Bay area pub crawl

By Gregg Smith

There are several factors to consider when running a marathon. The layout and condition of the course are two; and when contemplating a marathon in San Francisco these become even more important. The hills of the city by the bay can represent a formidable challenge and therefore any pub crawl recommended by "All About Beer" would have to take difficulty of the course into account. As with marathons, an important factor is safety which is why most recommend an easy route. If you insist on driving make sure you use a designated driver.

To start your pub crawl head to the base of the Oakland Bay Bridge. There at 2 Harrison street is the starting line. The Gordon Biersch Brewpub is located on the site of the old Hills Brothers Coffee building and its inside, decor offers some unusual contrasts. While the bar has a classic warm wood setting the rest gives the vague impression of being inside a parking garage. Beyond this, and outside the large glass windows, is one of the best views of any brewpub in America with a grand vista of the bay, Treasure island, the bridge and even a fire boat station. No matter what visual contrast you perceive the beers are well crafted, fine examples of style and fresh.

The problem with pubcrawls which start at such a great location is the reluctance to leave. Never the less, walk out the front door and turn left. On the next corner turn left and walk up Folsom until 2nd Street, turn right and on the right, at 133 - 2nd is your next stop, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker's A.E.F. This bar has an elevated railroad and a collection of old model train gear. In addition there are several antique Indian motorcycles and a small collection of carbines. The beers are a lineup of Spaten, Watney's, Carlsberg and sampling of west coast micro's. The mix of glass and wood may make you a bit to comfortable but don't stop, there's more to see and do. Leave Captain Eddie's and continue along 2nd to Mission, make a left and walk up to 4th. There at number 55 is the Marriott Hotel. Go to the elevators and take a ride straight to the top where you'll find 'The View' lounge. Perhaps a better name would have been the 'Joker' lounge for the architecture gives the feeling of the "Batman" movie set but the view is nothingshort of spectacular. Sweeping views of the bay and nearly the entire waterfront is spread before you along with a short, but varied, list of California micro brews.

Walk out the front door of the Marriott and make a right along with another right at the next corner (Market Street) and head back toward the water. When you reach Front Street turn left and walk down toward the Embarcadero complex. On the left side at 245 Front is Harrington's. This is a real old-fashion bar with a more than adequate selection of bottled craft brewed beers.

Tired of bottled beer and looking for some drafts? Well this time as you leave make sure you're ready for a walk, a short walk that is, because the next bar is right next door. The Royal Exchange has 25+ taps in another classic bar. Unfortunately, there's one problem with these two; they close fairly early so if you're not there by 10PM you'll miss it. If you get there too late don't fret, hail a cab and head over to the Twenty Tank Brewery at 316 11th street. The brewpub has a large interior artfully decorated with posters of their beers designed to resemble ads from 1940 magazines. If by now you're ready to rock or listen to the blues they're just across the street from Slim's a club owned by Boz Scaggs. Check the front door box office for the latest acts.

If you want to modify the crawl and use cabs there are two more great beer bars you might add. At 4200 16th Street try Jack's Elixir, a beer bar with over 50 taps and a neighborhood atmosphere. It's no trendy place, this is a bar with good beer and pleasant company. Another stop with plenty of choices is the Toranado at 547 Haight. This area was famous for the counter culture movement of the sixties and although things have changed the bar has retained some of that era's funky character. Want to fit in quick? Ask for a recommendation.

If you're in town long enough and have some extra time don't overlook the other side of the bay. Oakland often suffers being in the shadow of San Francisco. The bars here are spread out a little more so you'll want to use a designated driver or taxis. Begin your trek at Jack London Square and keep a sharp eye out for the unassuming bar named "Heinhold's First and Last Chance Saloon". Jack London himself hung out here and not much has changed since Jack was around. What did change you'll notice right at the entrance. Watch your step, the bar wasn't built on a foundation and after morethan a century of earthquakes the entire floor, and bar, sits at a considerable angle.

From the Last Chance zip over to 906 Washington Street and the Pacific Coast Brewing Company. This is a place to warm the hearts of intermediate homebrewers for this brewery has received 6 Great American Beer Fest medals with a malt extract based brewing process. Try one of their award winners and if this isn't enough gaze over the beautiful wood veneer back bar's tap set and choose from one of more than fifteen local micro brewed beers.

Heading out of Pacific Coast there was a scene which shows the true character of Oakland. An old white man with a white cane was obviously lost. While contemplating stopping to help, a young black man dressed in sweats approached him and provided the necessary assistance. Down the street they walked engaged in conversation. Maybe Oakland's a little different than some of the stories.

Your next stop is at 5940 College Avenue, the home of Barclay's. This is a bar with a friendly, beer knowledgeable crowd. With 30 rotating taps be sure to check the white board for the latest update of available beers. If you decide this is heaven and you're not leaving consider joining their Parliament Club, a world beer tour.

Following the Barclay is Triple Rock Brewpub in nearby Berkeley at 1920 Shattuck Avenue. The Triple Rock is a sister of the Twenty Tank with the same general feel in a slightly smaller version. From there you can finish with a short walk to the Jupiter at 2181 Shattuck. Fact is the Jupiter is another of the brewpubs operated by John and Reid Martin owners of Triple Rock. More than dozen taps from throughout California and the Northwest are waiting in an open airy tap room.

When you've finished the Bay Area Rapid Transit Station is just next door. A couple of final hints when on a pub crawl. You don't have to drink full sized pints, so opt for the smaller glasses and taste a variety of beers. Also be brave and try things you'd normally pass up. Avoid some possible trouble by eating early in the crawl. And, take your time; remember, it's a marathon not a sprint.

Gregg Smith


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