A very Probe style Brewery Review


Adam Carolla’s empty chair

I went to San Francisco just to see Adam Carolla’s new movie, Road Hard. Of course, anytime I go anywhere I am also going to a brewery or two.
Adam Carolla made an appearance at the theater for question and answer sessions after each showing of the movie on Tuesday. So I got off work and went on Wednesday at 2:30 pm because I like to avoid the crowds and I like to be home before it gets dark. I was the only person in the theater. I took a picture of the chair where Adam sat the night before. It was still set up in the middle of the isle. Once the movie started I did hear one guy behind me laughing, so I wasn’t the only one in the theater. It was a funny movie, but I did not laugh.
I used to say, “I’ve only cried during three movies in my life, and they were all Adam Sandler movies.” That was true, the last one was “Click”. Thankfully I don’t cry in real life because I am a grown man and that would scary. But these days I seem to tear up more frequently while watching movies. I must hide it pretty well because no one has ever said to me, “Oh my God, are you crying?” Luckily I was almost the only one in the theater because Road Hard was a tearjerker. I love good romantic comedies.


Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company

Anyway, on the way to the movie I stopped in at a brand new brewery in the Sunset District. Nice place! Not a place for me particularly, but a really nice place. It was Sunset something or other brewery. They didn’t have tap handles and they didn’t have any goofy t-shirts for sale. I didn’t even ask if they sold pint glasses or bottle openers. The young urban professionals that this place was built for are a little too cool for that. They did make the beer on sight, nothing too crazy but it was all good. I only had time for a sampler before the movie.


Nice looking bar at Sunset Reservoir


but I prefer the tap handles at the Beach Chalet Brewery

After the movie I went to the Beach Chalet Brewery. It’s from an era of older breweries in California, but it’s very unusual in that it is somewhat of a tourist attraction because of its location between the ocean and Golden Gate Park. The place is lost in time. It’s a grand impressive building, but worn around the edges enough to be comfortable. A Reuben Sandwich may be $15 in the dining room, but during happy hour their own beer is just $3.50 a pint with $3 fries or onion strings among other deals. Ocean Beach is one of the least scenic beaches in existence. The Park Chalet bar that is in back is actually more of an attraction. It opens to Golden Gate Park which is a very unusual feature for any bar or restaurant. I asked the bartender how far into the park I could walk with my bear and he didn’t seem to have a definite answer.
This was one of the brewery stops on my 40th birthday over 7 years ago where I drank four shots of whiskey in 5 seconds. The rest of the day I had to focus hard just to keep the world from spinning. That was before I quickly became an old man and had to be more conscious about my alcohol intake.
I am a beer tourist so I was happy to find an actual gift shop downstairs with bottles of Beach Chalet beer for sale. I also got a California Kind Ale t-shirt because it was my favorite beer and it has a woman in a bikini on it. Score! I liked the guy working there. He said he remembered when there were only 35 breweries in Northern California and I think he actually told me that there are six more small batch neiborhood breweries planned for the Sunset District. When I told him why I was in the city he said, “At the Balboa Theater? I think I’ll go see that! Really, I was just trying to think of something to do tonight.”


The Park Chalet Bar is behind the Beach Chalet. This a screen capture from their website. The windows were all open when I was there. I took my pint and walked into those trees on the right.


This is Ocean Beach directly across the street from the Beach Chalet Brewery.

After a walk in the park I met my friend Bill back at the new Sunset brewery that I was at earlier. He lives nearby and he was curious to check it out. The place was packed! They said it would be an hour to get a table so instead we just got stools by the window and had beer. The staff at this place was great, despite the crowd the bartender got to me instantly and as she was getting my drinks another bartender came by and asked again. Once again, brewpubs are usually twice as efficient at getting beer to their customers than they are in bars or clubs.
We then went to a nearby pizza place that had Magnolia Brewery on tap.
After that I stopped in at Bill’s place. I told him I wanted to check out his backyard view. 20 years earlier I had an ex girlfriend who also lived in the Sunset. She used to come home from her waitressing job, take off all of her clothes, get a glass of wine, talk on the phone or whatever and relax while checking herself out in the mirror for 15 or 20 minutes before getting dressed. The best part was that she had a full-length bedroom window and she left the blinds pulled up while she did this. I had many questions. She said, “I don’t know why I do it! I’ve been working out, I just feel really good about myself right now” She said she honestly didn’t care if the neighbors were watching her or not but it was just her way of de-stressing after work. One night I ran into her and her roommate Jeanette at a show in the city and I came back to their house because I really wanted to see what she looked like in the window. Jeannette knew what we were up to and did not approve, she said she never once left the curtains open while she was changing because there were a bunch of windows facing hers and she wasn’t into the peeping tom thing. However, a little while later I was standing out in the backyard watching my ex on the second floor and Jeanette walked into her room on the first floor and she also got completely naked!
Anyway, Bill had no interest in hearing this story; he shook his head disapprovingly and changed the subject. Personally, I think it’s an awesome story. Naked women are always fantastic. I admit that I tend to be more interested in stories involving naked women than most people. If you do like stories about naked women you should read my Probe interview at http://www.daveninja.com/probe/ Coincidently, it features a half naked photo of Jeanette at Ocean Beech of all places. We are still friends, but I haven’t talked to her old roommate in a while so I didn’t use her name.

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Sunset District houses



Poured from a bottle of New Almaden Red from Santa Clara Valley Brewing. It’s as good as it looks!

     Five years after they said it was gone for good Lagunitas Imperial Red came back again. This time it is in 22oz. bottles. Sure I’m happy but there is so much going on in the brewing world that my days of driving to three neighboring towns just to stock up on the stuff are over. When Lagunitas Imperial Red returned briefly a couple of years ago with the same taste and aroma, but with a lighter body I sent an email to the brewery to ask about the change and they replied that they would forward my thoughts to the brewer – so, obviously I am chiefly responsible for it’s triumphant return! Not only is it back to its old form but it is also one of the least expensive of the Imperial Reds.

It’s no longer difficult to find Imperial Reds. There used to be 4 or 5 that I knew of, most of them seasonal and hard to find, now I’ve had over 20. I made a shrine of the best ones that come in bottles, on a shelf in my garage. I was going to do a little review of every Imperial Red I’ve found, but that isn’t really my forte. I don’t have talented taste buds and I tried to brew my own Imperial Red and, for the most part, I failed so I’m not really qualified to review beer.
To be honest, I like it all, though sometimes a beer will really stand out. One time at Santé Adarius in Santa Cruz. I had a surprising pale ale. Usually pale ale is the least exciting beer on the menu for me. However, this pale ale had four distinct stages of flavor, nothing dominated. It was as if the flavor of hops and barley had been injected into a stream of their purest mountain water. (Yes, I’m joking seriously here. Reviewing beer is like reviewing punk rock. What more can you say other than it fucking rocks!) For a second I thought maybe the ocean air was cleansing my taste buds, but the place is right next to the freeway. However, the next time I went back there they only had sours and dark beers on tap. This seems to be a common trend with really good brewers who have been brewing beer for a lifetime, they move on to the sours.
As much as quality I just appreciate brewers that really go for it with at least one of their beers because I like variety as much as consistency. Not all beer should be for everybody.  I always want to check out something different. If a beer is named after a flavor I want to taste it. I don’t like just a touch of this and that. For instance, that same day, at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, I had a good Rosemary IPA. The bartender tried to give me a sample and warned me that the taste of Rosemary was too strong for some. I was glad to hear that and said that I didn’t need a sample. In the same way I believe a chili pepper beer should clear your sinuses and bring tears to your eyes.

       Similarly, and it didn’t bring tears to my eyes, but my favorite new beer during the Pleasanton Brew Crawl was Ballast Point’s Habanero Sculpin. It tasted exactly as advertised. I asked for the bottle so I could take a picture of it for brewznewz, but Keri said, “don’t just take a photo of the bottle, you should have her hold it up for you.” Good call by the wife. IMG_1469

New breweries where I live!

On most weeks it seems that I learn about a new brewery opening somewhere nearby. Yesterday I was at a brewing event deep in the mountains of  Marin County and a new brewery came to us!  The guy who started Petaluma Hills Brewing Company brought 8 growlers with him to talk about and share with everybody. He has opened a brewery directly across the street from Lagunitas Brewing Company! He had some good stories too.


A great day with thanks to J.J. Jay of Petaluma Hills Brewing Company

Not only are new breweries opening up everywhere but you can now find beer in more places.  Today, I can walk down the Main Street in my hometown of Pleasanton (and adjoining side streets) and buy LOCAL BEER ON TAP at EIGHT different locations! Five years ago there was only the Main Street Brewery and I felt lucky just for that!


Altamont’s Rich Mahogany on tap at the Cellar Door

So that’s a huge improvement for Pleasanton. On the other hand,  I was looking  forward to Iron Oak Brewing because they were located just a few buildings away from where my kids have gymnastics. They were trying to get a tap house open, but now the warehouse they were in is empty. On a similar note, 8 Bridges Brewing tried to get an actual production brewery going in Pleasanton because they are entirely family run and live in Pleasanton. They had to move one HWY exit away to the city of Livermore. They have a great place there now. It’s one of 7 breweries within a 20 minute drive of our house.  Five years ago there was only the Main Street Brewery. (see list)


http://www.mainstbrewery.com  (Keri n’ me on the far left on homepage )








Had to check out Das Brew in Fremont with the wife last December.


The Main Street Brewery has had to change just a little, but it’s still my favorite place to go. They initially lost some business to women who preferred they more stylish looking Handles gastro pub that opened across the street. So they remodeled and got rid of the long tables that they had in front and the yellow paint is gone too. However, they kept most of the personality, like having nice big colorful beer taps instead of stylish little “handles.” Of course, I preferred it the way it was. During the day it seemed more like a fun place for the entire family, but they do seem to have more people in there since they made the changes so I can’t argue.


About as good as it gets, at my favorite place with my favorite kids last Summer. Main Street Brewery.