Dark Mild. Doubt I’ll be that lucky again.

On the way, we pass another brewery, Bolt. “That wasn’t there last time.” I say. A little further there’s a Mikkeller bar. “That wasn‘t there, either.” Amazingly, the city has got even beerier. Which is quite an achievement.

Alexei stumbles over a pair of what look like kids’ scooters. “Kanker, fucking shit.”

“Are you going to pick them up, Lexie?”

“No. Kanker, fucking bullshit, leaving them in the way. Mongolen.”

Andrew rights them.

“What are they?” I ask.

“Something like a strooifiets, by the look of it.”

Ballast Point is pretty full, but we manage to find seats at the window.

Alexei is hot and irritable. He finds Ballast Point too crowded and too noisy. “I’m going back to the hotel. Fuck this kanker pub.” Alexei is capable of some interesting multilingual swearing. Not just in Dutch and English, but also Arabic and Turkish. He’s very street.

It is pretty full. You have to queue at the bar. But after the first round we manage to hook up with one of the few waitresses darting about and order through her. It saves a load of time and messing about.

After a couple of beers, we order some food. Fish tacos for me, a burger for Andrew. Neither of us finish our meals. But we get containers from our nice waitress to pack up what’s left. Alexei is bound to be hungry. And he can get angry when he’s hungry. An angry Alexei is not good, in my experience.

We enter my room offering the leftovers in front of us. “Look, Lexxie. We’ve brought food.” I say nervously. No answer. Because he’s asleep.

The rest has improved his mood. He tucks enthusiastically into our leftovers. Washed down with beer we bought on the way back in a 7/11.

Reception calls: my bag has been delivered. Yippee! I go down to pick it up.

“I wonder where it was?”

“It probably fell off the belt.” Andrew suggests.

I begin to believe he’s right when I unzip the bag. What’s that smell? Oh no. It’s bourbon. These shirts seem rather wet. And bourbon-scented. Fuck. One of the bottles has leaked.

One bottle is full, the other completely empty. The stopper on the empty one is loose. I’m sure I screwed it properly shut. How on earth could it have opened? This is the second time I’ve had drenched clothes without a bottle breakage.

Luckily, the two uppermost shirts seem to have soaked up all the bourbon. The clothes underneath are still dry. That was good fortune, I suppose. But my clothing planning is buggered. I only packed one spare shirt. I’m now one short.

“It’s your bottle that’s empty. Luckily, I’m a good dad and won’t charge you for the damage to my clothes.”

“Right, dad. As if we have any money, anyway.”

I haven’t thought this fully through.

“I get first dibs on the remaining bourbon, though.”

“Bugger off, dad.” The kids are getting quite uppity. “You’re always nicking our gin.”

We chill in my room for the rest of the evening. Literally. I don’t seem to be able to get the airco on any setting other than arctic. Thankfully, one bottle of bourbon is intact. We lay into it enthusiastically. And the beers, too. Andrew seems to getting a thing about Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Sleep stuns me with its icy fingers, sucking out my sentience.

Ballast Point Brewing Little Italy
2215 India St,
San Diego,
CA 92101.
Tel: +1 619-255-7213

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1918 Adnams XX

I haven't published a relly watery Mild recipe for a while. Time to fix that.

When this beer was brewed in May 1918, there were still six months of the war to go. Not that drinkers at the time knew.

It was a particularly disturbing period, as the German spring offensive was in full swing. Equally disheartening for those at home were the ever stricter regulations on brewing and a further slashing of gravities.

By this point Adnams only brewed three different beers: XX, PA and Double Stout. Though I’m not totally sure about the last one. They may only have been brewing a Bitter and Mild. In April 1918, the average gravity of a brewery’s beers had been set at 1030º. As Adnams still wanted to brew a reasonable-strength Bitter, that meant dropping XX’s gravity well below 1030º. Which explains the pathetic 1022º OG of this version. Even a high degree of attenuation still leaves it basically non-intoxicating.

The recipe, however, is identical to in 1917. In fact, the total weight of the grist, 1,680 lbs., is exactly the same. The only difference being that there was slightly more pale malt and slightly less “medium” malt. Otherwise everything else is exactly the same.

That also includes the hopping rate. If you’re wondering why then that the quantities or slightly lower here it’s because the hops were older. Oregon and Kent from the 1915 season, Sussex from 1917.

1918 Adnams XX
pale malt 1.00 lb 22.03%
mild malt 2.25 lb 49.56%
crystal malt 80 L 0.25 lb 5.51%
flaked maize 0.25 lb 5.51%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.50 lb 11.01%
cane sugar 0.25 lb 5.51%
caramel 5000 SRM 0.04 lb 0.88%
Cluster 105 mins 0.25 oz
Fuggles 90 mins 0.25 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.25 oz
OG 1022
FG 1004
ABV 2.38
Apparent attenuation 81.82%
IBU 14
SRM 17
Mash at 154º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast WLP025 Southwold

Tuesday 28 August 2018

San Francisco

No bacon again. Some wrinkly looking sausages. And hash browns. Which is what me and Alexei eat, through our tears. Andrew has his usual coffee breakfast with a side order of grumpiness.

“Look, there’s a destroyer moving.” Alexei says.

We’re eating on the balcony overlooking the harbour. “There can’t be many places where you can see two aircraft carriers.”

“There are more Italian flags here than in Mussolini’s Rome.” Alexei says.

“You’ve already said that, Lexie. More than once.”

“But it’s true.”

“Not literally.”

“Yes, it is.”

There’s no arguing with him, sometimes.

We check out and catch a cab to the airport. Our driver is a chatty Ethiopian. At first I think Eritrean, because it says Eritrean Taxi Company on this die of his cab. But he puts us right during the drive. Nice bloke, whatever his origin.

We have TSA pre so dodge the queue. “I often get it when I travel with United for some reason.”

Andrew isn’t very impressed with the security. We have to wait for ages for a tray for our pocket contents. Alexei has to go through the metal detector several times.

I do make a quick visit to a bar this time. One handily close to the gate. I get the kids to sit at the gate while I nip in for a quick double bourbon. It doesn’t take long. I daren’t take too long. Otherwise Alexei will start fretting. He’s a bit of a worrier when it comes to travelling.

The flight isn’t long. But you have to pay for the video entertainment.

“I don’t see anyone using the video.” Andrew remarks. “They’re stupid charging for it.”

I’ve a window seat and pass some of the flight taking snaps. And get two whiskies: Glenfarclas. Now there’s classy.

Judging by the comparative emptiness of the carousel, not many bags have been checked in. My bag is fifth out.

“Any smell of bourbon, dad?” Andrew asks.

“No, thankfully. Not of beer, either.”

We jump in a Joe, where this time our driver is a taciturn Sikh. The traffic is bad – often we’re only going 5 mph. OK, it is about evening rush hour. But we’re heading into town. The heavy traffic should be going the other way. After a junction, the road becomes much quieter. Looks like everyone was heading for Oakland.

Our hotel is in a Victorian building and is furnished accordingly. Which is nice change after the identikit modern hotels we’ve been in so far.

There’s a little corner shop just over the road. We nip there for some drinks. Pabst Blue Ribbon for the kids, bourbon for me. And some cola. I need that for the stuff I brought back from Mexico.

I’m not so sure about this alcohol stuff. Even watered down three to one with cola, it tastes pretty strong. And I seem to be having trouble reading.

“Do you think I should look up ‘no debe beberse’ on the internet, Andrew?”

“Yes, dad. You should have done that yesterday.”

“’Do not drink’ it means, evidently. No wonder I was having trouble with my eyes.”

We’re staying next to Japantown. So that’s where we decide to eat.

“Can you take a look on my laptop for a nice Japanese place to eat, Andrew. I’m having trouble focusing.”

“Yeah, right.”

Andrew fiddles on my laptop for a while.

“What about ramen? I’ve never had that.” He asks.

“OK by me.”

“Ne, too.”

We’re heading for Waraku. It’s part of a Japanese chain, according to Andrew. There are no tables free and we have to wait a bit. Pretty busy for a Tuesday. It must be decent.

We all order various types of ramen. Andrew has a beer. But I don’t. I just drink water. My eyes still don’t seem to be working properly. The food is pretty good. But Andrew still doesn’t manage to finish his. He has the appetite of a six-year old anorexic.

We tip back to my room for some pre-bedtime drinks. We’re don’t leave it too late, as we’re all a bit Donald Ducked.

Sleep soon sticks my blurry eyes shut.

1638 Post St,
San Francisco,
CA 94115.
Tel: +1 415-292-3388

Monday 27 August 2018

San Diego again

No bacon this morning. Something that looks like gammon. Alexei and I quietly sob. There are at least breakfast potatoes again. To soak up our tears.

While Alexei and I tuck into our pork and spuds, Andrew glumly stirs his black coffee.

“You’re a bit of a Mr. Grumpytrousers this morning, Andrew.”

“Shut up, dad.”

“You’ve just proved my point.”

We stare out over the bay as we eat (or don’t, in Andrew’s case). It’s a lovely view of the bay and its warships.

A Chinese family shares the lift back to our room. Their four-year old child stares up in awe at the lads. They must look like giants if you’re just a metre tall.

Sheldon Kaplan, a fellow beer writer who lives in San Diego, has agreed to show us around. We’ve arranged to meet him at 11:00. He arrives just as we step outside. “That was good timing.” I say.

His car isn’t huge and it’s a bit cramped in the back for the kids. I’m sitting in the front so there’s plenty of space for me. Look, I’m old and creaky. I deserve a little comfort.

Our first stop is Cabrillo National Monument, a park inside a military area.

“It’s a good place to get an idea of the geography of the city.” Sheldon tells us.

On a peninsular sticking out past Coronado Island it does, indeed, have a wonderful view of the city and the bay. Plus all the warships flitting about, as well as those parked up in the port.

The Cabrillo Monument commemorates the first Europeans to arrive at what is now San Diego, three ships commanded by Joao-Rodrigues Cabrillo, a Portuguese captain working for the Spanish. That was all the way back in 1542. Though, obviously, native peoples lived here for centuries before that.

“Have you heard of Pizza Port? We could go there. The one in OB – Ocean Beach”

“Yes, I’ve heard of them. Never visited, though.”

As we pile into the car, Sheldon tells us the story of Pizza Port. How the founders added a brewery to a pizza place, creating an unusually successful symbiosis. And one of the early motors of the San Diego beer scene.

It’s very informal, with beer garden style long tables and benches. And pizza, obviously. I get a Summer Pale Ale, which is beautiful sparkling gold. Andrew plumps for an IPA. He seems to be getting a taste for IPA. Despite what he’s said in the past about grapefruit beer. “I like my beer to taste like beer, dad” Though he is still mostly drinking Lager. Alexei is on cola.

As Sheldon wants to drink, we head to his place to drop off his car. “I live in PB – Pacific Beach.”

“Do you abbreviate all place names to two letters?” Andrew asks.

We have a quick beer after parking Sheldon’s car. Some canned IPA-type things.

“What would you like to eat?” Sheldon asks, as we sip. (Or chug, in Andrew’s case. He seems to be treating beer drinking as a competition. One he’s easily won, so far. I literally don’t have the stomach for speed drinking anymore. It’s a young man’s game.)

“Something American.” Andrew replies.

“What about southern fried chicken?”

“That’ll do.”

Fried chicken it is, then.

“They have cans of craft beer in cans, too.”

“Even better.”

It’s weird how canned beer has gone from cheapo to acceptable to desirable in the last five years.

StreetCar Merchants, the oddly-named chicken place, occupies a corner of Lincoln Avenue and 30th Street. Quite small, with its big windows wide open on account of the heat. We sit outside.

Me and the kids get a whole spicy chicken. Thankfully, it’s been chopped into bits. It’s served on sliced white bread. “That’s the traditional Southern way.” Sheldon tells us. He’s ordered a collection of sides: coleslaw, collared greens, fried green tomatoes, potato salad and, of course, chips.

I have a Charlie Hustle IPA from Mason Ale Works. Not sure why I’m telling you this. Do you really need to know every beer I drink? I could just as easily say: IPA-ey thing from a can.

The plan is to walk around places around 30th street. Starting at Toronado. I remember now. Before my last visit to San Diego, I put together a couple of maps for areas with lots of breweries and bars. One was for around 30th street. Me being a lazy arse ruled it out eventually.

Toronado is literally around the corner, just a couple of doors away. It’s quite dark inside. We sit on the patio at the back. Alexei is less than enthusiastic about another cola.

“These electric scooter things seem really popular, more than the bikes. Why is that?” I ask Sheldon.

“They’re easier to ride when you’re drunk.”

Fair enough. No wonder I’ve seen clumps of them outside every brewery.

Quite a few home brew shops in the US have added commercial breweries. Our next stop, The Homebrewer, is one of them. While we’re getting stuck into our beers, the owner comes up and starts talking to me. He owns one of my books, evidently. He then starts giving us samples of his beers. I’m never going to turn down beer.

Alexei is getting bored. He’s wary about getting in a taxi on his own, but we manage to persuade him that he won’t be abducted and sold into slavery in Mexico. We plonk him in a taxi and he heads off back to the hotel. With the leftover chicken to eat. Plus the beer to drink he has back in his room.

Another brewery, Pariah, is next.  It’s very much of the taproom inside a brewery rather than a brewpub. The kettles are close at hand. We exit via the dock. Bit of a challenge for an old bastard like me. My legs don’t seem to work like they used to. And, no, that’s nothing to do with the beer I’ve drunk.

We walk to Fall River Brewing, which is also on 30th Street. It’s another brewery with taproom place. We’re literally drinking next to the tanks. I have a Green Hat, which is billed as a San Diego-style IPA, whatever that means. Maybe it’s the multiple C hops it contains. Whatever, it’s good value at $7 a US pint.

We get chatting with a fire chief, who has some interesting stories. Andrew seems to be really enjoying himself. I never imagine back in the mid-1980s when I lived in the US that one day I’d be drinking here with my son. Where did those 30 years go?

We finish at Hamilton's Tavern, a beer pub. The tap handles that cover the ceiling are like an inverted bonsai forest. Andrew seems to be enjoying the US bar style atmosphere.

We finish off at 20:30. Don’t want to leave Alexei alone for too long. You never know what he might do.

Me and Andrew get a cab back to our hotel. Andrew sits up front next to the driver. What is that accent? It takes a while for me to tune in on it. Andrew asks where he’s from and he replies “The Islands.” Then I realise he’s actually said “The Highlands”. He’s a Scots Gallic speaker. Which means his accent in English sounds as much Irish as Scottish.

Alexei is asleep in my room when we get back. He doesn’t seem to have gone too mad.

We eat the leftovers and drink some beer. At least the kids do. I go for some alcohol and coke. That’s literally what it says on the bottle. It certainly needs a lot of mixer. What does “no debe beberse” mean?

Sleep stuns me with a sledgehammer.

Cabrillo National Monument
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr,
San Diego,
CA 92106.
Tel: +1 619-557-5450

Pizza Port Ocean Beach
1956 Bacon St,
San Diego,
CA 92107.
Tel: +1 619-224-4700

StreetCar Merchants
4002 30th St,
San Diego,
CA 92104.
Tel: +1 619-546-9010

Toronado San Diego
4026 30th St,
San Diego,
CA 92104.
Tel: +1 619-282-0456

The Homebrewer
2911 El Cajon Blvd #2,
San Diego,
CA 92104
Tel: +1 619-450-6165

Pariah Brewing Company
3052 El Cajon Boulevard B,
San Diego,
CA 92104.
Tel: +1 619-642-0545

Fall Brewing Company
4542 30th St,
San Diego,
CA 92116.
Tel: +1 619-501-0903

Hamilton's Tavern
1521 30th St,
San Diego,
CA 92102.
Tel: +1 619-238-5460

Sunday 26 August 2018


The happy smell is apparent as soon as we enter the breakfast room. There’s bacon. Alexei lets out a little whoop of joy. I manage to contain myself, but I’m equally overjoyed. There are breakfast potatoes and scrambled egg, too.

Andrew sullenly pours packet after packet of sugar into his black coffee. He’s not a morning person.

Breakfasted, we walk to America Plaza to get the tram. Or trolley as it’s called here. It will take us directly to the border crossing at San Ysidro.

On the way, we pass the naval dockyard. “Are they cruisers, dad?”

“Destroyers, I think.” The weirdly-shaped ones. Something to do with stealth technology, I believe.

The border crossing is right next to the tram terminus. Pretty much everyone on the tram seems to be headed for Mexico.

A very pleasant young woman checks our passports, then stamps them. We’re across in a jiffy.

“Well, that was simple. It won’t be that quick on the way back.” I warn the kids.

It’s a new experience for the kids, crossing an international border on foot. Not for me. I’ve walked from Gibraltar to Spain.

We have an appointment at 11 on the Mexican side with our designated driver, Betty Lopez.

She’s a bit late arriving, giving the kids time to soak up the Mexican atmosphere a bit. Which is slightly chaotic, with buses, cars and people buzzing around. Standing under a tree, we’re at least in the shade.

When Betty turns, we jump in her car and trundle through the city. She’s a bright, witty young Mexican woman who brews in Tijuana. Whose English puts my use of any foreign language to shame. Really cool that she’s prepared to spend her Sunday showing us around.

Betty parks the car and we head off on foot. Starting at Border Pyscho, a small brewpub. It looks much like an American equivalent, with its simple furnishings and wall of beer taps. Or ones in the UK or Holland, for that matter. One of the features of the craft beer world is its international nature. The beers and décor are the same the world over.

“What do you want to drink, kids?”

“A beer.” Alexei says, emphatically. He’s glad to have been magically transformed to drinking age again by a short hop over the border. He chooses a Saison. How trendy. I go for something light, too: a Double IPA. They’re out of Hefeweizen so Andrew has a nitro Stout.

My kids are more like “normal” beer drinkers. Andrew mostly drinks mass-produced Lager. But he also drinks Stout, the odd IPA and quite a bit of Hefeweizen. No snobbishness, no evangelical belief in the one true craft – or cask, for that matter – beer. The kids drink what they fancy at that moment, uninfluenced by ideology.

We only stay for the one. Well, I do. The kids knock back a brace of beers. Then head off to another brewery, Mamut. It’s just off Revolución, Tijuana’s main drag. The brewery is on the first floor of the building. We grab some beers and sit on the balcony, which overlooks the street. Being pretty hot, it’s nice to sit in the breeze.

The kids are looking rather sweaty. They’re not great at handling the heat. Though it does give them an excuse to shovel down lots of beer. On this occasion Andrew is drinking a Gose, though I did warn him.

“How do you like your Gose?”


“That’s a polite way of saying terrible in Britain.”

“Just not really my thing.”

“Our next stop isn’t far, but is difficult to find.” Betty warns us, as we head down an alleyway, into a multi-story car park and then a lift. Doubt I would have found that on my own.

It’s another brewery called Norte. It seems to be on the top floor of the building, judging by the panoramic views. Which includes the giant Mexican flag that flies over Tijuana. Andrew and I both opt for an IPA. You can never go wrong with an IPA.

“It used to be a strip club” Betty tells us. ”You can still see where the pole was.”

“Are there lots of strip clubs in Tijuana?” I ask.

“Yes. But there are good strip clubs and others you really shouldn’t go to.”

Alexei is making the best of his opportunity to drink beer. He’s matching his brother pint for pint, which is quite an achievement, given Andrew’s hollow legs.

We head back to Revolución for our next stop. Not a brewery this time, but a joint tasting room of two: Teorema and Lúdica. The interior is a Spartan white with very simple furniture. All very minimalistic.

The kids are on Kölsch, which is the closest to Lager on offer, while I’m sticking with IPA. Partly out of habit, partly because of the ABV. I’m tempted by a Belgian IPA, Lúdica Lumen. At a refreshing 7.5% ABV. A Mexican-brewed Belgian IPA. The world is getting very confusing. So confusing I go for Imperial Stout instead. Even in this heat, it’s better than the brain bending of a Mexican-brewed Belgian IPA.

“Have you noticed how the measures are all in fluid ounces?” Andrew observes.

“No, I hadn’t until you mentioned it. It’s probably because of American tourists.” We’ve spotted quite a few American tourist on our crawl. Quite a high percentage of the customers. It’s probably pricey for many Mexicans. My 15 oz of 9% beer cost 70 pesos: €3.18. Cheap compared to the US or Holland, but I imagine wages are a good bit lower here.

Andrew wanted to take advantage of the 32 oz. serving offered. But they don’t have any of the glasses. He gets two 15 oz. glasses instead. Not at the same time. They refill his glass after he drains it. Which takes a good 30 seconds. “Feeling thirsty again, Andrew?”

“I’d like to buy some tequila.” I say, spotting an offie as we walk along Revolución. I get a quite posh bottle, on the advice of the owner. “Don’t just throw down like a cheap tequila.” He advises.

I’ve been paying by card so far, but get out 500 pesos on Betty’s advice. Where we’re eating doesn’t accept cards.

I understand why when we get there. Telefonica Gastro Park is a brewery with food trucks. “That’s why you need some cash.” Betty says, “The trucks don’t take cards.”

The food is pretty good and dirt cheap. I share some tacos with Alexei. While Andrew had a pile of stuff, including a dollop of mole. I have a sludge IPA. Not sure why, given how much I slag them off. It must be the heat. The kids are still looking pretty sweaty. As I probably am, too. Hopefully their pints of Lager will help them cool down a bit.

At seven, it’s time for us to be heading back to the border. Betty drives us back there and we join the queue of pedestrians.

The queue to get back over the border is really long. It takes a bit over an hour to cross. There are people trying to flog stuff to the queue, many kids of just 8 or 9. Duty free shops, too. I pop in one and buy a random bottle. Not sure what it is. But I may as well get rid of some of those pesos.

We eventually get to the head of the queue. Why don’t they take our fingerprints again?

“Are you bringing anything back with you?” “Just this bottle. Oh, sorry, these two bottles.” He doesn’t seem very interested in looking at them.

The tram is delayed. It’s 9:45 when we reach America Plaza. Andrew plans on getting more beer at the 7/11. We pass a Rite-aide which I notice sells beer. “Why not get your beer here, as we’re passing.” “OK.”

As we’re browsing there’s an announcement: “Last alcohol sales in 5 minutes.” “Best hurry up, Andrew.” If we’d walked that bit further to the 7/11, Andrew would have no beer.

The kids hang out in my room a little, drinking beer, watching TV. It’s freezing cold, despite me turning the airco up to 68º F. I had trouble sleeping yesterday, I was so cold.

I don’t stay up late. Busy day ahead tomorrow. Sleep rushes swiftly at me like a speeding train.

Border Psycho
Calle Libertad 1751,
22055 Tijuana, B.C.
Tel: +52 664 379 1235

Carrillo Puerto y o Tercera 8161,
Zona Centro,
22000 Tijuana, B.C.
Tel: +52 664 685 0137

Cerveceria Norte
Diaz Miron y o cuarta 8160,
Zona Centro,
22000 Tijuana, B.C.

Teorema/Lúdica Co-tasting Room
Revolución 1332,
Zona Centro,
22000 Tijuana, B.C.
Tel: +52 664 210 0390

Telefonica Gastro Park
Boulevard Agua Caliente 8860,
22000 Tijuana, B.C.
Tel: +52 664 200 2155

Saturday 25 August 2018

1960 Robert Younger Old Edinburgh Ale

My apologies. I forgot to publish a recipe on Wednesday. I blame jetlag. Or the early onset of dementia. It's one of the two.

This beer was a bit of a surprise. Robert Younger's rang consisted of loads of Pale Ales, dodgily produced Stout and a Strong Ale. That was the usual run of play in Scotland.

I’ve no idea how this beer was marketed. My guess is that it’s a bottled beer in the William Younger No. 3 category. But I could be totally wrong. That’s the problem when you’ve no information on the finished beer.

Though the large amount of caramel does make it pretty dark. The colour below is as brewed. Achieved by throwing all the caramel in the wort intended for this beer. I think. That looks like what it says in the brewing record. There’s always some magic in the parti-gyling together very different styles.

Note the presence of liquorice. Never seen that in anything but Porter or Stout before.

1960 Robert Younger Old Edinburgh Ale
pale malt 7.00 lb 72.09%
flaked maize 1.50 lb 15.45%
malt extract 0.10 lb 1.03%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.75 lb 7.72%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.33 lb 3.40%
liquorice 0.03 lb 0.31%
Fuggles 120 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 60 mins 0.75 oz
OG 1044
FG 1016
ABV 3.70
Apparent attenuation 63.64%
IBU 22
SRM 23
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1728 Scottish ale (McEwans)

Other Robert Younger recipes are available in my new book:

Friday 24 August 2018


The kids knock on my door at 8:30, as arranged. I’ve slept the sleep of the just. Or the smashed. One of the two. Hope that’s reset my body clock.

“Our room is freezing, dad.”

“Are you complaining?”

“No. It was great.”

We head down for breakfast. It’s a disposable one. Without bacon, sadly. Just weird warmed-up cubes of ham. It’ll do. Just.Andrew is having a coffee breakfast again. The scary number of sugars will be his only morning intake of calories.

“Your sons are tall.” a man on the next table remarks.

“I hadn’t really noticed. We live in Holland. I’m considered short there, and I’m six foot two.”

The kids seem pretty happy. It's odd having people with me on a trip like this. I'm used to travelling alone. Quite a nice change having the kids along.

Jim is picking us up later, but first we drop by a Safeway for some essential supplies: crisps, water, cola and bourbon. Two bottles of that: one for me and one for the kids.

The traffic is really bad again. Jim is going to show us around town a little. It takes forever to reach our first destination, the Freemont Troll. He drops us off to let us have a closer look the massive concrete troll statue under a road bridge. It’s quite impressive. As we get out of the car, some other people try to get in. They think it’s their Uber.

Children of various ages are clambering onto the troll and having their photos taken. And some adults, too. It’s a weird tourist attraction, set as it is in a nondescript residential area.

We drop by Maritime for some beer and food. Well, cola and food for Alexei. The lack of beer possibilities doesn’t seem to be annoying him too much yet. On the way we drive past the Lenin statue again.

“That’s a bit mean, Andrew. Someone has poured paint all over Lenin.”

“He’s not a universally popular figure, dad.”

The Jolly Roger, as Maritime’s pub is called, is fairly empty. And also familiar. “I’ve been here before. I can remember eating battered, deep-fried bacon.” I remark to Jim. Obviously, we order a portion of that. With sliders as main.

“What do you think of the deep-fried bacon, kids?”

“It tastes as good as it sounds.” Alexei replies.

"Full of bacony goodness, dad."

“I’ll take you to have a look at the fish market.” Jim says. “They throw the fish around. It’s really cool.”

The main indoor market in the centre of town is pretty impressive. I always like cities that retain their old central markets. This one is more than just fish. That’s just one section. There’s also fruit and veg and all sort of other stuff.

The plan was that Jim would drop us off, give us 20 minutes to look around, then pick us up again. It all works out perfectly. Even though he’d only gone around the market once, the traffic was so dense.

We can’t hang around too long as we need to get back to Bothell so Jim can set up for tonight’s event. Which is drinking six No. 1 Barley Wines: three from William Younger and three from Truman’s Burton brewery. With some additional bullshit from me.

Foggy Noggin is very unusual. The brewery is in a shed behind Jim’s house. And the taproom is in his garage. He’s allowed to do this in a residential area because his house sits on a 2.5 acre plot. No neighbours nearby. Plus he’s left most of the trees, which form a natural screen. It’s a lovely, peaceful spot.

People gradually arrive and I chat with them a little. Before launching into the show. Quite a few attended my last talk here, four years ago. It’s all pretty relaxed and quite interactive. The one Younger beer, with over 40% grits, is a bit of a surprise for people.

Jim has got pies from a British bakery. They’re rather nice and obviously made the proper way, with suet. I get stuck into one in the short break between the two sets of beers. The kids, obviously, partake enthusiastically. They’re big pie fans.

When the structured part is done, I flog a few books and do some chatting. It’s nice to meet Lisa Grimm, who I’ve known on the internet for a while. Being an archivist, we’ve got plenty to talk about.

By the time we wrap things up, I’m feeling knacked. Jim drives us back to our hotel. Where we drink a little beer and watch some TV before crashing out.

Sleep rushes up like a ghost-riding truck.

Maritime Pacific Brewing
1111 NW Ballard Way,
Seattle, WA 98107.
Tel: +1 206-782-6181

Foggy Noggin
22329 53rd Ave SE,
WA 98021.
Tel: +1 206-553-9223

Thursday 23 August 2018

Seattle here we come

We arrive very early at the airport. I check my bag in push in queueing. Have to take advantage of my silver KLM status.

“Aren’t your sons with you?”

“They’re going through the other side.”

“They could have come through here, too.  You can go through the priority security with them.”

After checking in, I call the kids over. “Crawl under the barrier” I say.

“Why, dad?”

“Because you can use the fast queue, too.”

The security area is closed off. It’s a 15-minute strike. Andrew has been doing them. Some passengers behind us are getting annoyed. While Andrew chats with the security people. G4S is doing one lane and a colleague of Andrew’s comes over to chat with him.

As is traditional, I get a bottle of Laphroaig in the duty free. I’d feel alone without a bottle of it in my hotel room.

We’re leaving via pier D. Which means we can drop by the Irish pub. It’s worrying sometimes how well I know airside at Schiphol.

“What do you fancy, lads?”

“A pint of cider.” Andrew says.

“I’ll have one, too.” Alexei agrees.

I go for the traditional half of Stout and double Jamesons.

This will be the last booze for Lexie for a while. He manages three pints of cider before it’s time to head to our gate.

All the Delta flights are showing as gate D1. Not because that’s where the flight will depart. But because that’s where they do the extra security check. They give Alexei a red folder for his boarding card. He’s been “randomly chosen” for an extra security check at the gate itself.

“I don’t believe in random selection. There’s some reason they’ve singled out Lexie.” I remark, cynically.

At the gate, they request the red-carded passengers come forward. Alexei trundles up and they take him away behind the counter where they start looking through his bags.

“I hope they aren’t going to check his bottom, Andrew.”

Luckily they don’t. That’s an extra hassle I could do without. Andrew notices that most of those called up for an extra check have Russian passports. Since working at the airport he’s become very skilled at spotting passports. “I wonder if Alexei was flagged because he has a Russian first name?”

We board on time. Well, early, really, as I have pushing in boarding. We settle into our seats and await take off.

“How old are you, sir.” The stewardess enquires when Andrew asks for a beer. “21.” She doesn’t ask for ID, mind.

I watch Kingsmen, then a shitty US comedy that’s so bad I give up after 20 minutes. Then The Wrong Mans, three episodes of Rick & Morty and a few of The Detour.

The 10-hour flight is soon over.  Though I need to get up and walk around a few times when my arse starts hurting.

Immigration isn’t bad at all. We’re through in 15 to 20 minutes. Then it’s a long trek across the airport to baggage reclaim. Where luckily we don’t have to wait long for my bag.

Jim Jamison of Foggy Noggin is picking us up. That’s where I’ll be talking tomorrow. Luckily, he turns up after a few minutes.

The traffic is bad. Really bad. It takes ages to get to Bothell, where we're staying, which is on the other side of town to the airport.

“That’s weird.” I remark. “Why do they have a Lenin statue here?”

“Probably because it was cheap.” Andrew quips.

Jim drops us at our hotel, where we dump out bags and freshen up a bit. I let Lexie have some whisky before we leave, to see him through the evening. Then we rush back to the lobby, where Jim is waiting.

“What sort of food would you like to eat?” he asks.

“American stuff. “ Andrew replies decisively.

“OK. I know where we can go.”

Which is Stack 571, a burger place where Jim’s wife has already grabbed a table. “They always have one of my beers on tap.” Jim says. It only seems polite to order a Foggy Noggin ESB.

The kids have never tried poutine so we have a portion as a starter. Along with calamari rings. You can never go wrong with those. And we don’t. They’re dead good. Burgers all around for mains. Which are also pretty good.

Though the kids don’t manage to finish everything and get a doggie bag.

Next up is McMenamins’s, a huge complex in an old school. Jim’s wife used to work there as a teacher. Which must make it slightly weird boozing in there.

There are several bars and even a swimming pool. We start at the Whiskey Shack, where me and Jim have a rye. Andrew can’t get a drink because passports are the only foreign ID they will accept. I hope he’ll learn from this experience. We go to another bar for a sit down. Jim orders our beers at the bar so there’s no need for Andrew to show id.

I’m not really up for staying out too late. Though I don’t want to go to bed too early, either. It’s a difficult balancing act.

On the way back to the hotel we drop by a supermarket to get some beer. Mostly for Lexie, who’s had a dry evening. Andrew is quite keen on trying mass-market stuff. Like Past Blue Ribbon.

We hang for a while in the kids’ room, drinking whisky and beer while watching TV. They heat up their leftover dinner in the microwave when they get peckish. It’s all crazily exciting.

We crash at around midnight. Sleep stumbles in and slumps snoring on the bed.

Stack 571 Burger and Whiskey Bar
9924 NE 185th St #101,
Bothell, WA 98011

McMenamin’s Anderson School
Anderson School Building,
18607 Bothell Way NE,
Bothell, WA 98011.
Tel: +1 425-398-0122

Wednesday 22 August 2018

What I drank in my Berlin hotel, 2018 edition.

I got back from the US with a nasty cold. You're going to have to wait until I'm feeling better for my tales of wandering around pissed. Not that there was much of that, this time out. I was mostly watching Andrew drink beer.

Most of the time he was doing around three beers to my one. Though I was drinking stronger stuff than him. mostly. It was much the same when we were in Berlin. Especially at the festival, where him and Alexei were shovelling down cider and Pils.

Obviously, Alexei wasn't shovelling down anything in the US. Which, understandably, he wasn't all that happy about. Which is one of the reasons I scheduled time in Mexico and Canada.

True to tradition, here's what I drank in my Berlin hotel. Not as many as in previous years. Then again, wew weren't there as long.

See if you can spot a theme. The Gold Ochsedn is my favourite.