Tag: magnolia

SF Beer Week: Shots

Life was like a Portlandia episode inside Elixir on Friday. The conversation moved from coffee (Stumptown vs. Sightglass) to coffee (Aeropress vs. French press vs. my personal technique, pour-over into a Mason jar and aged on the kitchen counter all afternoon). We talked about coffee shops and coffee blogs, and then, for a change of pace, pickles. Elixir was serving pickle-backs, which the group two bar stools down ordered by the half-dozen. Novelty demands overindulgence.

But we were there for the shot-and-a-beer combos. They were pouring it from bottles, but the bartender told me they buy Buffalo Trace bourbon “by the barrel.” It’s one of my favorite bourbons—rich and buttery—and they were pairing it with an interesting beer, Magnolia’s Cole Porter, aged in those very same barrels. They also had an English-style house IPA, Snake Oil, paired with a candy apple-y cognac and Sierra Nevada pale paired with mezcal. The mezcal was the star: smokey and bittersweet, like barbecued peaches, or charred coconut. The Sierra—a great beer on its own—kind of dumbed it down. The Cole Porter, too, wasn’t as good as the bourbon, and the pairing suffered for it. In fact, the beer seemed to have lost some of its roasted edge after the two months it spent in that barrel. So I waited until the bartender wasn’t looking and dumped the rest of my shot into the pint glass to try and even things out.

Alembic did the mixing for us. Their menu was illegible and this led to some confusion over what was actually in each drink, and what they were called. The two standouts were the Harlot of Babylon and the Golden Lamp Stand, maybe. The first, we think, had Moonlight’s Death and Taxes, creme de cacao, and Tabasco and tasted like Mexican hot chocolate. The second had Magnolia’s kolsch, ginger, and bitters, and tasted like grown-up orange juice. We munched on duck hearts and our waitress told us she eats them every day, with hot cocoa, like some Aztec Marie Antoinette. Would that be a heart-back? Or just heart burn.

SF Beer Week: Opening Gala

The Yerba Buena center was packed. The line to taste Russian River‘s very rare and very hoppy Pliny the Younger started at one wall and disappeared into the crowd, out of sight. It was almost as long as the line to the men’s room, where a guy wearing sunglasses declared, “Pliny is bullshit.” There was no line for the women’s room.

We had a good rye saison from Devil’s Canyon—the peppery saison yeast worked well with the rye’s natural spice—and a weird mugwort beer from Moonlight. It tasted a little like thyme, with a hint o’ mint at the end.

California is supposed to be laid back, but there was a lot of posturing going on, beers trying to out-sour, or out-hop each other. Lagunitas talked up their special release, Fusion: 280 IBUs, dry-hopped with four pounds of citras per barrel. It was OK; their stout was better. In the midst of the fray, I met a guy wearing a Great Lakes Brewing Company t-shirt and talked to him a little bit about Cleveland. He said Great Lakes’ beer is great, but he loves them even more because their food is just as good. That made me feel better. He reminded me of Magnolia Brewpub, home to an excellent pork sandwich and straight-forward, British beer, so we went there. They were pouring Pride of Branthill, a so-called “double ESB,” which sounds like big talk, but it tasted mild, full, and bready. As strong as the beer was, it was a nice respite from the more overdone offerings on tap.

A few tables poured “session beers,” lighter and easier to drink than their soured or dry-hopped cousins. There were no lines to try session beers. Anderson Valley‘s Wee Geech was delicious.

True relief came from North Coast, who were passing out Underbergs with each sip of bourbon-barrel-aged Old Rasputin. I predict a hangover-free morning.