I want a brewpub. A US-style, beer-brewed-out-the-back-and-poured-out-the-front place, with good food and good music. I want to be able to walk into the bar and see the brewer working, I want to be able to smell the fresh hops and the sticky-sweet wort, I want glass behind the bar so you can see the fermentation tanks, I want a line of taps on the bar serving the freshest beer possible. I want a decent line-up of site-brewed beer, a range of styles, a few regulars and a few specials. I also want guest taps of some of the best beer around. I’d happily serve this from the cask and keg and I’d want a good bottle selection for drinking here or taking out. For food, it’d be classic beer sponges: fantastic burgers, sandwiches, chillis, stews, curries, plus a selection of cheeses and chocolates. And I want all of this in London.
I wanted this before I went to California but now I want it even more. In the UK we just don’t do brewpubs the same way (and if there are any like that then tell me, because I want to go). Marin Brewing Company and Bear Republic are the ones which grabbed me the most. You walk in and you smell freshly brewing beer. Behind the bar you can see the tall silver tanks. Both had between 9-16 of their own beers on. Both served large food menus. Both served wonderful beer, super fresh. We got tours of the breweries and the set-ups are similar, although Bear Republic, who have rapidly become one of my favourite breweries, also have two other sites to make their beer, one just across the complex and the other a short drive away. As far as I remember, Bear Republic serve their Racer 5 direct from the tank and it was wonderful, I also got some Citra single-hopped Rebellion straight from the tank which was just delicious (the first time I’d had the Citra hop on its own and it’s bloody lovely – peaches, apricots, tropical fruit) and the stack of barrels aging out the back filled with treats. The lasting memory of Marin, aside from Arne and Kim the brewers, is their Point Ridge Porter, which was one of the best beers of the trip - a velvety, roasty, dark chocolate and smoke-filled beer, modest at 6% but punching above its weight in flavour (I had a bottle last weekend, which I'll likely write about soon). Neither of these bars are in San Francisco city. Marin is a short boat ride away and Bear Republic is a longer drive (which passes Russian River on the way there and/or back and that's another great brewpub with a beer-geek's dream line-up on tap and a teasing tower of oak barrels out the back). Both (all, including Russian River) are essential beer stops in North California, I think.
I want a brewpub. I want to serve great beer in a great place and have people leave my bar feeling the same way as I felt when I left Marin and Bear (happy, that is, not drunk). One day...
I wrote this last week but it ties in neatly with the question Woolpack Dave is asking on his blog about the place you’d want to open if you could. And the top two images are Bear and the bottom three are Marin. That's Kim the brewer. He's a cool guy.