When you walk into a bar or taproom you are in control; you decide what you want to drink. However, this event was a little like falling backwards blindfolded and hoping someone is there to catch you. It’s not quite that bad — falling hard on the ground isn’t the same thing as having a beer you don’t like — but there is an element of trust involved. I was totally on-board with letting our guides choose, though, and I trusted that they would take us along the righteous path.
We met up with our guides at Cellarmaker, and although drinking before our trip was ill-advised, some of the patrons started their day at Cellarmaker, priming the pump, as it were.
Our first stop was Barebottle, on Cortland Ave just south of The City. This was my first time at Barebottle, and I had to ask whether it was always like this. It was, to put it mildly, packed like a can of sardines. Two lines of 10-plus people each led to the bar where beer was continually flowing into glasses. Alas, this was SF Beer Week, where fans come out in droves. Part of this could be attributed to Barebottle’s release of their triple IPA, Doom Bloom, fruited with prickly pear. I can attest that this is an extremely dangerous beer in that it is so smooth you would never guess it was a triple. At least not until you picked yourself up off the floor.
Aside from the triple we tried a number of Barebottle’s hazies for which they are quite well known. The offering did not disappoint as we climbed the ABV ladder from single to double to triple. Barebottle consistently delivers high quality brews that are very pleasing to the palate.
The next stop on our excursion was Ferment.Drink.Repeat, also known as FDR. Nestled in the heart of the Portola (the pronunciation of which caused much discussion and laughter) FDR feels a bit like an anachronism. In the middle of this ordinary, neighborhood block is a very hip taproom and brewery. Flanked by a Chinese restaurant on one side and an old cinema-turned-church on the other, FDR is a breath of fresh air. Long tables invite communal drinking and the opportunity to meet and make new friends. The beer list is vast and we were treated to a time-traveling journey with a flight of beer styles from the ‘80s up to today.
More interesting for me was the brewery tour we experienced with brewer Kevin Inglin. Tucked neatly in the back is a very compact 7BBL brewhouse with four ten-barrel fermenters and two ten-barrel bright tanks. For such a tight space everything is quite well organized. I had the pleasure of having a lengthy conversation with Kevin on his philosophy of brewing which enlightened me to his passion of focusing on beers he believes in and not just chasing the latest hot beer trend. This is a topic I have discussed with other brewers — where to draw the line between brewing beer you want to make and drink, and beer that will sell and pay the bills. Kevin at FDR is very much in the camp of sticking to his guns and brewing beers he believes in.
Our last stop of the night on the Hazy Train was Triple Voodoo Brewing down on 3rd St. in the Dogpatch. We ended our ride and evening not so much on the Hazy side of things. Although our first offering was the hazy Unclear Intentions, which was quite nice, we moved onto less hazy fare. Moving into dessert mode we had a velvety chocolate porter, Imperial Mocha Shake. Then as a nod to the dream-filled movie, we next had their Belgian-style ale, Inception. We rounded out the night with an amazing double IPA, Angelheaded Hipster.
On the whole, the event was a great success. Being driven around to multiple breweries is something most people can get onboard with. Meeting new people from a variety of backgrounds who are all passionate about beer made for great comradery and conversation. And having two guides who were knowledgeable, entertaining and dedicated to the idea of us having a good time was a winning combination.