King of the Awkward Silence

IMG_1745A few weeks ago I was momentarily befuddled when I saw Laura Jane Grace singing with Miley Cyrus on youtube. I knew that I KNEW the voice but had to google the name to place it. Somehow I lost track of the punk rock scene for about 10 years so I was more thrown off that she was playing with Miley Cyrus than I was over the fact that the guy from Against Me! is a woman now. Yesterday on the Marc Maron podcast I heard the story of her transformation from champion of DIY punk rock to a big label recording artist. It was the story I expected to hear and altogether understandable. However, I was thrown for a loop when she said, “people in the punk scene are kind of homophobic in general.” Really?? I guess I wouldn’t know first hand but from my memory the punk scene was almost militantly pro gay. Improper use of the F-word could get you a lifetime ban from the scene! Then again, according to Laura, there were some people who made fun of Green Day for wearing eyeliner so maybe I’m wrong about that.Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 12.52.55 AM

The wife told me today that instead of writing about beer I should start a blog called “This interview is over!” Where I interview people until they don’t want to talk to me anymore. I thought it was a bizarre suggestion to make. (???) She explained that whenever I talk to people I ask very awkward and inappropriate questions and that I tend to make most people uncomfortable. Then she mentioned a few times where I did this in front of her recently.
Although troubling, I liked her explanation because my previous interpretation was that people had stopped talking to me because I was boring. I know that my ability to socialize is stilted. Most of the time when I talk to people I get the feeling that in the back of their mind they are thinking, “please stop talking!” Conversations come to a halt quickly. I just don’t have the gift of amiability. I could never be a salesman.
As a hetero white male I know the problem is my own fault. If things were different I could believe that people just didn’t respect my opinion as a women or my transgenderness was disconcerting to them. Lucky for me, I don’t have any guilt over the issue because I have been a hardcore libertarian from birth. I never had to evolve towards my belief in the personal freedom of others, sexually or otherwise.
It is compelling to know that there are many individuals who are willing to endure public humiliation, hormone therapy, and sometimes even have their bodies surgically altered simply because they have a need to express their true selves sexually. What I do find maddening is that often the same group of understanding people that are now embracing transgenders, men and women, are still able to roll their eyes and be completely dismissive of talented and accomplished women simply because they have the the courage to distinguish themselves sexually.
With all due respect to Laura Jane Grace and the homophobia or transphobia that she experienced in the punk scene, no person in present day America, has been the subject of more cruel vitriol for expressing his or her sexuality than Miley Cyrus.

Thankfully, the dimwitted herd will eventually fall in line, as they did with Lady Gaga and the exceptional women who came before her.

11262566_901859176501478_1356241421_nI read in Zymurgy Magazine this week that 17 new breweries open up everyday in the United States. Last weekend I was able to visit two that have been at the top of my list for a long while. Mraz in El Dorado and Berryessa in Winters. It turns out that Mraz is just up the road from where my family celebrates Christmas every year at our Uncle Dan and Aunt Bev’s House. Berryessa is much further off the beaten path 62 miles to the East of Mraz, but I really like the picnic table set up and wide space surrounding the brewery. If you’re not a Hop Head you’ll like these breweries as they combine many European and West Coast styles. My best move was that I bought many bottles of the Mraz beers. I’m not a cicerone but it’s obvious that their bottle conditioned ales are about as good as you’ll ever find.

Brewznewz tracked down Mraz brewer Mike and Justin from Mraz at Berryessa Brewing 24 hours after our visit to their brewery.

Brewznewz spotted Mraz brewer Mike and Justin from Mraz at Berryessa Brewing just 24 hours after our visit to their brewery.

NO PEACE IN DEAF!!

IMG_0216Last year I joined social media for the first time and this year our house is falling apart bit by bit. Coincidence?
Our kitchen has been torn out. I brewed a beer five weeks ago and it’s still fermenting in my closet. I have an electric skillet and the toaster oven out on the patio, but everything is out of sorts.
Now that our kitchen is gone we decided to try out some new restaurants in town. What we have learned is that the Main Street Brewery is still our favorite place.
Last week I was listening to the Adam Carolla podcast and he had on Jon Taffer from the Bar Rescue show. He explained that restaurants like quick turnover where as bars want people to stay longer and order drinks. All of the profit comes from serving drinks but it is still important for bars to serve good food because people who order food stay an average of 52 minutes longer than people who don’t. That probably also explains why brewpubs always have great food.

HOPPY BREWING COMPANY

HOPPY BREWING COMPANY

Last Sunday we showed up at Hoppy Brewing Company in Sacramento with a party of fifteen and we were seated and had beer in less than ten minutes. Do you think that would have happened at some jackass Applebee’s? Try doing that at a big dumb IHOP! Brewpubs rule.IMG_1678                                                           Each year for Father’s day I plan some sort of low stress family outing coupled with a nearby brewery. The tradition started several years ago by going to Half Moon Bay Brewing and the Beach. Last year was HWY 1 Brewing on the way back from Manresa and the year before that we went to the Black Diamond Mines followed by EJ Phair Brewing in Pittsburgh, Ca. (I actually learned about the mines by reading Black Diamond Brewery’s old web sight.)

This year for Father’s day Mount Tam came to my mind as a destination because of my last post on brewznewz. We drove to the top of North Peak, walked around the top a couple of times, and followed that up with a visit to Iron Springs Brewery in Fairfax. The town of Fairfax is a little ways off of the highway so it’s not a brewery you’re likely to run into by accident. I also went to Iron Springs a couple of years ago with my friend Hal so I knew it was a place the whole family would like. It was good to see that the super nice lady who does the fantastic chalk drawings is still working there! She brought me my second beer. I took a picture of her latest creation.

IMG_1683Last week I had a hearing test at Kaiser. They recommended I get a hearing aid, but it would be $1,500 an ear so that’s not going to happen. My bigger concern is the tinnitus anyway. My ears never stopped ringing after an ACDC concert 30 years ago. I got used to it, but about six years ago the noises in my head got worse. Sometimes I listen to the sounds in my head and I honestly wonder how (if?) I am still sane. I don’t want to complain though because I have two different musician friends who not only have tinnitus, but they have both gone completely deaf in one of their ears. Not only that, the deaf ears still ring! NO PEACE IN DEAF!! That sounds horrible, but both of those guys lead productive lives that are far from miserable. I admire them for that.

Thankfully breweries are usually pretty laid back and quiet. Altamont’s Tap Room being the one big exception, but that’s my own problem. I have ISSUES. It’s not Altamont’s fault that I’m a grouchy anxiety riddled old dude who pees his pants when the music is too loud. Plus, when Altamont first opened the owner took the wife and I aside at a sparsely attended Pleasanton brew fest and gave us an impromptu lesson in lager tasting. He was a really nice guy and the beer is great. I had a fantastic Smoke n’ Dank in Oakland recently, nice to find the local beer in the big city.

And now the music for this post, I love them, but I can’t listen to ACDC any more. I would also love to drive around blasting heavy bands like Ringwurm, Led Zeppelin, and Brainoil, but when I do that now, when I step out of the car the effect is as if a bomb has gone off. Not only is the ringing louder but all sound is deadened, and the effect of one transgression can lasts for weeks. That’s why I started listening to what the wife unaffectionately refers to as “your whiney voice music.” Neutral Milk Hotel and The Mountain Goats mostly. It has the raw energy and emotion of punk rock, but they are easy on the ears.

I am going to add another link to this post because I just realized that the Ringwurm CD I put out on my record label in 1996 is available in it’s entirety on youtube. Plus, the singer, cover artist, Joe is one of the half deaf dudes I was talking about above. I lost a good bit of my hearing blasting this CD 16 hours a day in my Freightliner truck, hauling tomatoes up and down HWY 5 back in the ’90’s. These days you can find Joe and his artwork at Idiomism Records on twitter. I also want to mention that this was an unmastered bare bones recording before the age of digital tweeking. There are no effects at all on the vocals, Joe was just born with some crazy ass vocal chords.

I got this at one of Joe's showings many years ago because I love the concept. I have four or five friends that are serious artists and I'd like to support them but all of them are into the dark and weird. I like paintings of bucolic hillsides, colorful birds, and pretty ladies in fancy hats like my Grandma Lydia used to draw.

I got this at one of Joe’s showings many years ago because I love the concept. I have four or five friends that are serious artists and I’d like to support them but all of them are into the dark and weird. I like paintings of bucolic hillsides, colorful birds, and pretty ladies in fancy hats like my Grandma Lydia used to draw.

Hoi Polloi Brewpub and Beat Lounge in Oakland, Mill Valley Beerworks

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.IMG_1631 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.

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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.

 

 

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Mill Valley Beerworks. When I was here three years ago the brewing equipment was set up right next to the bar. The bartender told me they moved it downstairs about six months ago. They have these tables here now.

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.

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A nice setting, a good place to drink alone during brunch hours. I asked for water and I got that fancy bottle – no extra charge. That’s an 11% Belgium Quad, the stronger the beer, the thinner the glass.

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.

Cellarmaker Brewery, City Beer Store, Mission Public and how I became the crazy man screaming in the street

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 1.04.36 PMI planned out every step of this trip in advance and then I blew it by not following my plan. I left work early and I took BART. I had put this trip on my calendar eight weeks in advance and I didn’t know that the Giants would be playing a playoff game this night. Not a big deal. I thought I would make it back to BART before the game was over. I was wrong.IMG_1030
I got to the brewery well before it opened up at 3pm. As I arrived there was a crazy man walking down the street shouting as he walked. He yelled stuff at people behind me and then just stopped in front of the brewery and mumbled angrily.
I walked around the block to the City Beer Store. This place was better than I expected it to be. They had a great tap list and I would have been happy to stay there for a long time, but I wanted to go to the brewery. I decided I would come back later.

City Beer Store taps

City Beer Store taps

When Cellarmaker finally rolled up their warehouse doors they had a giant TV with the earlier play-off game on. Sometimes I appreciate the breweries that don’t have TV’s but baseball is my exception to the rule. They had subtitles on the TV and a record player was playing a Social Distortion LP. I really liked the beer. I took a photo for instagram featuring beer and baseball in the same photo but it felt oddly disingenuous so I didn’t post it.
IMG_1034My next planned stop was Mission Public. I heard from the wife that two old friends of ours had opened up a sandwich bar tap house in the Mission.

Chubby and Anthony of Mission House

Chubby and Anthony of Mission House

Anthony used to do film negatives for Probe Records, but I hadn’t seen him since then. I hadn’t talked to either of them in many years. Both Anthony and Chubby were there. It was good to see them and I really liked the place and stayed for a long while. If I would have headed back to the City Beer Store then I think my SF daytrip would have worked out perfectly.

Chubby's art has been hanging on our walls for over 15 years.

Chubby’s art has been hanging on our walls for over 15 years.

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My downfall began when I decided to also check out Zeitgeist because it was just a few blocks away. I had confused it with a different place. I thought it would be a barebones German beer garden with wood tables surrounded by a cyclone fence. Instead, it felt like a hip and happening nightspot. It seemed loud and I felt like I didn’t belong there. I got agitated. When I left I could see the sun was starting to go down so I picked up my pace. However, in my haste, I walked around a cross street and that was my doom.

I had been walking too far east and I wasn’t where I expected to be. It was getting dark. IDIOT! ! I had fucked myself. I went off plan. FUCKING IDIOT! I pretended that I was calm, but at that point the heart was already pounding. I tried to find the map app on my phone, but I couldn’t focus. I was in an empty warehouse section of the Mission District. At first I started mumbling, “Oh shit, Oh shit Oh shit, Oh shit” as I was walking.
I never had a fear of heights until about six years ago. That’s also when this started happening to me so I tend to equate the two things. It is similar to the feeling of reaching the top of a giant Ferris wheel and every muscle in your body involuntarily clenches as you realize there is no escape, no way to stop it. You just have to get through it.
I am aware that nothing is wrong. I don’t feel like I am in danger, but it doesn’t matter. Not being in control of my environment brings on an overwhelming sense of frustration. First the stomach drops, the hair raises, and then it strikes me hard in the chest. It feels like being attacked from the inside, a sudden acceleration that I can’t control. I think this sensation is what leads some people to believe in demonic possession.
Ironically, once the actual panic sets in, that’s when the fear ends for me. At that point I’m just a raging dickhead. Not cool and powerful Hulk rage, more similar to the sad indignant rage of an old man who is having trouble sucking in air.
As I walked on I started shouting randomly “FUCK YOU! … nnmm… nmmm FUCK YOU! ……… …. Ah … What the FUCK!!!!… …… FUCK YOU!!!” at nobody. At that point a Chupacabra could have come flying out of tree and bit me on the neck and it wouldn’t have had any effect on me. My central nervous system was already in overdrive. In fact, a Chupacabra attack would have been helpful at that point. It would have given me something to focus on.

Chupacabra!

Chupacabra!

I had my phone in my hand and tried to call the wife. I choked out one coherent sentence, “Where am I?” and I tried to give her a street name or something (I thought I was Coherent, she tells me now that I sounded insane and I was interrupting Game of Thrones.) Then I started cursing and hung up on her. She tried to call me back several times. I didn’t pick up or hung up right away. When this happened years ago, things were icy around the house for quite a while, not good for the marriage. However, this time she knew what was going on and didn’t take it personally. She was just concerned that I would get arrested.
I walked a few blocks. I was walking and randomly cursing. As I started to calm down I realized that I was no longer in an empty warehouse section. I was on a tree-lined street and people were crossing the street to avoid me. I specifically remember a nicely dressed Asian man keeping an eye on me as he lead his wife across the street. That shut me up and I felt properly shamed.Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 10.16.25 PM
A block or so later I saw bright lights coming out from behind some latticework. It took me several seconds to figure it out but I realized I was standing across the street from Cellarmaker Brewery again. This was fantastic because it meant I knew exactly where I was! It also meant I could go in and have a beer.
The bartender eyed me all the way to the bar and seemed relieved when I spoke precisely. I ordered a Belgium style blond ale which is not my normal style, but it was what I was in the mood for. It was the best beer of the night.
I texted the wife, “Sorry! It’s over now. Doing well!” She texted back, “Great!! Love you!”
It didn’t bother me at all that BART was packed and standing room only with Giants fans. I felt relieved, like I had been in big fight and came out of it unscathed. I was too exhausted and relaxed to care.
The next day my chest was painful, but I knew to expect it this time. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack. ($400 for an EKG even with medical insurance!)
A few weeks later I was explaining to a friend why I don’t go out at night. She nodded and said understandingly, “Oh, you have anxiety and you get panic attacks.” Her husband has the same thing. For some crazy reason this common sense explanation was a revelation to me. For the longest time I thought I was developing a mental illness, but I didn’t want to go to the doctor because I was afraid they would suggest medication. However, Jay Moore, Steve Martin, Ben Weasel, and every single person interviewed on the Marc Maron podcast has talked about going through some sort of bout with anxiety and panic attacks. It’s completely normal.
When I told this to the wife and explained why I was feeling better she shook her head sadly and said, “Oh honey, you are not normal.”
Either way, this happened way back in October and I haven’t had a panic attack since then which is longer than I’ve ever gone since they started. I’ve gone out at night four five times since then too. I think I am done with them.

Working Man and Altamont in Livermore.

Went to a couple of breweries with the wife today. Working Man Brewery, great strong brews.12 beers on tap. I like this place a lot. While we were there I told the wife that I think I’m all better now. I’m too old to have anxiety or panic attacks. We can go out at night again if she wants to. She said, “Really??” Then she took out her phone and bought us two tickets to Screeching Weasel, The Queers, and Mr T Experience in SF in August. I’m going to look forward to that. … I hope. I think so. I warned her I’m still going to be wearing my gun range ear protection.
Thanks to Bug I have a new gun range ear protection hero… I just bought one of their albums on I-tunes. I have no time for vinyl.

Then we went to Altamont Beer Works. Freaking nuts. This place has always drawn a crowd. The service is quick, but now they’ve got the music blaring too. I don’t even know what was playing but it was nothing good. The wife had to yell to talk to me. Not a good place for an old man. I drank quickly so we could go, plus we had to pick up Henry at gymnastics. There is a new pizza place a half mile from our house that has six different taps dedicated to Altamont. I’m happy about that but I may not go to the brewery again. Holy crap that was weird.

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Great photo I took of the wife five years ago at Magnolia Brewery. It was my birthday.

Sacramento City of Beer

IMG_1580I bought this barley wine because it has a picture of a cardinal on it. I like pictures of birds. I like colorful birds. I have to admit that Ravens and Crows are much cooler birds. However, if I could pick a bird that I wanted to find on a beer label, I would pick the Scarlett Tanager. That is one handsome motherfucking bird.

893e623eb6a803611250c6d1c6e89952                I like breweries because I feel like I belong in most breweries. Brewpubs usually have wood tables instead of tablecloths. The ages tend to range a little higher and lower. If I see a combination of grey hair and younger couples with toddlers in tow then it’s probably my kind of place. The weekend after we checked out three new breweries in Sacramento we were back the next week and that time we went old school again with Hoppy Brewing Company. They had all kids meals for just $1 on Sundays. Yeah!

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Hoppy Brewing Company

Plus, in other old school value for your dollar brewznewz, Davey’s band the 4 Eyes played at Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen the night before and they were selling River City Brewery Beers for $3 a pint.

(Special thanks to the man Charles Albright for actually giving me his gun range ear protection for the show. I brought mine, but my son was wearing it.)

Then last week we were in Sacramento again for the third weekend in a row. We were there for yet another roller skating birthday party. It was a lot of fun. I didn’t skate because I am an old man and I know better.
Afterwards I just happened to know that American River Brewing  is 12 minutes south of the rink. The wife and I stopped in there and it was exactly my type of place. The beer there is really great too! They also had a barley wine in bottles that wasn’t on tap. Some night when people are over I am going to open it at the same time as the barley wine with a bird on it so we can compare. Good times.

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American River City Brewing

 

 

Breweries on Broadway!

I’m really into getting old. I want to seem older than I am. I’d like my hair to turn grey. Right now, at age 47, I’m not young enough that being uncool can be ironic, but not yet old enough to get an old guy pass for being uncool. I wear my wife’s gun range ear protection on top of my earplugs when I go to the punk show. I know it’s not cool. When I truly achieve old man status I won’t care, and that will be cool.

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She was wearing a v-neck but otherwise a pretty good artist recreation.

I also failed the brewznewz last weekend when I didn’t take a photo of the girl behind the bar at New Helvetia Brewing. I didn’t do it because she would have had a look on her face that said. “I’m smiling but I’m actually a little uncomfortable” and it would have spoiled the dress she was wearing. However, within another ten years I’m hoping to move on from creepy old dude to harmless old man and I’ll be able to take that photo.

New Helvetia Brewing is right in the middle of Broadway in Sacramento, a 3-block walk from my friend Davey’s house, just a little further down Broadway by car is a brand new Brew Pub called Oak Park Brewing. It’s in an area that used to be squalid and now it is nice. The place has a great big patio that was filled with people. They also had an imperial red for me. I took a picture of Davey here for brewznewz. Davey is the one that started this site, but so far I am the only writer he invited that actually posts stuff on here. He told me that spelling Brews News with ZZ’s was a joke, because Z’s are supposed to be cool. I don’t get it.

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Davey gives Oak Park Brewing Company the thumbs up.

We also went to Track 7 Brewery because it was just a few streets away from a wine party we went to. We had to wait in line to get our growler filled.
The next day a group of us went back to New Helvetia (no, she wasn’t there this time) and the patio was filled there too. It looks like these new breweries are all doing well. That’s great! I love them! It’s especially great when you can walk there.
When we used to visit Sacramento several years ago I used to always lobby to eat at the breweries. We had to drive a little farther to a places like River City Brewing, Hoppy, or Brew it Up (RIP), but I knew when we got there we could get a big table for all of us and drink beer while we waited. Now it’s the opposite. The breweries are more plentiful and closer, but also more popular than ever. I’m hoping they all stay in business so if some get too popular there will be fall back breweries to take us old folks who don’t need to be at the very best place to be happy.

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Drinking New Helvetia’s great Thurston Adambier on a Sunday with Karen, the wife, me, Lisa, Bill and Davey was back at the house with the seven kids we have between us.

Monterey Brew Pubs

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Alvarado Street Brewery, I was trying to get the kids to wave at me, but they were a little embarrassed.

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Point Lobos

 

I’m happy to have a family that doesn’t mind leaving the house at 5 AM to beat traffic. We had plenty of time to check out Point Lobos and as we were leaving the park the line of cars to get in was over a hundred yards long (on a Tuesday!). A few stops later and it was time to have lunch at the new Alvarado Street Brewery in downtown Monterey. I was actually worried this place would be a little too fancy. The food prices looked a little high on the web site. However, it had a nice brewpub like attitude when we got there. They whipped out some kid menus and we got served right away. The beer was good too. Keri really liked the peanut butter stout. My favorite was the cinder cone. However, I couldn’t taste it after my taste buds got a little wiped out by the Habanero Ginger, very hot, very ginger.

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The Peter B’s Brewpub is actually just a short walk away. I had been there before with Henry when I took him to the Monterey Bay Aquarium a few years ago for a Cub Scout sleepover. However the most memorable thing about going there at the time is that I loved the pint glass. It’s my favorite. I think because sentimentally I remember playing cards at my grandma’s house when she lived in Monterey. I read in the newspaper a while back that the place got a new brewer and had improved, but it didn’t open until 4pm so I just took a photo from outside.

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The Ice Cream Shoppe had the largest collection Beatle’s memorabilia I have ever seen, but I found the beer section.

 

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Henry at Dennis the Menace Park

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This is also the first time in a while that I went to Monterey and didn’t stop at the brewery in the neighboring town of Marina. I can get most of their beers at Trials in San Jose because they do the English Ales, but what I wanted is this year’s calendar of sexy local women, definitely worth stopping in for! As we headed back I knew the rest of the family just wanted to get home. Next time.

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A very Probe style Brewery Review

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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.

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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.

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Nice looking bar at Sunset Reservoir

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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.”

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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.

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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

MORE IMPERIAL REDS!

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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.
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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