The more beer I drink, the less this is about beer.
The last two breweries I visited were completely different, but both good examples of why it is nearly impossible to keep track of how many breweries exist in Northern California.
Hoi Polloi is very small but they do brew their own beer in the back room. They had their own amber ale and a house IPA with 15 other taps. I snuck a picture of the brewing equipment. I didn’t feel comfortable taking photos. The place seemed much more neighborly than beer touristy. It’s actually a hip-hop lounge, but when the wife and I were there the music was mellow and in the background. I noticed a set of turntables and some speakers on the bar that weren’t being used. I’m guessing things aren’t always so mellow later at night. A lot of the people there came over with food from next door and there was a wide range of ages and a friendly bartender.
After the hip-hop lounge we went to go see The Bananas at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records.
People can interpret lyrics anyway they want so to me Feel Better is a fantastic song about how drinking beer makes things better. It starts out sad, then there is a bottle and it turns celebratory. That’s how drinking beer should sound. I took out my phone to catch the last chorus, it was the only 10 seconds of video I took that night.
I couldn’t begin to describe to you how the first beer I had at Mill Valley Beerworks tasted, but it immediately reminded me of the Barrel Head Brewery in San Francisco. Since my taste buds aren’t that developed I must have subconsciously put together the hint that it was the same beer I had there. For instance, the beer menu very clearly said “Fort Point” next to each of the house beers. I had ordered a Fort Point beer at the Barrel Head four months earlier. I remember it because it was the first time I had seen the brewery name.
The bearded bartender with two full sleeves of tattoos on his arms and wearing a flannel didn’t seem out of place among the well healed formerly hipster patrons of upper crust Mill Valley. I asked him, “So is Fort Point you?” He said, “yes!” Then I asked, so is it brewed here? And I pointed down towards the floor, meaning the basement where they moved the brewing equipment. He said they brewed Fort Point off site in San Francisco. I figured that meant that they had only moved the tanks downstairs at this location, but for some reason I didn’t ask.
It seems this place is popular with the locals for it’s food. The menu is rotating and locally sourced as would be expected. I noticed that they had some sort of artisan toast for $4 (not $3.99, the clientele here is too sophisticated for that old trick). It’s that kind of place. One of my favorite radio shows, Armstrong & Getty, recently made fun of the trend towards fancy $4 toast, but to me $4 fancy toast actually makes more sense than going to a steak house and paying $40 for a cut of meat and some vegetables that can be bought for a third the price and grilled more comfortable at home, so to each their own.
Later on I checked the Fort Point Brewery website and noticed that the bartender from that morning is one of the two founders of Fort Point Brewing. Also the head brewer there used to be the head brewer at Mill Valley Beerworks, so that makes sense. The bartender didn’t seem out of place because he’s the guy running the place.
Mill Valley is just 14 miles north of San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge, right next to the famed Mt. Tam. It’s a very idealized place surrounded by mountains with a lot of trees. You can tell the residents work hard to maintain the small town charm of the place, but it’s not somewhere you can avoid the hustle bustle. No place where the streets are lined with parking meters is it ever actually laid back. A good illustration is that the small building that houses the Mill Valley Beerworks has no sign on it at all. As I left I paused to take a picture of it before I got in my car, but another car immediately pulled up next to me waiting for my parking spot. I didn’t take the picture.