East Coast USA beers and bars – New York, Salem, Boston and Portland

In September we headed over to East Coast USA and visited bars and bottle shops in New York, Salem, Boston, and Portland, Maine – here are the bars we visited and beers we tried. (This post  is very long – you have been warned..!)

New York

Greenwich Village

Blind Tiger beer boardThe Blind Tiger

We visited this bar several times when we were in New York.  This dimly-lit dark wooden one-room bar was atmospheric and had a great beer choice, with 28 craft beers on tap plus 3 cask ales which were chalked on a few blackboards behind the bar. The bar was busy on every visit, but the later it got the busier and louder it became. Me and pintsandpubs sat at the bar and worked our way through some of the beers on offer.

Blind Tiger beersTwo Brothers Bitter End APA,  5.2%, was a pleasant malty caramel beer from Illinois with lots of hops. It wasn’t quite as APA-tasting as I’d have liked – it didn’t really slap me around the face with its massive hop flavours – but it was tasty nonetheless. Troegs Perpetual IPA, 7.5%, from Pennsylvania didn’t taste its ABV; it was quite light with hints of peach and orange. Again, I would have preferred more of a hop kick. However, the Mendocino Imperial IPA, 8.0%, was more like it – this West Coast IPA certainly delivered. Bursting with hops, both in the aroma and flavour, made for a wonderful taste experience. Delicious!

Blind Tiger interiorEmpire Amber, 5.5% from New York, was enjoyable – a caramel malty beer which was light and very easy-drinking. I wasn’t too impressed with Weyerbacker Last Chance IPA, a session beer which didn’t have much going on – it was sweet and sour at the same time, and I found the hops to be too astringent for me. But Barrier Medulla, 7.1%, really stood out. This beer is known as an English IPA, but it’s more American Imperial IPA; it’s wonderfully strong and malty with beautiful resinous hops and caramel flavours. Barrier, from Oceanside, New York, is a great brewery doing exciting things with beer, which seemed to be the opinion of everyone we spoke to in NYC.

White horse tavern White Horse Tavern

This lovely old pub on Hudson Street is where Kerouac got thrown out of when drunk (he lived in an apartment opposite), where Bob Dylan used to hang out, and where Dylan Thomas had his last drink before dying later that night. The dark wood interior is beautifully kept, especially the large polished bar, and there are photos on the walls and paintings of white horses. White Horse barIt’s a place that could tell a tale or two, and history oozes from the walls. The bottles of tomato ketchup on every table sticks in my mind; they seemed glaringly out of place in this ornate and old fashioned pub – but I guess it caters more for diners than drinkers nowadays. We settled on a table outside and had a $7 pint of Lagunitas IPA, with its juicy tropical fruit hop flavours. A very refreshing, delicate, and underrated beer.

Rabbit Club entranceRabbit Club 124

This subterranean speakeasy-style bar is located on well-known MacDougal, a few doors down from where the old Gas Light Cafe was situated (the reason I wanted to visit was to try to picture what the Gas Light might once have looked like, where Dylan played and Kerouac recited poetry). It’s easily missed, and located underneath a taqueria sign – look out for the black door and small writing above it saying ‘rabbit club craft beer bar’ (and a painting of a rabbit, which is a slight give-away) then descend the steep steps. I was expecting the door to be closed and that we’d have to ring a bell, which I’d heard about,  but it looks like they’ve changed all that – the door was open, which was slightly disappointing and ruined the anticipation somewhat! It’s dark, dingy, shows no sport (which has to be a first) and surprisingly, a relatively new addition to the bar scene on this busy street – I’d have thought it dated back to those Kerouac times, but no. Rabbit Club interior

Rabbits are painted on the black walls, figures of rabbits are scattered on the shelf behind the bar, and candles cast dim light. This is a great place to come if you like Belgian beers – it has probably the biggest selection of Belgian bottles in the area – but they are not cheap, as to be expected.  I fancied a draft US beer, but unfortunately both draft beers needed changing – Founders All Day IPA and a Bear Republic brown ale. I ended up having Evil Twin Hipster Pale Ale in a can, a light and fruity, easy-drinking hoppy beer.

Carmine Street Beers

This new beer shop was very close to where we were staying in the West Village. It’s nice and bright, has a great selection of beers, and had a lovely seasonal window display!

Carmine Street beers Beers

 Kettle of Fish

Neon Bar signOn Christopher’s Street, a few doors from where Kerouac once fell off a fire escape on a nearby house, is the Kettle of Fish, the third location of the bar which was previously frequented by Dylan when it was on MacDougal St next to the old Gas Light Cafe. If you descend a few steps you enter the relatively dark wooden bar, with old photos of the old Kettle on the walls, fairy lights everywhere, and the original neon Bar sign around the corner.Kettle of Fish It’s large – much larger than you think when you walk to the other, quieter, side. We sat at the bar and had a Red Hook IPA, 6.2%, on draft, which was nice, hoppy and easy drinking but didn’t have an awful lot going on compared to some of the other brews we’d tried.

Old Kettle of Fish

Old Kettle of Fish

Lower East Side

Top Hops draft beersTop Hops Beer Shop

This taproom/bottle shop is located in the Lower East Side on Orchard St, just a block from lively and once edgy Ludlow St where musicians and artists used to hang out in bars and venues such as Luna Lounge and Max Fish, before they shut down and relocated to Brooklyn.

Outside Top Hops

Although you might head to Top Hops for the 700-odd bottles on sale, I would go just for the taproom – there are about 20 taps selling US and imported craft beer, with the beers available all chalked up on the board behind the long curvy stainless steel bar along with beer style and ABV. The bar tender was friendly and helpful, and gave me a few tasters before I decided on the Founders All Day IPA, a light hoppy session IPA at 5%. Carton Boat Beer across the water in New Jersey was another great find, another session beer and paler than the All Day IPA. Needless to say, we left the bar with several bottles.

Top Hops bar

Hell’s Kitchen/Theater District

Pony BarPony Bar

This mid-town bar close to Times Square which sells ‘All American Craft Beer’ was pretty noisy by the time we arrived in the evening with sports showing on TV and loud shouty conversations taking place. Pony bar beersHowever, the beer list was really extensive, including beers like Mendocino Pumpkin Ale, Barrier Imposter Pilsner and Abita Pecan Harvest – the beers, brewery names and pour size were displayed in neon lights on a couple of boards behind the bar. I went for a Cricket Hill Big Little IPA, a slightly floral session IPA, which to be honest could’ve done with a bit more ooomph; I maybe should’ve realised from the use of the word ‘little’ in the name that it wasn’t going to be as big and exciting as I would have liked. The bar soon became even noisier and packed, so we moved on after another beer.

Outside Pony Bar

House of Brews

Chelsea Hop AngelThis was a nice lamp-lit bar filled with dark shiny wood, rows of bottles above the bar, and TVs showing sport. They have around 100 beers on their beer list; most of these are bottles from around the world including beers from Belgium and the UK (Young’s Double Chocolate Stout made the list, which was interesting to see). House of Brews beers

The small draft beer list included Bronx Pale Ale and Founders Centennial IPA.  I opted for a Chelsea Hop Angel IPA, 6.8%, brewed in New York, for $7 a pint, which I really enjoyed – an easy drinking smooth and hoppy beer with lots of malt and hints of caramel.

East Village

Mc Sorley’s Old Ale House

McSorleysMcSorley’s has to be one of my favourite pubs in NYC. It’s old, and the old photos and framed newspaper cuttings covering the walls and dusty ornaments on and around the bar are testament to its age.  There’s a pair of handcuffs locked to the bar, allegedly Houdini’s. Light and dark

Sawdust covers the floor, grafitti is carved into the wood, and there is an unforgettable aroma of wood chippings mixed with old beer, which has stayed with me to this day. If you order a beer you get not one but two half pint glass tankards – they serve their own house brews, ‘light’ and  ‘dark’ – for $5.50. Both were good beers, but I really loved the easy drinking dark – smooth and quite creamy with a hint of smoke; delicious. We went back for several more and stayed much longer than we had intended.

Bar area Bar and sawdust  Locals at bar Bar

Jimmy’s Number 43

Inside Jimmy'sThis subterranean bar a few doors down from McSorleys couldn’t be more different. From the outside it doesn’t look that inviting, with lots of metal grating, but once you get down those stairs then it’s warm, cosy and has tons of bottles, and a good draft beer list including Six Point Apollo Wheat (Brooklyn) and their Beljam Wheat. Jimmy's Beer listWe had a beautiful Firestone Walker Double Jack Imperial IPA, 9.5%, which was bursting with resinous hops, followed by a dark rich and strong (10%) Thornbridge Hall Bracia from our own shores. Not ideal beers to have one after the other with my tolerance levels suffering after having had several in McSorley’s previously, but it all made for a great evening.

Jimmy's by day Jimmy's by night

Good Beer

This friendly craft beer shop with tons of great bottles including Green Flash, Anderson Valley and Founders (shame about the lack of space in our cases, although we did manage to squeeze a few more in) also had several beers on tap including Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin IPA and the lovely Maine MO. This beautifully delicate pale beer is fresh and fruity, refreshing and zingy, and is just wonderful –  a beer you could just keep on drinking.

Good Beer bottles Outside Good Beer

Brooklyn

The Owl FarmOwl Farm

This pub is over the river in Brooklyn and a short stroll from the  4th Avenue/9th Street subway. Long, narrow and painted burgundy and white inside, with exposed brick, wooden floor and low hanging lights, this sleek pub-style bar showing sports (as usual) had 28 beers on tap from the likes of Evil Twin, Stone and Narragansett.

Inside Owl FarmI had a Stone Levitation after several tasters – not a new beer for me, but one that I always like to go to. We also had a Stone Enjoy by 9.13.13 – a limited edition beer. At 11% it probably wasn’t the best beer to have just before attempting to walk back to Manhattan over Brooklyn Bridge…!

Beer board in Owl Farm  Beer

Brooklyn Bridge

Salem

Beer Works Bar Salem Beer Works

After moving on to the small and historic ‘Witch City’ of Salem it was great to find this down-to-earth sprawling modern bar filled with stainless steel, sports screens, large booths, and a big beer list, all brewed by the Beer Works. I didn’t really have any expectations, but was really surprised – I enjoyed all their beers. The Double Pale Ale was strong at 8.5% and was a great full-flavoured imperial IPA, but I actually preferred the Back Bay IPA, a fantastic 6.5% beer that cut through everything, even after drinking the Double. Witch City Red, 5%, was gorgeous, like drinking a fruity sherbet, and the Salem American Pale Ale 5.5% reminded me of London Pride which I didn’t expect or want (don’t get me wrong, London Pride is a good beer; I just wanted something more American). I just wish I’d had more time to try their other beers, including Bunker Hill Blueberry Ale, Black Bay Stout, Bay State ESB – the list goes on…

Beer list 1 Beer list 2

Howling Wolf Taqueria

Howling WolfThe great thing about restaurants in these parts is that they always seem to have great beer on offer. This Mexican joint didn’t disappoint, and we shared a tasting tray/flight of beers including Shipyard Pumpkin Ale, Ithaca Flower Power, Allagash Black, and one other which escapes me. Ithaca Flower Power, 7.5%, had to be my favourite out of the four – strong but easy drinking, bursting with citrus hops and floral flavours, and as in-your-face as they come. I didn’t enjoy the spicy Shipyard as I’m not a great fan of cinnamon, and the Allagash Black was OK, but after the Ithaca there really was no contest.

Quality Liquors

This bottle shop on Gedney Street sold a good range of craft beers, including some seasonal pumpkin ales from Dogfish Head Pumpkin beersand Weyerbacher, bottles from Maine Beer Co and Pretty Things.

Beers 1

Salem Witch Museum

Portland ME

Great Lost Bear

Outside Great Lost BearAfter a 2.5 hour train journey from Salem to Boston we got straight on a bus to Bier Cellar, an excellent bottle shop on Forest Avenue, and realised this pub was a 10-minute walk up the road, so we decided to visit it. This dull-looking warehouse building with a bear painted on one wall surprised us as we went inside, with its neon lights, an eating area separated from the long bar with etched glass, and beer signs dotted around everywhere – very colourful and pretty. And a big beer list with 69 taps. The first thing the hostess said to us, pointing at our large brown paper bag of beer from Bier Cellar, was “You’re not planning on drinking that in here, are you?” Urr, no, why would we do that, what with your massive selection of draft beers…? “Well I thought that might be something you do where you come from” she stated unsmilingly. Ohhhkay…

Great Lost Bear barDespite the odd welcome, it was a nice place. We ordered some Maine Peeper (gorgeous delicately hopped and fresh, like all their beers) and munched on fries whilst drinking Sebago Fry’s Leap, an absolutely wonderful IPA, Six Point Simcoe IPA, which was almost as good as the Fry’s Leap, Funky Bow So Folkin Hoppy, which wasn’t really, even though it was a decent IPA, and Magic Hat Not Quite Pale Ale, which I can’t say we liked – it was like a malty bitter but not a great one at that which was a shame.

Beer list Taster flight

Novare Res Bier Cafe

Novare ResThis ‘bier cafe’ is tucked down a little alleyway off Lower Exchange Street, one of the main shopping streets running down towards the port. It was well presented, with candles on all the tables creating a cosy and relaxed atmosphere. The food looked good, but not much for veggies so we passed. They have around 30 taps and over 500 bottles, plus a couple of hand pumps. We had more lovely Maine Peeper, and a Marshall Wharf Pale Ale, which was too sulphurous and not to my taste. We could’ve stayed longer, but there were more places to seek out on our mini Portland crawl.

Thirsty Pig

Thirsty PigThis place for sausage lovers in the centre of town also does lots of great beer. We were pleased to discover it sold veggie hot dogs, so along with one of those smothered in onions and ketcup (pintsandpubs regretted asking for one with hot sauce, which ended up being so hot that it killed his taste buds), we enjoyed some more Maine MO, as lovely and fruity as ever, and some Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA, which was sweet and malty and a bit too sulphurous but with a pleasant after taste. There were about 10 draft beers available as well as lots of bottles, and the friendly staff offered tasters. A nice patio area out back overlooked the back end of Portland’s downtown redbrick buildings- very similar to buildings in England, actually. Nice place.

Gritty McDuff’s

Grittys beersStyled as an English pub, this microbrewery and restaurant is the sort of place you can imagine long-gone sailors hanging out outside in the gas-lit cobbles of dark old fashioned Wharf Street. The downstairs bar (Wharf Street level) is small and ‘gritty’, and upstairs (Fore St level) is noisier, larger, brighter, and full of locals and visitors.

Some of the locals are part of the Mug Club; their numbered mugs hang from the ceiling of the bar, they pay $75 a year to join, and they receive cheap beer and special deals on Sundays and Tuesdays; the bar tender fishes the mugs down with a giant hook which was very entertaining to watch.Mugs! I ordered a Gritty’s Pub Style Pale Ale which was light, hoppy and quite weak, and pintsandpubs had a Maine’s Best IPA which was darker, maltier and quite rich – both were decent beers. I liked Gritty’s, and loved atmospheric Wharf Street with its gas lamps.

Outside Gritty's, Wharf St

Wharf St

Boston

Downtown

StoddardsStoddard’s

The first pub we visited upon arrival in Boston, our final city, was Stoddard’s ‘Fine Food and Ale’. This was quite an elegant bar, with plenty of dark polished wood and chandeliers, and about 20 shiny taps along the bar which we couldn’t get to due to the crowds. There were many diners and not much room to sit though, so we perched on a bench near the door and ordered a bottle of Maine Beer Co Lunch, which pintsandpubs had been searching for since NYC. It was filled with mellow hops, maybe not quite as fresh as the MO and Peeper – Maine beers have to be drunk within days or at the most a couple of weeks after they are brewed to taste them at their best – but it was still a great choice.

Beacon Hill

Tip Tap Room

Tip Tap - Ballast Point Sculpin This bar on Cambridge Road, on the edge of pretty Beacon Hill with its gas lamps and cobbled streets, was a pleasant surprise, with about 36 taps stretching around the long sprawling bar. It was heaving with diners and drinkers, and we managed to grab the two last seats at the stainless steel bar (the hostess sitting diners said it was busy because it was ‘hump’ day – Wednesday, when everyone comes out as its midweek –  we’d never heard of this before in the UK!). Beer list

I had a lovely Ballast Point Sculpin, a very nice 7%  IPA that I’d last enjoyed at the GBBF in August. Pintsandpubs had a massively hoppy Port Brewing Wipeout IPA, 7%, which he raved about, and we then had a Founders Double Trouble, 9.4%, which although was rich and resinous it didn’t quite match up to the well crafted Wipeout;  the strong alcohol flavours were not very well disguised.

The Sevens Ale House

Sevens Ale HouseOutside SevensThis pub on Charles St, Beacon Hill, is a locals pub – not your touristy pub like some others in town. It’s long and narrow, quite dark, full of old faded wood, sports photos, breweriana, and has locals propping up the bar drinking beer or munching on food and watching sport on TV. I ordered the house beer Sevens Dark Ale, which was actually Dark Munich brewed by Harpoon – a strong dark beer, similar to McSorley’s dark, but a fair bit stronger. Harpoon IPA was also on, as was Sam Adams Boston Lager.

Cambridge

Cambridge Brewing Company, Cambridge

CBC This brewery-restaurant is located across the river from Boston in Cambridge on Kendall Square , just a few subway stops from the centre of Boston on the red line. We went there to meet some friends, and found them at the back of the light and airy pub next to some bags of grain and close to some large shiny brewing vessels.

I had a Tall Tale Pale Ale, a pleasant beer with Cascade and Centennial hops, followed by a See You Next Tuesday, which although billed as a pale-amber beer was more of a dark bitter to me. CBC beer listA bit too spicy and malty and not as hoppy as I would’ve liked; I couldn’t really taste all the citrus hops. I preferred pintsandpubs Mind Left Body, a wonderfully hoppy bitter with a slightly sour finish. The food was great, service was good, the atmosphere was pleasant, and all in all it was a lovely evening with friends in the ‘other’ Cambridge.

Back Bay

The Salty Pig

Salty PigOpposite the Back Bay station and the entrance to Copley Square mall, the Salty Pig is apparently a good place to eat meat (which we don’t) but it also happens to have a good beer selection.  I fancied something relatively weak as a nightcap after our evening out in Cambridge, so I went for a 21st Amendment Bitter American at 4.4% which was light with lots of lemon hops. Salty Pig beersPintsandpubs had a Pretty Things Meadowlark IPA, 7%, which he loved, resinously hoppy – a great beer. Sport was showing on TVs behind the bar again, of course, and people around us were enjoying munching on ‘salty pig parts’. All in all, it was a decent place with a good atmosphere and close to where we were staying, so a nice short walk back.

Allston

Sunset Grill and Tap

Sunset Grill and TapThe Sunset Grill and Tap is one of those pubs that you have to go to when in Boston, and we did save the best til last; this was probably my favourite bar in the city. Although not in central Boston, it is worth the trek out to trendy Allston, although it took the longest time to get there – our own fault, we decided to head there during rush hour. Crowds were gathered in the underground T stations waiting for green line trains which were all clustered together waiting for the trains in front to move forwards. It must’ve took an hour to get from central Boston (Park St) to Packard’s Corner in Allston, which would have taken half the time if we’d travelled off peak. Anyway, back to the pub.

Outside SunsetThe exterior is painted in bright colours depicting a bar scene. The inside is cavernous and colourful with lots of neon lights and pictures, and there are over 100 beers on tap, and hundreds of bottles.

BeersThe beer menu is several pages long. You can choose a set menu of flights of beer, create your own flights, or just order a pint. We ordered lots of food (nachos, fries, burgers) and pintsandpubs ordered his favourite, Maine Peeper,  and I went for a delicious Green Flash West Coast IPA, as gorgeous and as resinously hoppy as ever. Sunset beers

Other beers included the beautifully fresh Ithaca Flower Power, my beer of the trip, Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp which had live yeast and it showed – far too yeasty for me – Green Flash Symposium Ale, 7%, which had an unusual hop grassy flavour but was tasty, Smuttynose Rhye IPA which was OK with slightly spicy notes but not quite as lip-smacking as the rest, and Green Flash Le Freak, a lovely strong Belgian style ale. A great place to spend our last evening in Boston.

So that was the end of our trip. We managed to bring some beers back with us, one of them being my favourite, Ithaca Flower Power, as well as some Maine beers. Unfortunately, these are all gone now, so I guess we need to start planning another trip soon. Better start saving up…

Swan Boats, Boston

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USA Beers, Breweries and Pubs

I’ve just returned from a trip to the West Coast of America where I was keen to sample some American beers. Now when I mention American beer, many people are under the impression that I am referring to Budweiser, and seem confused as to why I would go all the way over to the States to sample beer such as this. It’s not yet general knowledge that America has had an enormous craft brewing revolution, with the industry developing rapidly since the 90s. Many US ales are based on English recipes and just taken that step further, generally by experimenting with lots of readily-available hops, and many of the beers being produced are innovative and of high quality. And being a big fan of Cascade hops I was going to be in the perfect place to sample some of the best: the Pacific North West.

Beers in a supermarket, Oregon

Microbrews in a supermarket, Yachats, Oregon

Here are some of the pubs we visited in Washington, Oregon and California, and some of the American beers that were consumed during our West Coast trip.

Seattle, Washington

Central Saloon, Seattle

The Central Saloon, Seattle

The Central Saloon, Seattle

The first stop was Seattle, Washington. This was a fleeting visit but we managed to squeeze in one bar there, the Central Saloon in the historic Pioneer Square district, reputed to be the oldest saloon in the city. The pub itself was long and narrow with a dark wood interior with a large space at the back where live music takes place most nights. But what interested me the most in my bleary-eyed jet- lagged state (it was 4am UK time) was the large number of microbrews on tap. We tried the Red Hook ESB from Seattle, which was an amber beer and reminded me of Dry Hopped Saint Rogue Red Ale (more about that later), quite a powerful hop and berry flavour. The bar staff didn’t know the ABV – they don’t seem to advertise this very frequently in the States, which can be a problem for me as I really can’t drink beer that is too strong!  –  but I was informed that the beers were ‘pretty much all the same’ which I guessed probably wasn’t the case, but presumed it was around 5 or 6 %, stronger that the English ale that I am used to drinking (I later discovered it was 5.8%). Deschutes Iversion IPA, from Oregon, was my favourite though –  a wonderfully sherbetty beer and very moorish, although I discovered this one was 6.8% so not exactly a session beer (for me, anyway!)

The Central Saloon

The Central Saloon

Portland, Oregon

The next day we arrived in Portland. Portland is simply beerlovers’ heaven. I can’t stress that enough. It is known as Beervana, or Beertown, and according to Oregon Beer it has no less than 34 breweries in the city alone – more than any other city in the world –  and lots more in the metro area. It’s the microbrewery capital of the world, as well as being a really friendly, green city with an incredible public transport system which for the most part is free. My kind of place! Why haven’t more people caught onto coming to Portland?

Pubs visited in Portland

Deschutes Brewery and Public House

Beer glasses at Deschutes Brewery

Beer glasses at Deschutes Brewery

Deschutes Brewery and Public House was our number 1. Located in the trendy Pearl District full of revamped warehouses housing galleries, smart shops and bars, this large pub/beerhall has 18 taps serving fantastic ale, and has lovely wooden carved archways of local scenery dotted around the pub. And very nice beer glasses too. Particular favourites were:
Cascade (4.5%) – I started off with this one as it was the weakest and because of its name; my favourite hop. It was pleasant, light and pale, but not as ‘cascadey’ as I had hoped.
Mirror Pond Pale Ale (5%) – A session beer, easy to drink – predominantly Cascade hops but well balanced. One that made me go back for more.
Twilight (5%)  – A refreshing straw coloured summer ale that was beautiful and light and didn’t taste its 5%. A true find.
Bachelor Bitter (5.2%) Known as the local’s favourite, and a particularly nice bitter with English hops.

Deschutes Brewery

Deschutes Brewery

Rogue Distllery and Public House

Rogue Pub

Rogue Pub

Around the corner from Deschutes is the Rogue brewery’s pub. This is a large and bright pub, with a dining section as well as a comfortable bar area with lots of light wood, a red British phone box!, and helpful staff who let me have tasters of a fair few of the ales. We had tried Rogue beers before in Cambridge as our great local beer shop Bacchanalia stocks them, but it was wonderful to taste them in draft form, and with 38 taps there was a lot of variety. I drank:
Juniper Pale Ale (around 5.2%) – Light, 3 types of north west hops, and a slight flavour of berries.
Dry Hopped St Rogue Red (around 5.2%) – Red ale, deep berry flavour – maybe a bit too berry-heavy for me -and abundantly hoppy!
Honey Orange Wheat (around 5.2%) – Tasty for a wheat beer – I am not generally a fan – and quite smooth with the flavour of the added honey.
Adam also had some Amnesia ESB (5.5%), which was a guest from the Amnesia Brewery located in the eastside of the city. I wasn’t a fan, especially after tasting some better beers from Rogue, but it wasn’t a bad ESB, copper coloured and quite bitter.

Crates of Rogue ales!

Crates of Rogue ales!

Beer list

Beer list

McMenamins Bagdad Theater pub

McMenamins own 30 brewpubs in the Portland area, and this is one of them. All McMenamins pubs are decorated with elaborate artwork and pretty murals all over the walls and this one is no exception. The McMenamins Bagdad pub is part of the Bagdad Theater located in the cool and quirky Hawthorne District in South East Portland.

McMenamins Bagdad Pub and Theater

McMenamins Bagdad Pub and Theater

McMmenamins Golden Ale

McMenamins Golden Ale

You can take a beer into the theater whilst watching a film. Not bad eh. (I had a peep into the theater and it was ornate and beautiful). We enjoyed pizza and chips whilst supping on a nice and light McMenamins Golden Ale for not very much money as it was happy hour, and we sat people watching through the open doors of the bar. Nice.

Other venues where we sampled some local ale were the Mississippi Studios, a music venue and recording studio where we listened to some great bands; here we tried some MacTarnahans Amber Ale, billed as Portland’s Original Amber Ale at 5.1%. This also reminded me of the Redhook ESB, very pleasant and flavoursome. And in the Doug Fir Lounge whilst watching a few bands we drank more of the lovely Mirror Pond Pale Ale from Deschutes brewery, as well as Fat Tire Amber Ale, from New Belgium Brewery in Colorado.

Doug Fir Lounge

Doug Fir Lounge

Oregon Coast

The Drift Inn, Yachats, Oregon

Yachats is a pretty little coastal village in central Oregon, and in its one bar, The Drift Inn, we drank beer whilst listening to some live music. I ordered some Anchor Steam 4.9%

In the Drift Inn

In the Drift Inn

from Anchor Brewing in San Francisco. I loved this beer when I was last in the USA, but this time round this dark foamy steam bitter didn’t really grab me – I guess I am just on a hop kick and there were not that many hops in this beer. I then tried some of Adam’s Terminal Gravity IPA,  and it was so fantastic that I bought some of my own. I knew on the first mouthful that it was a strong brew – but as nobody knew the ABV (again) I just had to forget how strong I thought it was and get on with drinking the stuff. It reminded me of a really good Oakham ale – bursting with hops and flavour and incredibly moorish. I soon forgot about the Anchor Steam (which Adam kindly finished off for me). (Terminal Gravity IPA is actually 6.9% I discovered after the event).

The Drift Inn, Yachats

The Drift Inn, Yachats

Ken’s Tavern and Wild River Brewing and Pizza Co, Brookings

Brookings is an odd place. It’s a village/town/sprawl along the 101 highway close to the Californian border which is just somewhere to pass through on the way to somewhere nicer, really. We  stopped there as there was nowhere else we could make it to as it was getting late. We visited one of the local taverns, Ken’s, and it really was a local’s tavern. A man was throwing coins at the barmaid as we walked in, but she seemed to take it in her stride. We drank some more of the lovely Mirror Pond Pale Ale – nice to see it on draft there – and made a hasty retreat. But I did quite like it there, it was like a bar you’d see in American movies, dark and dingy and had pool tables. Not that I play pool.

Ken's Tavern, Brookings

Ken's Tavern, Brookings

We then headed to The Wild River Brewing and Pizza Company, whose pizza was recommended by the previously mentioned barmaid. We walked over the enormous bridge joining Brookings and Harbour, which is the adjoining harbourside community. The bridge was very long and incredibly high and not great for pedestrians or vertigo sufferers, I could see why Americans drive everywhere. It was then a long walk to the actual venue along a main road with no paths, plus there were some unusual people around – again not really for pedestrians. We decided in advance to take a taxi back, praying that there were actually taxis in this town. We ordered pizza – which was nice although they chose to cook only certain toppings for some reason so I had lots of uncooked green peppers on top – and ordered Wild River ESB on draft (4.3%, the weakest yet!) which was a pleasant  English style bitter, a mixture of hops and malt and copper coloured, and it drowned out the memories of the uncomfortable walk quite nicely. (And we did manage to get a taxi back to Brookings, fortunately).

California Coast

Pattersons Pub, Mendocino

We drove down the wonderful Highway 101 with its magnificent sea views to reach Mendocino. This little village in northern California is beautiful with its perfect white wooden-panelled Victorian houses with verandas and typically American picket fences, and gift shops and art galleries, but is slightly strange at the same time. The steep-spired whitewashed wooden Presbyterian church made me feel slightly uncomfortable, and reminded me of a church in a documentary about the Salem Witch Trials. And this community had a certain air about it, that if you didnt fit in (into to their rich American lifestyle) and weren’t the same as them, then you wouldn’t get on too well there. Or, it could all be in my imagination. There was no doubt that it was pretty and in a wonderful spot, on a coastal bluff with incredible headlands and a stunning beach. Anyway, onto the beer.

Inside Patterson's Pub

Inside Patterson's Pub

The pub in the village was called Pattersons Pub, housed in a prim and proper green wooden Victorian building which looked like it was just a house, and upon entering it was a shock. There were actually young and lively people here, and there was good beer. And lots of choice. We drank:
Red Seal (5.5%) from North Coast Brewing, which was a very tasty amber ale with lots of flavour, spicy friut  andhops.
Poleeko Gold Pale Ale (5.5%) from Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, California –  a beautiful golden and hoppy brew, very light and citrussy, with pacific north west hops.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (5.6%) The classic ubiqiutus Californian ale is full of the lovely Cascade hops and I wish this was on tap in all my local pubs instead of GK IPA. Sorry GK.

Patterson's Pub, Mendocino

Patterson's Pub, Mendocino

Fernwood Resort, Big Sur

Big Sur is a beautiful area of California, south of Monteray on Highway 1. Green hills, deep valleys, crashing waves, blue seas, wild countryside…it’s a great place to escape from the big city. Its bohemiam atmosphere is filled with memories of the Beats, who used to visit on retreat from San Francisco, it’s magical and timeless.

Big Sur, California

Big Sur, California

So, the pubs and beer. Well, we were so exhausted in Big Sur after living it up too hard in San Francisco (more of that later) so we only managed to squeeze in one beer in one bar before collapsing – how poor! We went to the Fernwood Resort, a log cabin style establishment like many places in Big Sur, and there we drank Big Sur Golden Aleby English Ales Brewery (4.8%), , a lager style beer – light and refreshing and not too strong, just what was needed.

Big Sur River Inn

Big Sur River Inn

Most of the resorts in Big Sur have their own bar, and ours was no exception, with the Big Sur River Inn serving Fat Tire (5.3%) and Stone IPA (6.9%) on tap – shame I didnt get to taste the Stone; I have since tried Stone Levitation (4.4%, more my sort of ABV!) at home in a bottle and it’s bursting with hop flavour and is delicious.

San Francisco

We actually spent a late night drinking  in San Francisco the night before going to Big Sur (hence the exhaustion!), but I thought I would lump all of SF together for continuity.

San Francisco has a handful of microbreweries, but not many compared to Oregon. The most famous one in the city is the Anchor Steam Brewery located in the Potrero Hill district, but there are others such as the San Francisco Brewing Company in North Beach, the Magnolia brewpub in Haight Ashbury and the Thirsty Bear Brewery in the Nob Hill area.

Pubs / bars visited in San Francisco:

Edinburgh Castle

The Edinburgh Castle pub is located in the notorious Tenderloin district of the city, a block away from the Great American Music Hall.

I didn’t have a chance to see any of the alleged

Edinburgh Castle pub

Edinburgh Castle pub

dodgy characters who are said to frequent the area as we were late for a reading/gig we were going to see there so we arrived in a hurry in a taxi – the driver of which was forced to become a speeding maniac as I told him HURRY! – and we ran straight in. Then afterwards, we were straight back into another taxi, Mr Bings bound (see below). The gig was great, and the dimly lit bar was wonderful – dark wood with fairy lights all over, loads of beers on tap, a balcony area above as well as a performance area. I drank more Sierra Nevada, and tried to get Laguntas IPA on tap, but it was off which was a shame.

Mr Bings

We visited late-night Mr Bings Cocktail Lounge in North Beach because some friends were going there. It’s not exactly a place for beerlovers as you may imagine, but I was pleasantly surprised to see bottles of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in the fridge, which I stuck to rigidly all night – maybe I should have tried the cocktails…. They also had Anchor Steam Liberty Ale (6%) in bottles as well.

Inside Mr Bings

Inside Mr Bings

It’s a tiny one-roomed establishment with an U shaped bar and lots of mirrors. The atmosphere was great – mainly because we were with friends and had a laugh – and it has a fantastic juke box too.

Vesuvio

Located next to the famous City Lights bookstore, owned by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Vesuvio is an elaborate dark wood Victorian 2 level bar made famous as a drinking hole for the Beats. It’s a great place to people-watch and imagine times gone by when it was frequented by these bohemian literary types. We drank Sierra Nevada on draft, and Lagunitas IPA from a bottle, 5.7&. Lagunitas brewery is based in Petaluma, California, where we somehow ended up after getting lost on Highway 1 (how can you get lost on Highway 1?! That’s another story). I wanted to try Lagunitas IPA as I heard that it was brewed with about 43 varieties of hops. I think the brewery are probably messing with us when they say that, but who am I to say? It was certainly hoppy but I got a hint of pear which I didn’t enjoy too much, so it wasn’t my favourite beer. It may have tasted different if I had managed to get it on tap.

Specs

This bar is tucked into a little alleyway over the road from City Lights in North Beach and is an old fashioned, wonderful little drinking joint.

Specs - it was quite dark inside...

Specs - it was quite dark inside...

This dark den is still frequented by the Beats and literary ladies and gents of San Francisco (we saw some familiar faces when in there), and the walls are covered with strange and unusual collectables from around the globe; you could spend hours just looking around the place. Not much choice in the way of beer but that’s not the main reason anyone comes here; I had some more Sierra Nevada Pale Ale which suited me fine, whilst soaking up the atmosphere and history.

Rogue public house

Yes, Rogue, as in from Oregon where we were previously. They have a pub here too, as well as others dotted around between here and there. This one is located in North Beach opposite Washington Square park, but it’s not quite as friendly or as big as the one in Portland unfortunately. It was heaving though, and I did have some tasty Rogue beer, being Triple Jump (13.5 Plato, which works out roughly at 5.4%) which was literally jumping with hops. They say on the website that the beer focuses on hop flavour – they ain’t wrong! Adam had a not-so-nice Somer Orange Honey Ale (5.2%), which we both thought tasted foul, and didn’t particularly taste of orange or honey. It was pretty much undrinkable. So onto the next place.

Bucaneer Bar

Bucaneer Bar, San Francisco

Bucaneer Bar, San Francisco

We popped into this bar, located on Polk St in Russian Hill, for a quick half – Sierra Nevada – and to pick up a T-shirt for my brother in law as he wanted a new one; he and my sister got very drunk in that bar last time they were in San Francisco. It’s a pleasant locals bar, a dark interior with a pool table and run by a young friendly couple.

Shanghai Kellys

I love Shanghai Kellys, also located in Russian Hill / Nob Hill. We didn’t get a chance to visit it on this occasion, but last time the barman was so friendly and we spent a lot of time in there; I also remember the juke box being pretty excellent. I can’t remember the beers on tap unfortunately, but I did have a lot of Sierra Nevada – it really is everywhere but I can’t fault it!

Shanghai Kelly's bar, San Francisco

Shanghai Kelly's bar, San Francisco

*

So that’s it, the end of the USA trip. Since coming back I have discovered even more American beers I want to try – but I know that the wonderful Cambridge Beer Festival (which started yesterday and runs until Saturday) has a foreign beer bar with some bottled US beers, so here’s hoping I will find what I want…!

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