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Eight Days A Week

January, 2000

By Bobby Bush

Planning began weeks before departure. Addresses, phone numbers, directions (courtesy of MapQuest.com), all were ready. Packing was more than a frivolous activity. Luggage space for returning collectibles, including beer and logo pint glasses, received top priority. An extra collapsible carry-on bag was enlisted to bring back non-breakable souvenirs.

This particular excursion, a combined business and pleasure trip, would encompass eight days. Hopscotching from Los Angeles to Denver and the Rocky Mountain to Las Vegas, this jaunt would make pit stops in 20 brewpubs in 12 cities. Eleven of those brewpub visits were new ones, bringing my list of different brewpub visits to 453.

Friday was a one-night stand in Los Angeles. Frustrated by a colleague’s well-meaning attempt to buy me a beer while I was using the little boys rooms, I shunned the green-bottled Heineken and had a Diet Coke instead. With an early flight out the next morning, we had reservations at a hotel near LAX. Instead of making an early evening - jet lag be damned - we stopped in at one of Greater L.A.’s oldest and best brewpubs.

Just south of the airport by 10 minutes, when traffic is forgiving, Manhattan Beach Brewing Company has been in business since 1991. The circa-1930s brick building is easy to find. It’s a block above the volleyball courted beach and historic Roundhouse Pier. Parking isn’t nearly as easy. In fact, it’s a bitch, particularly on a weekend night. But, of course, we persevered because... where there’s beer, there’s a way.

Now it was my turn to share good beer with my Heineken-swilling buddy. As expected, the long copper-topped bar was packed. The dining room, separated only by a short wall divider, was just as busy. We squeezed in at the bar long enough to buy two pints then settled in at a high bar table, partially blocking the near grid-locked aisle. Skipping the tricycle Manhattan Beach Blonde and Rat Beach Red Ale, we dove straight into the sweet and grainy Ardmore Amber Ale and extremely mild, medium bodied South Bay Bitter. Ah, the trials of a long day and beer-less dinner disappeared from memory, at least for the time being.

Manhattan Beach’s other two brews proved just as tranquilizing. Fruity mouthfeel but hoppy in flavor and aroma, Hophead IPA exited with a quick bitter, slightly harsh finish. A bit thin for style, El Porto Porter was almost opaque black. Chocolate flavor dominated though roasted barley malt was also detected. This portly ale imparted only slight bitterness though it too left a harsh, albeit short, aftertaste. It was obvious that the owners and managers of Manhattan Beach know something about beer and the brewpub business. They also own Redondo Beach Brewing Company, just a few miles farther south.

Some of the fondest memories of my six year stint on the West Coast hail from Manhattan Beach Brewing. A small but nice place. Decent beer. Friendly people. And nearly every visit ended with a walk out to the end of the pier. It was a chilly, breezy evening, but we took that slow, quiet stroll anyway.

Up early on Saturday morning, following an earthquake-free sleep, I was making my way down the length of United Airline’s terminal when, low and behold, what do my wondering eyes spy but a Karl Strauss pub right beside my gate. Germany-born Strauss, you might remember, opened San Diego’s first brewpub, Karl Strauss’ Old Columbia, back in 1989 and now has four brewpubs and a microbrewery in Greater San Diego. I was not aware that he had ventured northward, but I was mighty glad he did, even if this was just a non-brewing airport bar.

Not one to let fate slip away, I waited for the morning shift staff to awake and then ordered the seasonal Oatmeal Stout. The reddish brown brew was flat, brimming with roasted and chocolate malt flavor. Served in a chilled glass, this wrong-colored, not quite full bodied enough beer tasted awfully good at 7:00 am. The full service bar also poured Karl Strauss Pale Ale, Amber Lager, Pilsener and airport requisites Bud Light and Miller Genuine Draft. Stout glass empty, I boarded the plane for Denver with a smile on my face.

(Follow this Colorado trip: Denver Again).

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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