Friday 10 April 2009

City Beer Store and San Francisco

A few weeks ago one of my best mates, Lee (he's @Lee_B on Twitter and you should follow him!), went to San Francisco complete with my Good Beer Guide to the West Coast USA (love that book!) and a looooong list of beers to try and hunt out for me, with the promise of generous financial reward if he was successful. Anyway, he did a stellar job picking me up some bottles and has written about his trip, so here it is, City Beer Store and San Francisco by Lee, my beer-loving friend.

When I recently spent just over two weeks in San Francisco I made a good effort of trying as much good beer as this beautiful city had to offer. Whenever I saw a new beer on the menu of a restaurant I would always order it no matter what.

The signature beer of San Fran-
Anchor Steam was a fantastic summer beer with a sweet and hoppy taste but it could only take you so far. So I found myself searching out the hidden gems. Beer like AleSmith’s Speedway Stout was a coffee like behemoth of 12% that really blew me away, whilst Speakeasy's Prohibition was even better with its caramel nose, deep reddish colour and rich, complex taste. On top of this I had tried some good Hefeweizen, Fat Tire and an interesting Sam Adams Black Lager. All in all I felt I had tried a good amount of new beer and would have a lot to talk about when I returned home.

As the holiday was winding down I decided to make a small pilgrimage to
The City Beer Store just off of Market Street to see if I could pick up a few bottles for a certain blog writing friend of mine, but truthfully I wasn’t expecting much more than the beer I had already discovered earlier in the holiday.

Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Walking into The City Beer Store is a strange experience. It’s small, about the size of a garage with a small metal bar with five hand pumps, a few tables and chairs and boxes piled all around. The whole place feels unfinished but inviting. Behind the bar is a smiling young guy rocking an awesome moustache who turns out to be Craig Wathen, the owner (along with his wife Beth) of this fine beer Oasis. He invites me and my lady to take a seat and asks me what I would like to drink. A small chalk board on the wall lists approximately 6 beers that I have never heard of so I ask Craig what is good. He suggests a glass of the
Telegraph Stock Porter so I take him up on and decide to look around whilst he pours.

On two nearby shelves are stacked approximately 300 beers from varying countries, all for sale individually (which is rare in America). A quick glance over these as I wait for my beer throws up some immediate gems such as
Delirium Tremens, Deschutes' The Dissident and Lost Abbey's Inferno. Before I know it my beer is placed at my table and Craig gets back to work.

The first thing I notice about the Stock Porter is the spicy chocolate nose. This is one interesting smelling beer! After the first taste I realise there is an interesting tug of war going on between nose and taste as this porter has a surprisingly floral acidity to it. I gulp it down and tell Craig what I thought. I then decide to try one of the beers that caught my eye as I perused.

Russian River’s Blind Pig wasn’t an IPA I was aware of, but as Mark had seemed excited about their Pliny the Elder I thought I would try one of it’s sister beers. Craig cracked one open and handed it to me. The beer has an extremely citrus nose even for an IPA and it wasn’t particularly to my tastes but after the first sip I was hit by a pleasant bitterness and a good balance of malt and hop smoothness. All in all I would say this is worth seeking out if you head over to America.

Sadly I couldn’t stay at The City Beer Store much longer so I decided to pick up some purchases before I went. Mark had given me a list of beers he wanted (some were wishful thinking though methinks) and I managed to grab him his own bottle of Blind Pig and then a some bottles of Pliny the Elder (no
Younger I’m afraid) and DogFish Head 90 minute IPA

I thanked Craig for his great store and headed back to the hotel with a gentle but enjoyable buzz on.

I really can’t say enough about City Beer Store and if you’re ever in San Francisco you should definitely seek it out, you won’t have got a full taste of the city’s beer scene without it.

Lee B.

Don't you just wish you could find a beer store like that in the UK?! I sure do. Lee, you are a bastard getting Speedway stout and the Deschutes stuff. I’m so jealous of you because the store sounds amazing, the pic of the fridge shows off some beauties and because I wanna meet Craig! Now when can I get my beers?!

And remember, check out
@Lee_B everyone, he rocks!


  1. Mark, looks like you've still got a great selection of some boutique West Coast stuff, and it appears you're going toward the hoppier side of things with the Pliny and DFH90. The 90 is an East Coast continuously-hopped IPA, and will definitely arouse the tastebuds. Can't speak for the Pliny, but I've heard good things about that and Russian River in general.

    If you can ever get your hands on some fresh-hop American ales that arrive in late summer (Harvest by Sierra Nevada and Hop Trip by Deschutes come to mind), I highly recommend them. All the fresh hop flavor and aroma without too much bitterness. That's more up my alley these days.

    As for the beers you've just acquired, I look forward to your findings!

  2. Liam, your mate goes to San Francisco, and doesn't mention pubs?? Should have went to The Toronado, Magnolias, and The Pig and Whistle. All in that order! Furthermore, why didn't he come down south??

    Have a blessed weekend!

  3. I tried some of the Speakeasy beers recently - I thought they were all very good. It seems as though there's a wine merchant in Ireland who brings in wine from California, and he's thinking about importing these and the Gordon Biersch range.

  4. E.S.D, I'm loving hoppy beers at the mo, especially as it gets warmer so the 90 minute and the Russian Rivers are exactly what I'm after! If I could get the 120 minute DFH then I would buy it in an instant.

    I've seen the Harvest ale over here so I'll await this years batch, although I'm sure it'll lose something on the way over here - those hoppy beers are always best ultra fresh, that's why I'm very eager to open the ones which Lee brought me back!!

    Zak, I've heard about that wine guy, hopefully some will trickle into to Britain!

    And Wurst, I don't know if he went to the pubs, he had my beer guide so I'll ask him!