Sunday, January 4, 2009

A long Sunday ride home

After spending the last four days of the year in San Ramon ... we left Zack's house just after 10am Sunday morning with the full intention of beating the end-of-a-long-holiday weekend traffic home to Roseville to perform some much needed chores around the Soberment household.
We made it about 15 miles out of there before taking a detour through the Delta area for a recon of possible cycling routes for the coming summers pedaling opportunities.
We figured we should stop in Concord for a quick visit to EJ Phair...or in Antioch for a much over due return to Schooners Grille & Brewery. The problem was the was just too damn early and neither establishment would be open yet.
So we wondered around the Delta area checking out Rio Vista, Isleton and highways 12 and 113. Once we were on 113 and pretty distressed about finding few cycling worthy roads I figured we'd just head north until we came to I-80. By the time we were in the Davis area it was virtually lunch time and so we decided to make a stop at the Davis Graduate....a place I had previously avoided because I figured it was just some noisy college town dive full of Bud Light and Miller products.
Well I was right about the Bud and Miller products...It seemed they had every version of those taps imaginable...But.... Luckily the place is just swamped in tap handles (they advertise 50 but by my count it was closer to 64) and we were able to find several beers to our liking.
The biggest surprise we found was Pliny the Elder. The giant black bartender's eyes lit up when we ordered one. He explained that they just got their first keg of Pliny in and he wanted to tell us just how great a beer it was.
We smiled and listened patiently as he preached to the choir. Fortunately we had started with Sierra Nevada's spectacular Torpedo and still had some in our glasses as his sermon continued on.
I asked about whether Blind Pig was also coming to town but he was unaware of that possibility. I figured once the Pig showed up he would have plenty of ammo for yet another great beer speech.
The facility itself is pretty vast, with a fairly long impressive wood bar and a lot of tables centered around a multitude of TVs, including one really huge screen in the middle.
This place is clearly a sports bar.
The food court looked pretty impressive as well with all the menu items listed across the top of the ordering windows for easy reading.
So easy in fact that we tried an appetiser (Jalapeno poppers) and a spicy Cajun hot dog. The poppers typically lacked any heat and the hot dog was less than spicy...but was all tasty enough and the beer was cold so we weren't really complaining.
After our second and final Pliny the bartender came back and tried to sell us on returning in a week to participate in 'Stone Brewing night'. He figured if we liked Pliny then we were bound to enjoy a new discovery like Stone IPA!
I really enjoyed his enthusiasm for beer, and so we thanked him for the great service and headed on out the door into the bright sunshine wondering.........should we stop at Rubicon or go straight to Sacramento Brewing?.....decisions...decisions....decisions.

A nice Barclay visit

Over the years I have been lucky enough to visit Barclay's in Oakland on several occasions. Their moniker "30 Beers on tap all the time" is very right on the money and frankly it even seems like more.
The place was jumpin on a Saturday Night, but we got lucky and a table was opening up as we entered the downstairs entrance. Not fully downstairs mind you, just kind of a half buried below street level that gives the place and interesting feel about it.
I settled down in the somewhat flimsy (for me anyway) chair and went straight for the beer menu as the rest of my cohorts scanned the food menu for some tasty treats. We both managed to come up with some nice choices. There was no less than eight IPA's on the menu including two doubles, Drakes Hopocalypse and the iconic Pliny the Elder.
I decided to start lighter and went straight to the Firestone Walker Union Jack. I know, I know...that's crazy talk but I just wasn't in the mood to start any lighter despite the presence of Racer 5, Lagunitas IPA, Rubicon IPA, and Green Flashes West Coast IPA. Anchor's Liberty Ale was the other
Curiously the menu does not mention the Brewers name...only the Beer name, the style and their Club ID designation. Naturally Guinness occupies the number 1 spot. Ballast Points Sea Monster Imperial Stout was the highest number on the list at 2031. All that means is that well over 2100 different beers have been offered at Barclay's since they opened in the mid 90's.
The kids reported that the Black Diamond Hefe was quite drinkable and rewarded their interest with proper Bavarian Hefeweizen characteristics. Good thing too since it was the only wheat beer on the menu. Not really sure why they ordered hot wings and quesadillas to go along with it but both appetizers were generous and least with my Union Jack, Hop Rod Rye, Pliny the Elder and Hopocalypse.
I know I've said it here before .....but if you are in Oakland...or South Berkeley...stop in and check out Barclay's. I'm pretty sure they'll be something there for any beer palate. Never did get around to trying that Sea Monster though ....damn it.

Zappa plays Zappa

Oh my god!!! As Moon Unit might say. Dweezil Zappa and the band was just a pair of knickers this side of freakin nirvana. Well.....nothing similar to Kurt Cobain and the fellas....but just about as awesome a show as a Frank Zappa lovin HopHunter could hope to encounter.
The scene was the New Years Eve 8pm show at the impressively ornate War Memorial Opera House in downtown San Francisco..... but earlier that same day...........
Terri and I finished off our 2008 work year by toiling a couple of morning hours and then headed out of town to meet up with Zack at the 1st Street Ale House in Livermore for some lunch...and of course maybe a couple three hop libations. The excellent Blue Cheese burger I had was only outdone by the outstanding IPA's the 1st street people had available. I started with the IPA from Schooners in Antioch which just seems to get better every time I have it. Excellent West Coast IPA style representation ....great aroma, huge hop bite and a nice clean finish. Next, of course I HAD to have a Pliny the Elder right? I would have saved the Pliny for my last beer except the beer menu also offered the Hopocalypse Imperial IPA from Drakes Brewing in San Leandro. Oh my. What a big hop monster that sucker is......If not for the show that evening I could have just stayed on 1st street and tried to demolish that keg of 11% sweetness.
After finishing up lunch and switching my bike onto Zack's transport we rode BART from Dublin to the Civic Center station in SF and immediately grabbed a cab with instructions to proceed to 547 Haight Street. With nearly three hours to spare before showtime it seemed only prudent to use the opportunity to polish some bar stools at Toronado. The Marin brewing Cask IPA, Russian River Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder went nicely between excursions into the beauty that is Port Brewing Hop-15 .....
After cabbing back to the show we made our way to our seats.....2nd row....dead center. Yes it IS worth spending 40% more for these kinds of seats. After a forgettable and useless opening act Dweezil, Ray White and the rest of cast came out and just nailed some FZ classics like INCA ROADS, COSMIC DEBRIS, MAGIC FINGERS (a 200 Motels song? Amazing) CAROLINA HARDCORE ECSTASY which feature some killer solos by everyone in the band. The middle of the show they did BILLY the MOUNTAIN which realllly surprised me. Not one of my favorites but impressive that they could pull off that nearly 25 minute piece of FZ musical history. They also did two of my favorites from way back WILLIE the PIMP (No, no Captain Beefheart sightings) and The MUFFIN MAN.
Keyboard/Flute/Saxophone player Scheila Gonzalez was particularly impressive; but what I enjoyed the most about the show was the sheer joy that was just oozing off all the players. They obviously enjoyed the show nearly as much as I did and their performance radiated it.
Unfortunately for Les Claypool, who is an incredible bass player, he had to try to follow up the FZ crew. It couldn't be done. Somewhere Frank was grinning and enjoying being the proud Papa of such a wonderful kid. We are all the better for it.
Our train ride home was uneventful ..... fortunately......because an hour and a half after we left town there was a shooting homicide in the BART station where we departed from.