[My adventures in San Francisco begin here.]
Saturday, the first day my friends were off work and could join in my adventures, began with downpours. Despite the murky weather, Erin, Evan and I set out for Marin County Humane Shelter to meet a dog they were considering adopting. We crossed the fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge and traveled through misty Sausalito and Marin to spend a few hours with the adorable puppies awaiting their forever homes. The abysmal weather could not squelch our fun.
Over a dim sum lunch we made plans to tackle Toronado later that day. But first, we dropped into Chomp N’ Swig, a new bar and sandwich shop in the Richmond district, where I tried Speakeasy’s smooth Metropolis Lager. The bar itself—small but brightly decorated with graffiti and tall wood tables—was a winner alone, and this smooth, malty, local beer was an excellent mid-day sip.
This boozy fuel carried us through the wet streets of the Mission and down Valencia again, in search of boba (bubble tea), eclectic shops and authentic Mission tacos. Though the lack of parking near Toronado dashed our hopes of drinking there that evening, we were able to easily slip into Magnolia Brewery on Haight. I had the most impressive and largest flight ever here, and found the stout-dark, roasty Big Cypress Brown Ale my favorite. Could someone please ship me a keg?
Sunday awoke to a city transformed: the previous day’s rain clouds subsided to reveal a sunny, slightly breezy and highly promising horizon. Today was wine country day. Don’t let my love of beer mislead you: I don’t discriminate when it comes to alcohol.
No matter how much I strove to not be an overbearing, gushing tourist, I couldn’t deny the majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge in the mid-day sunlight. And the eery, soaked hills of the previous day were now lush and glistening. We drove north from the city, stopping in charming Yountville for an absurdly delicious French lunch, before scouting out wineries along the way to St. Helena. Our return trip south brought us to a tasting at Grgich Hills—where the kind, sweet French chap pouring our wine asked if I worked at a brewery since I was wearing my Highland shirt—and a break at gorgeous Domain Carneros for sparkling wine and cheese.
Even if you aren’t a wine lover, I highly recommend a scenic drive through the valley.
I awoke with eagerness on my final day, now feeling the weight of all the beer I had yet to drink and sights I had yet to explore. I wasted no time beginning my most touristy morning: a ride on a classic trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf for a bay cruise from Pier 39. Unfortunately, I chose the coldest, wettest day for my voyage beneath the Golden Gate and around Alcatraz.
As the sprinkling rain grew heavier, I made another spontaneous decision to stop at Fog Harbour restaurant for lunch. After many failed attempts to all Anchor Steam Brewing Company and schedule a tour, I finally had a chance to sip this iconic beer. I even spent some time searching for recipes to brew a California Common beer at home. As the rain grew heavier, I ordered a Lagunitas IPA. I guess it’s safe to say I’m a fan of this style now.
Warmed by beer and clam chowder, I headed for beatnik stomping grounds in North Beach area. I was cold and soaked and ecstatic when I found Jack Kerouac Alley and sauntered into Vesuvio Cafe. The kind, but distant bartender made me an Irish coffee at my request for something warm, and I sipped in a state of awe as I scanned the numerous posters, signs and stickers dotting these historic walls. It was easy to imagine the Beat poets balancing beers and books and clambering into booths—a brotherhood of bodhisattvas-in-training discussing politics and clandestine lyrics—especially as I watched the bartender light up and connect with the regulars who slid in beside me. I ordered Speakeasy’s Scarlett Red Rye and flipped through my pages of Kerouac as the rain continued to fall outside.
The weather was quickly crushing my adventurous spirit. My to-do list quickly dwindled, like my spicy beer, and I began the trek to my final destination: Rogue Ale’s Public House. Although choosing Rogue technically went against my desire to only drink California beers during my stay, the brewer is at least West Coast-based (Oregon) and was too convenient to pass up. I skipped the usuals I can easily drink in South Carolina and tried a few odd options I’d never heard of. Though this wasn’t my favorite beer stop and I wasn’t wowed by my flight choices, I was still happy to be out of the rain and tasting something new.
Though I’d intended to fit in more tastings and tours, I’m pleased with the outcome of this much needed escape. My MUNI mix-ups are proof enough that I probably shouldn’t explore the city in a booze-fueled haze. But, ultimately, I loved that this vacation was truly a time of relaxation and wandering. My taste buds are satisfied.
Until next time.