Wednesday 9 December 2009

US Beer Trip, Anyone?

I’ve been working on a plan to go to the US for a couple of days now. I’m going to drink as much awesome beer as possible and I want to do it properly (plus it's my first beer trip Stateside). There are so many places I want to go but I have to limit myself this time. This is my current plan...

Fly to San Francisco for Saturday 13th February. I’ll catch the end of SF Beer Week. On the Saturday I’ll chill out, wander around, so to some bars, drink new beer and just get generally over-excited about where I am and what I’m doing. There’s a barley wine festival on but it’s not my favourite style and I wouldn’t want to spend an evening drinking it. On the 14th is the Celebrator Best of the West beer festival which ends the Beer Week, so I’ll be there. On the Monday I’ll mooch around, do the tourist things, drink a few more beers. Then I will go north, possibly Monday evening. This will give me two days to visit Russian River, Lagunitas, Bear Republic and wherever else. Then back to San Francisco airport and fly to Boston (I’ve found decent airfare for doing the trip as three single journeys – £525ish) on 18th for the Extreme Beer Festival (why not, eh?!) and some more drinking around in some bars (doing the West Coast and East Coast in one trip). Then fly home on Sunday 21st.

What do you think? Anyone done these before? What things should I be doing? What should I be drinking and where?

And, anyone fancy coming along for the trip?! Or part of it? I think there will be a few people in Boston when I’m there. I’m arranging to meet some people at different stages of the trip too. Hopefully there’ll be familiar faces and names at each stage, which will be very cool. I hope to book up the flights in the next few days. The rest I'll worry about after.


  1. There is absolutely no chance of me going. Unfortunately I have a pub to run.

    However, I did manage to get State Side last year and loved it. I'm sure you will get plenty out of the experience. Enjoy.

  2. Dominic, Marble Brewery9 December 2009 at 10:47

    Where do I start?

    The breweries worth visiting in SF are SF brewing, Speakeasy, 21st Amendment and the Magnolia brewpub. Google map 'em, I know you can walk them in a day, giving you a good tour of a wonderful city. Better still, take a tom-tom with you, this just makes life a lot easier.

    You have to visit Toronados, it's probably the best bar in SF,so if you don't fancy barley wine, do it another day. Don't miss the City Beer Store, my favourite place in the whole world. I'd happily just sit in there eating cheese and pulling beer off the shelves to drink every now and again, talking in a pseudo-posh English voice (what-ho chaps!) to the resident beer geeks in there, who will happily give you the low-down on what's hot in US craft beer. Unfortunately you have to walk through what looks like an 80's 'badass part of town' filmset, full of crackheads and crazies pushing trolleys to get there. Actually, just take a taxi.

    Apart from that, Russian River is another absolute must. My twin brother, a bud light man who lives in SF, went there, ordered a Russian River Consecration, only to send it back because it 'tastes like f***ing vinegar mate'. He did bring me a bottle over, thankfully. And Lagunitas and Bear Republic are both super, quite frankly.

    Just be careful you don't plan too much, as great beer isn't that cheap, and there's so much good food out there, you'll want to do some serious eating.

    As for flying to Boston for the extreme beer festival, I'd have to say meh, just go to San Diego County. The flight's probably cheaper too, the food's probably better, as well as the surf, and there's nothing quite as exciting as a first visit to a pizza port.

    I ramble on overenthusiastically. Speak to Phil from Beer Merchants...I understand he knows SF well too. Have a great time!

  3. Go to the Thirsty Bear for dinner in San Francisco. They have their own brewpub and do excellent tapas. The Flamenco dancing when we visited was pretty decent too.

    There's a Rogue Beer pub on Union and Columbus too that's not bad for killing a jet-lagged evening while troughing their chilli.


  4. Not for beer, but for one of the best

    Tosca Cafe
    242 Columbus Ave.
    (between Broadway & Pacific) Northbeach
    San Francisco,

    Authentic 40's style cocktail bar with high ceilings...Try the house cappuccino or the hot chocolate with brandy.

  5. I second Dominic's idea re: after the Bay Area...

  6. Professor Pie-Tin9 December 2009 at 14:19

    Just as an idea you might want to go on to the San Francisco Chronicle's website and Search Beer.
    Likewise the local paper of wherever you're thinking of travelling in the States - they're a mine of useful information.
    The New York Times also has an excellent travel section, including Matt Gross who writes a Frugal Traveller column which has excellent tips on budget travel in the States and worldwide.
    Good luck.I hope you like the taste of hops,hops,hops and hops !

  7. Come to Virginia and let me show you the local breweries we have near Charlottesville! We are only a couple of hours from DC!!

  8. I'll be over there at some point for the extreme beer festival in Boston, but we're booking our tickets etc.. in Jan because prices will be lower after christmas & new year. Hopefully see you there.

  9. Private Poontang9 December 2009 at 17:19

    Hi Rabidbarfly - are you working in the Rake a week on Saturday ?
    I shall be returning from a champagne and wine-laden wedding in the country and will need some fine beers to re-charge the palate !

  10. In SF, spend some time at Toronado. They get lovely fresh Moonlight beers (dunno if you did the 'meet the brewer' thing with Brian Hunt) and there's great sausage and rib places next door/across the street and you can bring the food into the bar.

    Put yourself down for a tour of the Anchor Brewery as well.

  11. Cheers for this guys, looks like I'm going to have a busy old time in my few days over there!!

    Dominic, that's pretty much my itinerary there! (does your bro have a spare room, btw?! ;)) I think I'll spend a while in City Beer Store - it's way up my list of places to hang out. Cheers for the warning on the crazies. As for San Diego... that's the place I'd most like to drink after SF/Santa Rosa, but I can only afford one trip and I'd like to experience a bit of East and West (the EBF is a little bonus but I might only go to one session).

    Prof. Pie-Tin, cheers for that, will have a look.

    Rabid, will tickets be cheaper? I've wary of waiting just in case! I've now found the whole lot for £500.

    Sid, I'd like to do the Toronado away from the barleywine fest, so might do that the day after. Would like to see Anchor too. A draught Steam Beer will ideally be the first beer I drink when I get there!!

  12. keep in mind you can probably score some roundtrip SF<-->San Diego tickets for ~$100 USD :)

  13. If you're into real ale, then while in San Fran you must visit Magnolia. For more real ale, and if you can find a way to get here, the Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge, Oregon brews the stuff exclusively and would take good care of you. After all, Woolpack Dave's been here.

  14. Sounds like a great idea - would love to come but 99% if my disposable income next year is tied up in wedding/honeymoon action! II'm sure you'll let us know where you end up!

  15. Professor Pie-Tin10 December 2009 at 11:38

    You might also want to test out your
    existing prices for internal USA flights by registering with this flight for a few days and see what comes up.

  16. Speakeasy has open house each Friday from 4pm...

  17. As a former SF Bay area resident, I'd certainly second everything above (especially Magnolia), but I'd recommend a trip here to Philly - we get all the best from Russian River and Speakeasy (really, all the great California breweries) and everything around here is great: Victory, Troegs, Nodding Head, Dogfish Head et al.

    The one place it's really worth going on a US beer journey is Seattle - there are many amazing breweries there, and most do not bottle. Everything from Walking Man is outstanding.

  18. I would say don't miss Portland while you are there but you are already going to the East Coast!

    I used to live around the corner from the Toronado, but that was so long ago-- before the microbrewery revolution really took hold. Still, unmissable!

    You may not want to come back...