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Bay Area beer tour, Part 6: Anchor Brewing Company

July 19, 2011 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Travelin'

Anchor - outside

In the early days of Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, the brewers had a unique way to chill their wort during the brewing process.

Without a source of refrigeration, they cooled the beer in long, shallow vessels on the rooftop of the brewery. The “cool ships” were open, and the steam rose up from the brewery into the San Francisco air.

Some think that’s how “Steam Beer,” also known as California Common beer, got its name.

Anchor, founded in 1896, still uses traditional methods to produce 90,000 barrels of beer a year.

The beer is fermented in open stainless steel pans, but not on the roof. On a recent tour of Anchor, I got to watch the beer bubble inside a sterile fermenting room. It stays there for several days before it’s pumped into the cellar where it finishes aging in tanks. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t take photos of the open pans — just the copper kettles and the sampling room.)

Anchor - former breweryHistoric photo of Anchor Brewing at a former location.

Anchor- old signIn the old days, beer was CHEAP.

Anchor - brew tanksMash tun, lauter tun and boil kettle at Anchor Brewing.

Anchor - mash tunAnother view of the mash tun.

Anchor- lauter and boil tanksThe lauter tun and boil kettle.

Anchor - grains & hopsIngredients for beer: grains and hops.

Anchor - beersBeers made by Anchor Brewing: Christmas Ale, Liberty Ale, Old Foghorn, Porter and Anchor Steam.

Anchor - pouringTime for some samples.

Anchor - sampleCheers!

Anchor - truckThe beer is now on its way to you.

This is the last installment for the Bay Area beer tour series. Read previous posts:

Part 1: Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse || Part 2: Jupiter brew pub || Part 3: Toronado || Part 4: Suppenküche || Part 5: Vesuvio Cafe

Bay Area beer tour, part 5: Vesuvio Café

May 18, 2011 By: mike Category: Craft beer, Favorite Bars, Travelin'

Vesuvio - exterior

Open every day of the year from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., the historic Vesuvio Café is one of the hippest places to grab a beer in San Francisco.

The cozy, North Beach bar was founded in 1948 by Henri Lenoir, who wanted to create “a bohemian meeting place for artists to come to life.”

The bar, which is just across an alley from the famed City Lights Bookstore, was once frequented by Beat Generation writers, including Jack Kerouac. In fact the alley was renamed “Jack Kerouac Alley” in 1988.

Vesuvio offers some nice regional brews on tap and in bottles.

I tried a pint of the Lagunitas IPA, which is brewed 40 miles north of San Francisco in Petaluma at Lagunitas Brewing Company. The IPA was really well-balanced, with moderate bitterness and hop flavor.

I also tried a Prohibition Ale from San Francisco’s Speakeasy Ales & Lagers. This American-style amber ale really surprised me. It was an aggressively hopped ale with a considerable amount of caramel maltiness. Great aroma and taste. The Prohibition Ale was “on special” but would soon be added to the regular beer list, our waitress said.

I grabbed a prime seat at Vesuvio upstairs, where you can enjoy an intimate conversation, check out the patrons at the downstairs bar below or look through the large windows at the people in Jack Kerouac Alley or walking along Columbus.

It’s the perfect place for people watching, sipping good beer and channeling the Beat Generation.

Vesuvio - signThis sign hangs outside from the second story of Vesuvio.

Vesuvio - barThe bar at Vesuvio.

Vesuvio - bar (long view)Another view of the bar.

Vesuvio - tableThe tables are way cool.

Vesuvio - upstairsUpstairs at Vesuvio, good conversation can be had.

Vesuvio - second floorLooking down from the balcony.

Vesuvio - end of the barCorner of the bar, from above.

Vesuvio - guest bottlesSome good beers on special at Vesuvio.

Vesuvio - neon signAnother version of the sign in the front window, neon-style.

Read other posts from the Bay Area beer tour series:

Part 1: Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse || Part 2: Jupiter brew pub || Part 3: Toronado || Part 4: Suppenküche

Next in the Bay Area beer tour: It’s Anchors away…

Bay Area beer tour, Part 4: Suppenküche

May 13, 2011 By: mike Category: Craft beer, Favorite Bars, Travelin'

Suppenküche - outside

In Germany, a Wirtshäuser is a rustic tavern with a simple menu and great beer, often the central place for people to meet and talk about their day.

The traditional Wirtshäuser is the inspiration behind San Francisco’s Suppenküche, located at the corner of Hayes and Laguna in Hayes Valley.

On my visit to Suppenküche, I stuck with the basics — a plate full of Bratwurst (grilled pork sausage) and Cheese Spätzle (egg noodles known as German comfort food.)

I washed it all down with cold Radeberger Pilsner, made by a brewery in Germany that dates back to 1872 and ranks as the 9th best-selling brewery in that country. Radeberger was light and drinkable and really helped balance the heavy German food on my plate.

Suppenküche, which translates to “Soup Kitchen,” is a lively, intimate place, where you may just end up seated at the same candlelit table with strangers. But, hey, there’s plenty of great German beer to get past the awkwardness.

Suppenküche - insideInside Suppenküche.

Suppenküche - kitchenThe kitchen.

Suppenküche - tapsBeer taps at the bar.

Suppenküche - beerA Radeberger Pilsner.

Suppenküche - napkins in a Spaten mugNapkins in a Spaten mug.

Suppenküche - peeing baby beer signA beer sign featuring a boy peeing. It is, appropriately, in the bathroom.

Suppenküche - Spaten signA Spaten beer sign.

Suppenküche - beer signA sign for Weihenstephan Beer.

Read other posts from the Bay Area beer tour series:

Part 1: Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse || Part 2: Jupiter brew pub || Part 3: Toronado

Next in the Bay Area beer tour: If it’s good enough for Jack Kerouac…

Bay Area beer tour, Part 3: Toronado

May 06, 2011 By: mike Category: Craft beer, Favorite Bars, Travelin'

Toronado - outside

When I stepped inside Toronado in the Lower Haight area of San Francisco and saw that Pliny the Elder was on tap, I knew I had arrived at a great beer bar.

The hole-in-the-wall pub at 547 Haight Street, which opened in 1987, is a laid-back beer joint with a great selection of craft brews.

I made the mistake of starting with a Pliny, from Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing Company, which is definitely one of the best Double IPAs around. (It’s not available in Memphis.)

After that, I tried a Retribution Imperial IPA from High Water Brewing in Redding, Calif. A good beer, no doubt, but disappointing after the Pliny.

Toronado has lots of beers from regional breweries in California, plus a decent selection of Belgian beers. From Russian River, Toronado also has Blind Pig IPA and Damnation.

There’s no food at Toronado, but there’s a sausage stand next door, and you can bring in your brat and eat it at Tornado and wash it down with a tasty brew.

Tornado - insideInside Toronado pub in San Francisco.

Toronado - Duvel signA Duvel sign illuminates the bar.

Toronado - beer listThe beer list. (Or some of it.)

Read other posts from the Bay Area beer tour series:
Part 1: Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse || Part 2: Jupiter brew pub

Next in the Bay Area beer tour: It’s time for some German beer.