Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Want To Go To There

I have done a lot of travelling this fall (which is kind of weird, for me) and as you might imagine, I tend to focus on beer-related activities while on the road. I have enjoyed many beers and breweries and beer bars over the past two months and would like to share what I've learned and seen. (and eaten and drank)

First trip was to San Francisco. My trip to the Bay Area in early October was short and sweet, so I didn't get to go to the many beer places in the city. (Note: I've gone to the Anchor Brewing tour on a previous trip in 2009, as well as Monk's Kettle, Alembic, Toronado, and Magnolia, as well as outside of the city, where of course there's Russian River, as well as Bear Republic, Silverado, Moylans, Anderson Valley, North Coast, 3rd Street Ale Works, Calistoga Brewery, etc. We enjoyed excellent beer service at the French Laundry as well during that trip.) But this past trip, my primary beer activity was focused on my pilgrimage to Toronado - but I was able to enjoy beers from various Bay Area/Northern CA breweries pretty much wherever I went. Heretic, 21st Amendment, Russian River, Lagunitas, Moonlight, Speakeasy, Almanac . There appear to be 10 breweries (and 15 beer-focused bars) in San Francisco proper, and more than a dozen more in the immediate area surrounding it. I event found a great place in Redwood City for a few pints, Martins West on Main Street.

Mmm... Supplication...

The Holy Ground

Me with a giant bottle of the beer that Russian River brewed specially for the Toronado.
(no, I didn't get to drink any of it)

Toronado beer list

My next trip was to Chicago, in mid November. There is some amazing beer being brewed in Chicago and the state, as well as in the Midwest region. We enjoyed beer from 5 Rabbit, Half Acre, Goose Island (which, yes, has been purchased by Anheuser Busch, but we went to one of the brewpubs and drank the beer brewed on premises), Piece Brewery and Pizzeria (its beer The Weight just won silver in the GABF Pale Ale category and was fantastic), RevolutionHopothesis, and Haymarket (was also able to enjoy Two Brothers, Founders, Bell's, and Three Floyds pretty much wherever we went).  We went to a couple beer bars - there were plenty of them, but we focused on the Hopleaf and the Map Room, which were great- great beer list, great vibe, great staff, but each had their own personality. We went to a couple very popular restaurants (Frontera Grill, Girl and the Goat, The Peasantry, and the Farmhouse Tavern) that took great pride in their beer list and heavily promoted the local beers on their list. Didn't get to a bunch of places that were on the list like Publican, Clark Street Ale House, Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar, and Sheffield's.

Tap list at the Map Room

Map Room

Philosophizin' at Haymarket Brewery (and Theater, apparently)

Revolution's IPA, love the graphics

My most recent trip was to Austin over Thanksgiving, which blew me away. There are 10 breweries in the Austin city limits ALONE (with an additional 3 just outside the city), and over a dozen beer bars with great food in their kitchen or at one of the many food trucks that Austin has, parked outside. There are collaborations between restauranteurs and breweries. There is a beer co-op. It is amazing. And the beer they are brewing is incredible. And Texas has pretty tough beer laws as well, on par with the kind that Louisiana brewers and brewpubs face. We went to Hopfields, who celebrated their first anniversary while we were there, The Draught House, which not only has an amazing tap list, but also has at least 3-4 casks on, including their own brews, Black Star, the aforementioned co-op, Jester King, an amazing new(ish) brewery that does a great tour and tasting on Saturday afternoons, and a new place (like, a month old), Pint House Pizza.  We drank beer from Hops and Grain,  Live Oak, Real Ale, (512) Brewing, Adelbert's, and more.

Beer list at Hopfields

Jester King's Commercial Suicide, in front of their tasting card
A very small selection of the taps at the Draught House

Beers in Austin and beyond, as listed by Black Star

One of the founders of Jester King, explaining all the crazy shit they do with barrels.

New Orleans has one brewery in the city proper (NOLA Brewing) and one brewpub (Crescent City Brewhouse.) (I'm never sure where to slot Gordon Biersch in this accounting.) Although there are a couple bars around that have pretty large beer lists (Bulldog, Cooter Brown's, dba) there is really only one craft beer bar as well, the Avenue Pub. Some restaurants are trying to bring up the standard of their beer lists (like Root, Coquette, Boucherie) but by and large, it's spotty at best. Outside of New Orleans (but stiil in Louisiana) we have some up and coming breweries like Parish, Bayou Teche, Tin Roof, Chafunkta, Gnarley Barley, Mudbug, and 40 Arpent. About half of those are in full production mode. We also have a very large brewery across Lake Pontchartrain, Abita Brewing, as well as Covington/Heiner Brau. The Barley Oak on that side of things is probably the only other beer bar in the area that even compares to the Avenue. That is crazy, that our craft beer resources are so scant. CRAZY I TELL YOU.

What makes us so different than Chicago, San Francisco, and Austin that we are so far behind them in beer culture? I assume it's laws, regulation, and the need to educate the community about the benefits of craft beer. I want very much to understand all these things so that I can work to change them and help the craft beer culture here finally blossom and bloom! I think there's a tendency (in all things, not just beer related) to shrug shoulders and say, "well, what are you gonna do?" What I AM gonna do is try to help liberate an amazing community and small business/economy driver, which means I am going to have to get off my ass sooner or later and actually do stuff. More on that later.

There's so much potential! Let's get to it.

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