The Barfly Chronicles - The Toronado

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Archived Barfly Chronicles from 10/4/98 - 12/9/98

Archived Barfly Chronicles from 8/16/98 - 10/4/98
Archived Barfly Chronicles from 7/5/98 - 8/15/98
Go to the original Barfly Chronicles Story

Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, we are barflys, not drunks. There is a real difference. Drunks just go out to bars with the specific intent to get drunk on a regular basis. Barflys (like us) tend to go to bars a lot, but mostly because we're friends with the bartenders, or because we are getting together with the locals, or because it's just more fun to have a beer out at the local bar, than sitting at home.

Since we have moved to San Francisco, we have spent many hours at our local bar, the Toronado. The Toronado is a unique little beerhall. Feel free to click on the links below to learn about the bar, the people, and what we drink while we are there.

The Bar

The Bartenders
and other assorted regulars

The Beers (updated 10/26/98)

Here are our stories...

Updates to the Chronicles:

[Avery] 6/14/99
Well, here it is: the highlights of the party and our final farewell to the Toronado.

May 21 - The Party
As goodbye parties go, this went exactly as I planned it. No loud music or overly drunk acquaintances milling around and mooching free beer off of us... just a handful of good friends enjoying a last Friday night together.

The night started with my ex-work crew who showed up a little after 4pm. Judy, Rick, Adriana and Molly were there waiting for me as I went to get ice for the two kegs of Speakeasy beer that Forest and Steve had generously donated for the event. Earlier in the evening, I bid farewell to Dave (the owner) and Jennifer (his fiancee and afternoon bartender)... but Dave was only there in spirit for the party, because in real life, he was suffering from a bronchial infection.

A little while later, Carlos showed up with cigars and music. Fireman Ted and Jimi D the chef also showed up and stayed for a beer. Throughout the night, bartenders would stop in and pay their respects. Todd, Pauly, Tad, Steve and Johnny all came by to say their final goodbyes.

Jeff from the sausage shop even supplied us with sausage and kraut (at a moderate discount from his normal rates), and as most of us tore into the sausage with toothpicks, Janet decided to go to Pasta Pomodoro (which we had protested for almost a whole year) and bring back some angel hair pasta with garlic. We avoided them until the bitter end, but when you drink, sometimes pasta is the only thing that you crave... and staying sober outweighed our personal vendetta with Pasta Pomodoro for one night, and one night only.

Toshi was the next to arrive, as well as Rachelle and her Mr. Marina boyfriend (who didn't stay too long). Toshi, Carlos and I repaired to a quiet corner of the room and shared a quiet cigar as we reminisced about the last few years. Jocelyn and Paul were the next to arrive, followed by Shawn, who came from a softball game just to pay his respects.

The Speakeasy Crew (including Forest, Julia and Steve) were the last to arrive and they came in hungry from the Giants [baseball] game. Their suggestion to get a pizza to combat the White Lightning and Untouchable lager's soporific effects was well received by the few of us who were remaining at that time.

At the end of the night, it was just Janet, Jocelyn, Paul and me packing up the chairs and cleaning up the used plastic cups... and then it was just Janet and me in a dark, empty hall. Then it was just the two of us in a dark, empty apartment.

May 22 - Goodbye
Since Ian didn't have a chance to stop by the night before, we decided to make a quick 9pm trip to the bar to say goodbye. I didn't ever think that going to the Toronado one last time would have such an effect on me, but when we finished our last pints, I would have given anything to change my mind and stay in San Francisco. I left the bar with tears in my eyes.

For the last four years, aside from Janet, the Toronado has been the one constant in my life. It was where I went to relax, to hang out with my friends, and at times to be alone. Now it's gone... and there'll never be anything like it ever again.

[Avery] 5/13/99
Last night was the big Speakeasy Brewing Stock Release Party at the Toronado... and since Janet and I are shareholders, we decided to break out of our work-work-and-more-work rut that we have been stuck in for the last few weeks. So, at 6pm, we dragged ourselves out of the apartment to take that grueling 1/2 block walk to the Toronado.

Ok... maybe I'm exagerating the dragging part. I mean, we do love the Toronado, and we do love Speakeasy beer, and we are friends with Steve, Mike, Eric, Forest and Julia (the Speakeasy crew). Plus, Carlos was going to be there... we decided to brave the fresh air for the 2 minute walk and head over to the bar.

We met up with Carlos on the walk there. He was on the way to our apartment to drop a couple of 64oz Growlers, full with Speakeasy beer that he had purchased for some friends in Atlanta... but when we caught up with him, we were closer to the bar than to our house, so we decided to just head back to the bar and we promised to make sure that he wouldn't forget to take them home.

Over the next 3 hours, Carlos, Janet and I sat at a table drinking fresh Speakeasy beer with Forest (President), Steve (VP of Sales), Julia (who, I guess, is technically the First Lady of Speakeasy), and a whole host of other bartenders and regulars who came by to inquire about the stock offering and to talk to Forest about the beers.

When Janet and I got home, I suddenly realized that I probably will never have a chance to ever have a night like that again. We only have two weekends left at the Toronado, and after that, we're on a plane off to Hartford. Sure, we'll have to come back for the Speakeasy shareholder meetings... but our five year run at the Toronado is finally over.

Then again, there's all of the new bars in Hartford to discover.

[Avery] 5/3/99
Bizarre, bizarre, bizarre.
Saturday night, promptly after arriving at the Toronado, Ian came up to us and started pointing at the table behind us. Guys, he said, I'm tripping over that t-shirt. A few minutes later, Ian was trading a Toronado shirt for the shirt off of this bewildered patron's back.

So, you might be wondering, what was so interesting about this shirt?

The shirt was from a bar in Chester, Connecticut (where the patron was visiting from) called Pattaconk 1850. The strangest thing is that the logo is the EXACT SAME as the Toronado's classic pint-glass-in-clenched-fist logo.

Bizarre. It seems that 3800 miles away, another bar thought that they could rip off my bar's logo and nobody would ever find out. Well, they were wrong... and a tourist in a brand new Toronado t-shirt has started what may possibly become a bicoastal brew-ha-ha.

[Avery] 4/19/99
Well there... I've got a lot to tell y'all about, but I just don't have the energy to get into extreme detail here... so consider this the quick-and-dirty version of the last week at the Toronado.

Wednesday - Talk about a really freaky afternoon. I left the office at the usual time... and lo and behold, Jocelyn's friend Shadee (check older barfly chronicles for more about her) got on the bus. Two stops down, Jocelyn's brother Paul got on the bus. Ok... Shadee, Paul and me... all on the same bus (which I have never seen either of them on before). That's a little bizarre.

The last time I saw Paul was at the Toronado, so when Shadee got off the bus at Van Ness Ave, we decided to head back to the Toronado for a beer. But first... we had to make a stop at the comic book shop. Five minutes later, we were at Comix Experience, and a few minutes after that, we were at the bar.

For the next few hours, Paul, Janet (she met us at the bar) and I drank a few rounds of beer before we went our separate ways.

Thursday - Carlos and I went to Speakeasy Brewery for four hours of drinking and cigar smoking. God, I love it there. Forest provided us with the prospectus and disclosure for the preferred stock offering which was just approved by the State of California. We agree to read the document and plan to meet at the Toronado on Friday to discuss the matter more thoroughly.

Friday - Since Carlos and I were planning on going to the Toronado to meet with Forest, we decided to invite Molly from the office and just have a end-of-week venting at the bar. Beer, beer, beer, beer, Janet arrives, beer, beer, beer, my ex-soccer captain (and Molly's friend) Paul shows up, beer, beer beer, Forest and his wife Julia show up, beer, beer, beer, Janet, Carlos and I become co-owners of Speakeasy Brewery, beer, beer, beer.

Seriously. Carlos, Janet and I decided to make the plunge and each bought some shares of Speakeasy. Sure, we're relatively minor investors (owning a little less than 1/10 of a percent each), but it's the principle. Plus, now that we buy a Speakeasy beer, we're putting money in our pockets.

Saturday - Post RENT trip to the Toronado (11pm to 1:30am). Drank some beers, talked to Steve Miner (who took some pictures of us a few months ago at the bar), watched some guy get kicked out of the bar for pissing off Johnny, drank a Hennepin (a Saison style American beer) and a Saison Dupont (a Belgian Saison - or spring- beer). Went home. Slept.

That's all I can muster up for an entry. Remember: Drink Speakeasy Beer!

[Janet] 4/12/99
Screech! Scree-eech! Screech! Hey! Did someone let some bats in here? Is there a pterodactyl on the loose? No, silly! It's just the drunken greeting of the young North American Marina-style Yuppie Woman. Note the little black mini-purse which holds the condoms for later mating ritual. Observe their ability to use the shrill greeting call (which doubles as a mating call, to a lesser extent) to attract other members of their species to whichever area they have dubbed "theirs." Territories mean nothing to them; they feel that they have free reign to go wherever their sturdy traveling vehicles take them. They are quite stupid and often unable to even identify their enemies due to their limited intelligence. They tend to anger their enemies by repeatedly shrieking and encroaching upon their space. When faced with retaliation, the Yuppie Woman will play dumb and, in times of desperation, will sometimes resort to spewing venomous attempts at insults. Though their ear-splitting call is the main way to identify this species, another identifying characteristic is their tendency to leave quarters where they have been. This is more commonly known as the 25-cents-per-drink-order-tip, the drink most commonly consumed being raspberry cider, or some other clear, mild liquid.

[Avery] 4/12/99
Well, Janet pretty much summed up the night in a nutshell. Yuppies asking for Bass Ale (did you see Bass on the list?) were paired up with yuppies asking for a Sierra Nevada. As you know, I get extremely vocal when someone orders a "Sierra Nevada" from the bartender. You see, at a typical bar, they only serve one Sierra Nevada beer: their Pale Ale, which is the most famous beer made by Sierra Nevada... just like most bars only have one Anchor beer: their steam beer. However, Sierra Nevada makes around 8 different beers and Anchor regularly produces 5 beers. The Toronado always has at least 2 types of Anchor and 2 or 3 different varieties of Sierra Nevada on tap... and for the last few months, they have not had the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

However, every time I am at the Toronado, someone invariably orders a Sierra Nevada, to which the bartender responds "which one? we have two..." This usually gets the following response: Which one is the popular one, to which the bartender replies "The Pale Ale, which we don't have." Then the customer then usually asks "I don't know any of these other beers... what beer do you like?"

Talk about an asinine question. I mean, come on. Ask Janet what her favorite beer is, and she would probably say Guinness. Ask me, and I would say Speakeasy Untouchable Lager. Ian, the Bartender would say Anchor Liberty Ale. Crab, the barfly would say Boont Amber. Asking what someone likes has no bearing on if you will like the beer. The question back usually is "What kind of beer do you normally drink" which then gives the bartender enough information to pick a beer that is to their tastes.

If you ask the average twenty-something what sort of wines they like, they can usually rattle off four or five varietals that they prefer, and they usually can pick a favorite winery out of a list at a restaurant. Please tell me why it is so hard for these people to make a decision at a beer bar. If you decide to make a trek out to a beer bar, why don't you read up on the different beer varieties out there (just like you would before your first trip to the Wine Country)?

Only an ignorant asshole would ever walk into a restaurant and order a Gallo, Ravenswood or a Fetzer, but for some reason, they find it completely acceptable to walk into a bar and request a Sierra Nevada, Anchor or Anderson Valley.

I know I can be ruthless to newcomers at the Toronado, but just once I would like to see a yuppie come in and ask a bartender "I usually drink light lagers at home, but I enjoy beers like Pilsner Urquell and I also enjoy an occasional Sierra Nevada Pale Ale... what would you recommend?" That shows that he (or she) knows what he (or she) likes, and gives the bartender enough information to work off of. Would you walk into a wine bar and ask the sommelier "I like Beaulieu Vineyards and Turning Leaf, what do you recommend?" Of course not. You named brands, not wines. Both make chardonnays, cabernets and a whole selection of similar wines. The same goes if you ask "I like Anderson Valley and Sierra Nevada, what for you recommend?" Ask me that, and you could end up with a porter, pale ale, or a barleywine (which both breweries make).

But enough of me complaining. What was initially scheduled to be two or three beers became four beers due to the unexpected arrival of Birthday Boy Paul and his sister, Jocelyn. They arrived as we were finishing our last beers (I had a Magnolia Prescription Pale, an Anderson Valley Hop Ottin IPA and a Duvel while Janet had a pair of Guinnesses), which meant that Janet and I needed another beer so we didn't run out before Paul finished his De Koninck. We decided to get a bottle of Kasteel Brown, and we split it with Ian, the bartender.

What was supposed to be a two hour trip to the bar ended at 1:45 am... it was (all in all) an enjoyable night, but relatively boring. Well, not boring... just sort of bleh. I really hope that something interesting happens there some time soon.

[Avery] 4/3/99
After work yesterday, Janet and I decided to make a quick trip off to the Toronado as a way to kick off the weekend.

I'd like to say that it was an amazingly fun time, or that something even vaguely interesting happened, but unfortunately, nothing really happened. Still, we decided to stay around for about 2 and a half hours, drinking beer and chatting with the regulars. Again, what did we talk about? Nothing really interesting. Jimi D (the chef for the Belgian Beer Festival) came by and said "Hi"... and Steve Miner (barback/bartender) had an Underberg with us... and that's about it for casual conversation at the bar yesterday.

In business news, Jeff, the owner of Rosamunde Sausage Grill, came over to discuss a new sign for the front window. The design that I pitched looks like the plan we're going to go with: a light blue lexan sign with dye-sublimated text listing all of the sausages with a space where he can write the daily specials in a grease pencil. Can you picture it in your mind? Yes? No? Don't care?

For those keeping track of the beers that we consumed yesterday: Avery had a Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA (which used to be called the Anniversary IPA), an Anchor Liberty Ale and a Moonlight Twist of Fate Bitter (on hand pump) while Janet stuck with a pair of Liberty Ales. Truly, a unremarkable entry for an unremarkable afternoon.

[Avery] 3/29/99
Yeah, I know... I'm technically still in training, but this weekend we had a need to go to the Toronado.

Re-reading that sentence, I think that I am communicating the wrong message. We didn't need to go to the Toronado like some people need a beer or anything like that. We needed a place to get together with Annie, a long time friend from the North East who is leaving Thursday for her new job (and new life) in Ney York City.

Since it was her last weekend and she had never been to the Toronado, we all decided to get together Friday night after we got out of the musical RENT at the Golden Gate Theater (which is in the most disgusting neighborhood in the city... aside from the Yuppie Habitat Marina) for a beer.

We got there at 11:15, about fifteen minutes before we were scheduled to meet Annie... so we squeezed in close to the bar and placed our order with Kirsten, the blue-haired bartender. She promptly returned with a Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA for me, a Anchor Liberty Ale for Janet and a round of Underbergs for the three of us. A few minutes later, we settled into an empty area near the end of the bar and waited for Annie.

She arrived at the Toronado and asked me for a beer suggestion (Weinstephaner Lager)... but the beer is really the most insignificant part of the evening. Suffice it to say that I had a Speakeasy Prohibition and a Meteor Pils while Janet decided to have another Liberty Ale (which Annie also had as her second and final beer). The important part of the night was spending a couple of hours with a friend that we probably won't see again for a long time. We talked until Johnny called Last Call at 1:45... which is when we left, said goodbye and watched Annie drive off in her yellow cab.

Saturday was a stressful day for me. All I could think of is having to weigh in for Golden Gloves on Sunday morning... so even though it was going to end up breaking my diet for a second night in a row, we decided to go to the Toronado so I could hang out with friends and have a pint, on the theory that it would help me get some sleep.

So, after dinner, we went over to the Toronado, making it there around 9pm. For some reason, the bar was not as crowded as usual... and we were able to get a pair of seats by the bar immediately.

Now, you have to remember that Janet and I used to go to the Toronado at least once a week... but since I have been in training, I have only been there two other times this month, and both times were quick in-and-out visits... so we never got a chance to talk to Ian. When he noticed us here, his face immediately lit up, and he took our orders. Janet decided to stick with the Liberty Ale (of which she would have two that night), while I started the night off with a pint of the Moonlight Irish I Was A Schtout. The stout was fantastic, dry and flavorful without a strong licorice taste like most American stouts tend to have. Not my favorite (Speakeasy Satchmo Stout), but damn close.

We spent the night talking with Ian and Johnny while exchanging jokes with Tad (the bouncer). It was so nice being back at the Toronado... I just can't explain what it was like to be somewhere familiar with the locals who have become friends and the bartenders who tend to feel like family. *sigh*

Somewhere near 10pm I ordered my second beer, a Moylan's Kiltlifter... a nice 60 shilling Scotch Ale... and though it didn't get the blood flowing (and hormones raging) as its name would imply, it was a great beer never-the-less. Janet ordered her second Liberty at this time. As we were working on our second beers, Crab (a regular) came by and invited us to the taping of next week's episode of Bachelor Chef, his cable-access cooking show. We accepted the offer and quickly finished our beers. The night ended early with us heading home around 11:10 pm.

Still, as relaxed as I was at the Toronado, the panic attack over weighing in kicked in on schedule (as it had for the last few nights) and I spent another night staring at the ceiling.

[Janet] 3/29/99
Additionally: Special Comic Artist Sighting Saturday night: Keith Knight (of "the K Chronicles") seen in our very own Toronado! I only saw the back of his head as he was leaving. Eeee!

[Avery] 3/14/99
I don't know if the beginning of this chronicle update counts as a Barfly entry... but let's see where this goes, ok?

Yesterday, Janet and I tried to get lottery tickets to Rent. Before every showing, there is a drawing for 36 tickets for the first two rows of the orchestra... and since we had nothing to do, we decided to throw our names in the pot to see if we could get a couple of $20 tickets for the show.

Needless to say, we lost.

Sad and dejected, we decided to have a good dinner to console ourselves. Since it was after 7pm at that time, we knew that every restaurant would have about a 45 minute wait. We weighed our options. On one hand, we had Thep Phanom, our favorite Thai Restaurant... but they would be crowded to the point where waiting would be physically uncomfortable because it is so cramped in there. Then we had Chow, an eclectic restaurant that we loved the one time we went there... it would be a good choice and is easy to get to... but we'd have to wait outside, and if the line was too long, there was nowhere else in the area that we'd want to go to.

Our final option, and the restaurant that we eventually chose, was Suppenkuche. Suppenkuche is a great German restaurant in Hayes Valley. Sure, we figured an hour wait was to be expected, but since this meant that we'd be forced to spend an hour at the bar drinking fresh German beers, we weren't too concerned when we'd get seated.

Janet started (and stuck) with her favorite: Spaten Helles, a light lager reminiscent of a pilsner. I started with a Weltenburger Helles, my all time favorite Helles style beer. I then moved quickly onto the brand-new Fransiskaner Dunkel Weiss Bier, a dark hefe-weisen. Suppenkuche just got it in a few days earlier, and I was one of the first to sample it. What a beer... wheaty yet sweet... like a piece of whole-wheat toast with honey. It went well with the Lox and Latkes (potato pancakes) that we started with for our appetizer.

Janet moved onto a second Spaten Helles while I ordered a Hacker-Pschorr Helles. It was a perfect compliment to the Schweinbraten (pork loin) that I had for dinner, and it didn't weigh me down as much as another dunkelweisen would.

The desserts were too good to pass up. Janet had a Latte and some Apple Strudel. I decided to have the black forest cake and a Kostritzer Blackbeer. Aah, Kostritzer... jet black with a crisp taste and a roasted sort of sweetness. A perfect end to a great meal.

Fifteen minutes later, we're coming into the Toronado for what was supposed to be a quick beer. We had our seats almost instantly, and we started in on our first rounds. Janet broke with tradition and decided to have an Anderson Valley Poleeko Gold, which was on tap for the Anderson Valley night last Thursday (the one drawback to my Cleveland trip). I had their new brown beer, the Bootjack Brown, which was fantastic but way to heavy after the German food.

Ian told us that Jennifer, the owner's girlfriend, was having her birthday in the back room... so I decided to pay my respects on my way to the bathroom. She invited us back and I told her that we would stop in before leaving for the night.

Upon my return to the table, I ordered a Weinstephaner Lager... a pale-gold beer similar to the Weltenburger Helles that I had at Suppenkuche. The crowd at the bar started to get thicker and more annoying. Suddenly it didn't seem to be that bad of an idea to head back to the private party. We finished our beers and headed back.

The party was jumping, and all of the regulars were there... Jeff from the sausage shop, Crab, Jimi D the chef, Dave (the owner) and a whole crew of familiar faces were drinking free Liberty Ale and having a hell of a good time. Five minutes turned into ten minutes turned into an hour or so of us talking to Jeff and Dave. We left a little after midnight with an assurance to Jeff that we'd return this morning to evaluate his new Corned Beef sandwich (which is the best one that I've had in San Francisco).

[Avery] 3/8/99
Because I'm in intensive boxing training as I prepare for Golden Gloves at the end of this month, I have had to change my diet: more protein, less starches, more greens and no beer. The first three dietary changes were easy, but the removal of beer from my diet was a challenge.

Honestly, I have been pretty good about my self-imposed prohibition... I can count the number of beers that I have had in the last 3 weeks on a hand and a half. But this weekend, I decided to take a one-night break from my dry spell and mosey on into the Toronado for a quick drink.

We made it to the bar Saturday night around 10pm and sidled up to the bar. Unfortunately, the ten-thousand other people packed into the place made it impossible to get a seat. Still, within a few minutes we were able to find a couple of seats and started in on our first round. Janet had a Hoegaarden White, while I decided that if I was only gong to have one or two beers that I wanted to have an Aventinus. That led to a pair of Underbergs and an invite to Johnny's (the bartender) birthday party.

The place was filled to the brim with insensitive yuppies. One snuck in a can of the Silver Tampon (that's Coors Light for all of y'all out there). Another pair decided to sit at the bar for an hour or so without even ordering a drink. A third asked Tad if he was their server. Assholes. All of them.

Fast forward 30 minutes. The Aventinus was working its magic and I was ready for my second (and final) beer of the night. Janet and I both selected the Meteor Pils, a light Pilsner style beer from Meteor Brewing in Belgium. The only difference was that Janet only ordered a half-liter, while I decided to make my second beer a big one and had a whole liter.

It was exactly what I was looking for... light and malty with no significant hop taste.

Sadly, my night of debauchery ended at 12:30, and we were home and asleep before last call.

[Avery] 2/21/99
Four PM, Friday afternoon marked the end of a long, dragging week. So, we decided to go to the Toronado for an end-of-the-week beer.

Friday: 5:10 PM - after exiting the 71 Limited that brought me back from the brink of hell (that is to say, the Financial District), I immediately crossed the street, making a bee-line for the Toronado. As I walked by Rosamunde, I noticed that Jeff (the owner) was tending shop, so I decided to stop in to see what he was up to. What he was up to, I immediately found out, was Lamb and Lentil Stew... and Weiner Schnitzel.

Aah... Jeff's Weiner Schnitzel. He only makes it once in a blue moon, but as soon as the word gets out, his shop is practically overrun with locals wanting a plate of his perfect Schnitzel. If you've never had Wiener Schnitzel, let me describe it for you. Weiner Schnitzel, aka Vienna (Wein) style fried port cutlet. Jeff takes thin-cut pieces of port, seasoned and then dredged in flour. He then pan-fries the cutlets and serves it up with sweet and hot mustards. I placed an order for the Weiner Schnitzel and then promptly walked over to the Toronado to have an anticipatory beer.

The beer... Speakeasy IPA (which I still call Barfly Pale). The bartender... Pauly (and Steve). The Weiner Schnitzel... as perfect as always.

Janet made it about 30 minutes later, and she ordered up a Blanche de Meteor, a belgian witbeer which is similar to Hoegaarden White, but a little less sweet with a nicer yeast taste. I took this opportunity to order up a Speakeasy Prohibition Ale. I really need to drag my ass back to Speakeasy to say hi to Forrest, Eric and Steve.

At 7pm or so, Ian came in... so we decided to stay for another beer. Janet had another Blanche de Meteor, while I decided to have a Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball (a dark, hoppy ale).

We left at 7:30, making a stop at Rosamunde for a take-home bowl of Lamb and Lentil Stew and a second stop at Sunshine Market for a few British candy bars.

Saturday, 10pm... post sushi - Janet and I decided to make a quick hour-and-a-half trip to the Toronado. Ian and Robert were on shift, which means that we could have stayed as late as we wanted... but we had stuff to do at home, so we cut it short. The beers... Janet had a pair of Guinness and I had a Lagunitas Maximus (IPA) and a Speakeasy Barfly Pale. I really hope that Forrest and Eric decide to continue making the IPA, because it's quickly becoming one of my favorites.

That's all for now.

[Janet] 2/21/99
The other day we noticed some anti-yuppie stickers that someone had plastered all over one of the bathrooms at the Toronado (the bathroom with the huge "GO HOME YUPPIES" painted in on the wall with silver paint.) "Y2K --Yuppies 2 Kill." is printed on the corner of each of them, along with messages like "Go home, Yuppies, we hate you and some of us are armed" and "Go buy a house on the peninsula before it's too late." Other than that, though, it's been weird going out lately. So...blah. So...nothing happening. So...same old, same old. I hope it's just a short boring section in the cycle of life and not a case of permanent malaise.

[Avery] 2/15/99
As usual, Saturday Night was spent at the Toronado. Upon our 11pm arrival, were immediately faced with the typical crowd of people. So we decided to forgo pushing through the crowd so we could place our order and decided to just talk to Tad for a while.

A few minute later, Carmen (a long time regular) stopped in and immediately obtained two choice seats at the bar. About 15 minutes later, our typical seats opened up and we pounced on them.

Ian immediately greeted me with a barleywine called "GWB 1987"... I have no idea what it really was, but it tasted exactly like a tawny port. I then ordered a Hop Ottin IPA. Janet had a Framboise.

Five minutes later... Steve from Speakeasy Brewery comes in for a beer... and he asks if I had the IPA yet. My response: I've only had Prohibition (the IPA like beer that they brew) a couple hundred times... of course I have, Steve. He then informs me that this wasn't the Prohibition on tap... it was their hundredth batch commemorative IPA. I immediately downed the Hop Ottin and started on this yet unnamed IPA.

The IPA, which I will call Barfly's Pale, was the beer that could really win mainstream support from the Sierra Nevada / Anderson Valley IPA crowd. It was a extremely crisp, pale beer... so hoppy that you could practically chew the beer. I easily rate this to be as good of an IPA as my current favorite Pale Ale (Hop Ottin from Anderson Valley). Unfortunately, only 2.5 BBL (5 kegs) were produced... but at least all of the publicly available kegs are at the Toronado. Sometime while I was drinking the Barfly's Pale, Janet ordered a Weinstephaner Lager (from one of the oldest breweries in Germany).

Though we only had two beers each (I don't count the taste of the barleywine), we ended up not getting home until after 4am, about three hours later than we initially intended.

Still, it was worth staying late... not only did we get a chance to finally talk to Ian, we got the grand tour of the new shelves that he and Johnny built in the keg-storage closet.

[Avery] 2/11/99
Last night we went to the Toronado to visit with Ian and have a few barleywines, since it was the barleywine festival and all. But as it typically happens during one of these big festivals, Ian was too busy serving $1.00 tasters of barleywines to these pseudo-beer-geeks (who didn't seem to tip well at all), which made it difficult to order a round of beer, let alone talk to Ian for any length of time.

Since it was a festival, the usual cast of characters were there: the group from Magnolia Brewing, Dave and Jennifer (the owner and his girlfriend), Nico Freccia from Celebrator Beer News and a ton of people who I see at every special event. It was nice to see Stu at the bar again... he was released from the hospital last night. His hair was green, his Guinness was black and the pins sticking out of his shoulder were a bloody shade of gun metal (long story, we'll tell you about it later).

So we spent the night talking to Todd and Tad (who showed up for a quick pint) and drinking our beers. Janet got one of those 30oz buckets of Hoegaarden White. I decided to go on a barleywine kick. My tasting notes follow:

Since Barleywines are so strong and sweet, I needed something to wash them down, and a De Koninck did the job perfectly. I would have had a taste of the Barley and Hopps 1995 Big Head Barleywine (which closed last year due to the smoking prohibition at their brew pub) or the aged in bourbon-barrel Hair of the Dog Batch 29, but the three gallon keg ran out within a few hours of its tapping.

We'll be back on Saturday to sample the few remaining barleywines, so expect a Sunday night update.

[Janet] 2/11/99
In the Fun Facts and Useless Miscellaneous Trivia Department, upon finding out that Avery is a M*A*S*H fanatic, Tad challenged him to name the five characters that have been on the show from start to finish. Avery's first answer was "Nurse Kelly." "Nurse Kelly!" cried Tad. "She's the crux! No one ever gets Nurse Kelly!" See, he is a fanatic. He even has a blue and white Hawaiian shirt that we refer to as "the Hawkeye shirt."

[Avery] 2/7/99
Last night, we went to the Toronado (as usual on a Saturday night) not only for a few beers, but to also catch up with Jocelyn and Paul. Jocelyn is leaving for Budapest on Thursday, so we wanted to wish her a safe travel and also catch up on what's going on in her life.

When we walked in a little before 11pm, the bar was empty... which is completely unheard of on a Saturday night. According to other locals floating in and out of the bar, the whole city was dead... nobody was out in any of the bars in any of the districts. Our collective theory is that the rain kept everybody at home. I can only hope that the rainy season (which starts in late February) will ensure a few months of low-traffic weekends at the Toronado.

Anyway, the 5th Annual Barleywine Festival started today (Sunday), and in preparation, Dave (the owner) took most of the beers off to make room for the 35 Barleywines that he'll be offering for the next 6 days. Now, don't get me wrong... I love Barleywines... but the Barleywine Festival just throws me into overload. Luckily for Janet, the Guinness was still available (and she consumed three imperial pints of the famous Irish stout).

I, on the other hand, decided to have a Lagunitas night... even though the team from Speakeasy was there celebrating the Head Brewer's birthday. Over the next 3 hours I would have the following:

I'll probably stop by at the Barleywine Festival on Wednesday, so I'll give another update then.

[Janet] 2/7/99
After not going into the Toronado for a week and a half, we finally went back on Saturday. Yay! No crowds! And being there with other friends is always fun. When Avery and I go, we're usually kind of quiet, just making small talk with the locals that we know. But when Jocelyn is there, it's different. She is forward and direct and sassy, and will joke about Johnny's International Orange Pants (I betcha didn't even know they made jeans in that color, did ya?) right to his face instead of behind his back like we do. She also joked to Johnny about the depressing selections from the jukebox that were being played last night. Evidently, a lot of people were having girlfriend problems, hence the music-to-slit-your-wrists-by.

[Avery] 2/6/99
It's been a while since I've brought a large group of co-workers to the Toronado. However, a pair of beer-drinking vendors from Atlanta were in town, and far be it from me to let them go home with having some good California beers...

So at 4:30, a whole cadre of us made it to the Toronado. In attendance was Carlos, Christie and Molly from the office and the two vendors. Janet arrived about an hour later and Rochelle (another co-worker) and her beau made it a little after seven. Oh yeah, Albert, who had been promising to come to the Toronado for the last three years or so made it to the bar somewhere between seven and eight too...

Most of the time when I bring people out to the Toronado, one or two people end up not being beer drinkers and spend the whole time half-assedly sipping at their beers... not really liking what they (or anyone else at the table, for that matter) were drinking. But last night, everyone was a beer drinker.

Carlos made sure that the Atlantans sampled a Prohibition Ale, from our favorite brewery: Speakeasy... but there were so many new beers since my last visit that I felt compelled to have something new. Before the night was over, I would go through two pints of Lagunitas Brewery's Hairy Eyeball, a highly hopped amber ale, a glass of De Koninck and a glass of Boont Amber. Janet stuck with a couple Imperial Pints full of Guinness. The others consumed glasses of Hoegaarden, Prohibition, Maximus, Lindeman's Framboise and they also grabbed bottles of Chimay Grande Reserve and Cantillon Brouscella.

Everybody seemed to really like the beers, and the beer novices tended to gravitate towards Carlos or me in order to get some tips on what might be a good choice based on their tastes and drinking habits. It's hard to recommend a beer to someone I don't know well. It isn't that I feel like I made a bad selection for someone if they end up not liking the beer I recommended. My problem is that some people tend to get a little snotty when you try to provide that assistance that they requested of you. I dunno... it's just a risk you take when trying to help out people you don't know well.

Looking back on Friday night, I think that the highlight was having time to talk to Molly. Molly was my fullback on the soccer team, the only person who can drink Guinness as fast as I can and the one of the only people close to my age at the office. Sigh. I need to make an effort to spend more time with my friends.

The group of us stayed there until almost 9pm... when the group left for dinner at Thep Phanom. Well, almost the whole group left for Thai food... Janet, Molly and I decided to stay at the bar for a while longer before leaving to get grinders at King Foot.

All in all, a great night at the bar.

[Avery] 1/30/99

Wednesday night we made our regularly scheduled trip to the Toronado for a few beers and to hang out with Ian. Nothing extremely interesting happened, aside from it being "Asshole Yuppie Night" once again.

Aah, yuppies..l how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways...

  1. Assume that everybody takes credit cards... even if you don't see credit card machines, or credit card logos on the door or window. Then place your order, take a sip and then put down your credit card and when you find out that they don't take credit cards go oops... I don't have any cash.
  2. Order a "Sierra Nevada" and then look confused when the bartender advises you that they have Sierra Nevada Celebration and Harvest Ale. Then ask the bartender for the normal Sierra Nevada. Ok! For the last time people: Sierra Nevada is a brand not a beer. The beer in the green-labeled bottle that you normally get is their pale ale... and they don't sell it at at the Toronado.
  3. Ask for a Bass or Newcastle Brown Ale, even though they don't see it on the draught beer list or the bottled beer list.
  4. Ask for a Corona without even consulting the draught beer list or the bottled beer list.
  5. Ask for a White Russian. When you're informed that they don't sell hard liquor, buy a beer, don't tip, drink less than half of the beer and then leave.

Still, all yuppie annoyances aside we stayed long enough for me to kill three glasses of beer: a pint of Arrogant Bastard, a pint of Prohibition Ale, and a 11oz tulip glass full of Cantillon Brouscella. Janet had two imperial pints of Guinness. Ian had a good liter and a half of Calistoga Water.


After my last trip to Speakeasy Brewery two weeks ago, we promised Forest (the president of the brewery) that we would be back soon... and scheduled to go after work on January 29. However, the fates were with me yesterday, as I was able to get the day off from work... so I talked to Forest and he gave me the go-ahead to get there at 3pm.

The plan was simple. Carlos would meet me for lunch at the Toronado, where we would have a sausage and a warm-up pint (I had a Lagunator and 1/2 a pint of Prohibition and Carlos had a Brouscella, a Hair of the Dog Fred and the other half of the Prohibition) and then we would head down to the brewery. Janet would then head over as soon as she got out of work (she arrived a little after 5pm).

In addition, the bartenders and the rest of the staff of the Toronado were invited as well... but none of them showed. But in the end, it didn't matter... because we had a hell of a good time without them. So, from 3pm until almost 8:30pm we talked to Eric (VP of Brewing), Forest (President) and Steve (VP of Sales/Marketing) while enjoying pints of Speakeasy beers and smoking cigars on the loading dock.

Speakeasy beer... the beer that beats Anchor six feet into the ground. Sorry Fritz... you're now a distant number two when it comes to San Francisco beers.

[Janet] 1/30/99
After hearing girl after nauseating girl use the phrase "Excuse You!" whenever someone accidentally bumped into them without saying anything, I decided that I hate that phrase. It seems so ineffective to me; I mean, why not just call the person an asshole and be done with it? Anyway, Wednesday night at the Toronado was OK, that is until a couple came up to the bar and asked for some mixed drink or another, and when they couldn't get that they hemmed and hawed and the girl didn't know what to do since she obviously didn't like any kind of beer, and the guy started panicking too and eventually ordered an Anchor Steam, which is the cheapest, most mainstream beer available. After squirming around and "umming" and "I don't know-ing" for five minutes, the girl finally settled on a Raspberry Cider (no surprise there), then they dragged a bar stool over and both tried to squeeze into the one-person--sized space next to me at the bar while the girl tried to appear as if she actually had a brain. "Apple Cider and Raspberry Cider taste exactly the same," she said to her date. "This is good. It's really...soft." As she fidgeted around, trying to adjust herself on her bar stool, she elbowed my arm...hard enough to slam my pint glass against my teeth as I went to take a drink of my Guinness. I just stared at her, waiting for her to acknowledge that she almost caused me to spill my entire beer all over my face, but she just stared straight ahead, ignoring me, elongating her neck like some sort of retarded swan. I couldn't think of anything to say to her; I was speechless. Ironically enough, the only thing that came to mind was "Excuse You!" but I couldn't say that...I wouldn't say that. So I said nothing, but we all mocked them incessantly until they moved to a table. [Note: after all was said and done, the girl couldn't even finish one pint of her "soft" Raspberry Cider. *Snort* Figures.]

[Avery] 1/24/99
Last night, we made our usual Saturday night trip to the Toronado. We got there around midnight, figuring that we would be able to get seats at the bar, but for some reason the yuppie crowd was in full force. Still, we were able to get one corner seat... so I sat while Janet stood, which is normal as Janet prefers to stand... and I prefer to sit.

The plan was to stay until last call (about 1:30am) and then head home to get some sleep. Since at 1:00am I was just starting my second beer (a Speakeasy Prohibition Ale, my first beer was a Lagunitas Lagunator... Janet was exclusively drinking Guinness), it seemed that it would certainly be an early night.

However, when last call was... well... called, Ian came up to us and said that we were cool to stick around after the bar closed. You see, Ian is not only our bartender, but he's also a friend... and on busy nights like this, since we don't have time to talk while the bar is open, it's common for us to talk for a few minutes after the bar closes. Remember California State Law: no alcohol service after 2am, but there is nothing illegal about talking after hours.

So Janet and I decided that it would be worth sticking around late to talk to Ian. Still, we weren't interested in having any more to drink, so we stopped drinking our beers and started nursing them so they would last until 2 am.

2 am came by, and the crowd left, leaving only six or seven locals slowly finishing up their last pints of the night. I decided to use the restrooms before Tad started sweeping/mopping the floors. When I came back, Janet told me that Ian had came by and for some reason Johnny (the other bartender) wanted everyone to clear out.

The net result? Janet and I nursed our beers until they became warm and flat, and even though Ian wanted us to stay, Johnny's desire to clear the bar out overrode Ian's request for us to stay.

In all reality, it isn't a big deal... hell, 99.99% of all people at the Toronado have to leave before the doors shut at 2:00 am sharp. Nor do I have hold any animosity towards Johnny. For all I know, he was having a bad day and just wanted to be able to quickly clean up and get out of the bar.

Still, it's now almost a full day after leaving, and something just isn't sitting well with me about last night.

[Avery] 1/21/99
Janet and I love going to the Toronado on Wednesday nights for two reasons.

  1. Ian is on shift.
  2. If we get there before 9pm, Kirsten is on shift, and we never have a chance to talk to her because she works on nights when we don't go to the bar.
  3. It's filled with locals and regulars
  4. Few, if any, tourists... translation, it's relatively empty.

However, the peace and quiet that we were looking forward was not to be found. Why you might ask? Simple. Last night was one of those "theme nights" at the bar.

Let me explain... every few weeks, David has a special night at the Toronado. Usually this means that a new beer is being released, or is being introduced to the bar (like the Hoegaarden night a few months back.) Sometimes Dave features a four or five beers from one of his favorite breweries (like Stone Brewing, Full Sail or Lagunitas). Then he has his mega-festivals: the Belgian Beer Festival, the Barleywine Festival, the Winter Beer Week and Oktoberfest. The largest of the events is probably the Belgian Beer Festival, where people pay $65 a head to spend 8 hours learning about the intricacies (as well as drinking) 30 different Belgian Beers while eating a 6 course meal.

However, the Belgian Beer Festival is only open to 100 people and most of the beers featured at the Belgian Beer Festival run out that night, so the teeming beer-geek masses have to settle for the 46 other beers available at the Toronado.

But this year, there was a slight snag in shipping when they put together the Belgian Beer Festival. A number of kegs got mis-shipped (or held up in customs)... and didn't arrive until after the night of the Beer Festival. So yesterday Dave held the Remnants of the Belgian Beer Festival Night.

This meant that by 5:30pm, the place was wall-to-wall beer geeks with their little beer-books over analyzing every little freaking nuance of the 6 Belgian beers that they had on tap. Still, it didn't matter that much because Janet, Carlos, Peg (the chef) and I grabbed some space at the corner where we wouldn't be that bothered. Funny, that's exactly what we did at the real Belgian Beer Festival.

Janet wisely stuck to her Guinness last night, but I decided to throw myself into the Belgian Beers. Well, not entirely... I started off with a German Aventinus Doppelweisenbock, then quickly moved to a Kasteel Brown, following it with a Cantillon Iris (the equivalent of a single malt lambic beer) and finishing the night off with a sweet La Chouffe. Carlos also bounced around the Belgian map, having a De Konick Ale, a Kasteel Brown and a Cantillon Iris before leaving for the East Bay. Peg, who had the last Hoegaarden before they blew the keg, stuck with Aventinus.

Throughout the night, a number of regulars stopped by... Steve the Bar Back stopped in for a Maximus and a La Chouffe and Shawn (a friend mentioned on the links page) stopped in to say hi. Todd, Tad, Crab, Ted, Ratchet the Dog and Kenny Ray (all regulars) were there too, but we didn't get a chance to really talk. Oh well.

Back to the beer... since we got such good seats at the bar, we decided that instead of going out for dinner, we'd just bring food into the bar. We ended up having sausage sandwiches... then Janet had some of Jeff's potato salad and I went out to grab a chicken sandwich from Hahn's Hibachi. While I was gone picking up the chicken sandwich, a bunch of beer-geeks from Belgium sidled up to the space next to my chair. It seems that one of the Belgians had ordered a Cantillon Iris on handpump and was unhappy with his choice.

Iris is a very strong, sweaty (as Carlos would call it) beer... and since it was on handpump, it was flat and warm... just like a good Lambic should be. Any beer-geek of a Belgian should know that. But this guy just kept going and going and going... getting to the point where he was really starting to piss me off. So halfway through my chicken sandwich, I put it down and lit into the Belgian. He was whining in French. I was growling in English. Within a few seconds, he backed down and just bought another beer. Chalk up one to the locals.

Anyway, by 9:45, the crowd finally got to us and Janet and I left for home. Then began the dreaded "Recovery from Belgian Beer served at the Remnants of the Belgian Beer Festival."


[Avery] 1/18/99
Friday night, after dinner at Hahn's Hibachi with Janet and Carlos, we went out to the Toronado for a quick beer. Jennifer, Dave's (the owner) girlfriend was behind the bar, and she served up our first round... which Carlos and I wanted to be a Prohibition from Speakeasy Brewery... but she told us that the keg was blown and that there wasn't another keg available. So I ended up ordering a Lagunitas Maximus, as did Carlos. Janet had a Guinness. Carlos left at 9pm, and Johnny and Kirsten came in to relieve Jennifer. We decided to stay for another round of the same, and we headed home early.

Saturday Afternoon, after dropping off the new door-hangers at Rosamunde (I do their graphics work), we popped in to the Toronado just to see who was on shift. Ian was there... so we said "Hi" and told him that we'd be back later that night.

Saturday Night, around 11 pm. Oy, what a crowd.
We got in around 11 pm and were greeted with a three-deep at the bar yuppie crowd. So, Janet and I spent most of the night standing next to (and talking to) Tad the bouncer. Over the next few hours, I would drink massive quantities of Prohibition Ale (I guess they did have a second keg hidden back there) and Janet would drink an equal amount of Hoegaarden White while we talked to Jim, Todd, James, and a whole host of other regulars that were hanging out with us over in "Regular's Corner." By 1am, the crowd thinned and we got our usual seats at the bar.

Janet and I kept on drinking Hoegaarden and Prohibition Ale (respectively) as we sat at the bar talking to Ian and Johnny (the Bartenders). The night went on and on and on....

Sunday, 7 am. We go to sleep.

Sunday, 7 pm. Since Ian told us that he was working the 4-9 shift at the Toronado this Sunday, we decided to stop in for a quick beer before going to grab dinner. It ended up that we spent about two hours before deciding to go home and get takeout.

Janet ordered up a Guinness, but they were out (horror of horrors!) so she decided to get a Beamish, which as you know from previous entries is just a roastier tasting stout... not as easy to drink as Guinness, but still very drinkable. I decided to go for a Lagunator, which Ian delivered to me in a half-liter Spaten beehive mug.

We planned on leaving at 8, but then the Simpsons came on. Ian killed the jukebox and cranked up the TV and the whole bar quieted down to watch the show. The Simpsons is certainly more fun when you watch it with 50 other barflies.

We left a little after 9pm... not that we didn't want to talk to Kirsten, the 9-2 bartender... but we were just plain tuckered out from all of the last few days' worth of drinking.

All I can say is this: My liver. My poor, poor liver.

[Janet] 1/18/99
Long weekends mean that we can go out more and stay out later...and also lose our memories, evidently. As I sit here trying to remember the past three days, I'm realizing that Friday night is a tad fuzzy. Who was on shift at the bar? When did we leave? What did we say when we left? Who did we say it to? Ahh, I give up. Saturday, now that I remember. When we walked in, Tad pointed out our two 1-inch-by-1-inch squares of space that were left for us to stand in. Though I wanted a Guinness (of course), I settled for a Hoegaarden, simply because I was in no position to wait for a 7-minute pour, since at this point I couldn't even see the bar. Though there were several hundred people standing in front of the bar, Ian, god bless him, still offered to do an Underberg with us (though it was kind of a "long-distance" Underberg). He also bent the rules and gave us our non-Anderson Valley beers in big Anderson Valley glasses (which have handles) since we were standing. Though crowds of people from outside the neighborhood tend to be annoying to the nth degree, it was fun standing over by Tad and the other regulars who were banished to the corner, listening to Tad tell us his stories about all the people he had kicked out of the bar that evening. Tad also dared us to go over to a male yuppie who was sipping Framboise from a flute-type glass and say, "Hey, isn't that a girl's drink?" A little while later, Todd walked in with two Safeway bags: in one was some Lloyd's Ribs, in the other, two boxes of Cap'n Crunch ("They were two for one!" said Todd.)

We planned on stopping by on Sunday evening for one beer and to visit with Ian. Of course, one beer with Ian is never just one beer...we ended up staying for almost 2 hours! A little before 8:00 a bunch of local-type people came in, including a little Jack Russell Terrier named Rachet, who liked to eat coasters. He ate quite a number of coasters while waiting for the Simpsons to start, then everybody got quiet and watched TV, laughing at all the right places. How much fun is it to watch the Simpsons with a barful of people want to watch it as much as you do? A lot, I say, especially when you get to control the remote. I love that place.

[Avery] 1/14/99
Janet and I started going to the Toronado on Wednesday nights because not only is Ian on shift, but the crowd is usually smaller than on Saturday nights, the other evening he works. Notice how we said usually... because last night, the crowd was massive. Hordes of yammering yuppies trying to pick each other up.

However, when we walked in, I noticed our usual seats were open. It seems that a pack of 5 yuppies were standing by the seats trying to figure out which ones of them would sit, and which would stand. So, Janet and I just walked by them and grabbed the seats. Ha, we say. Ha.

The night was relatively uneventful. Janet quaffed a couple pints of Guinness, and I had a Lagunitas Maximus and a Boont Amber. The crowd thinned around the time when we finished the first pint... and a couple of locals came in and occupied the newly opened up seat. The first to arrive was Jeff, the owner of Rosamunde Sausage Grill. He was followed by Johnny who had just gotten back from hanging out with his mother in Portland. Johnny came by and said hi, then went to his table of friends and downed a couple of beers. But at least before we left, he called us over to do a shot of Underberg. We left less than two hours after arriving feeling extremely relaxed.

It's nights like this that make going to the Toronado worth while.

[Janet] 1/14/99 (continued)
For some reason, the TV at the Toronado was tuned in to a nature-type show about snakes, alligators and capybara (large rodent-type creatures that resemble beavers, also known as "water hogs") A long-legged bird stood on top of a capybara as it swam through the water (Avery identified this bird as the "Lazy Bastard Bird.") A snake that was, like, one of me wide and fifty of me long ate one poor capybara. An alligator ate another. Then a capybara gave birth. Birds pecked at the placenta, then tried to eat the baby capybara itself. It fell into the water, and the fish had their turn. Poor capybara. Every single person at the bar (Ian included) was staring at the television set, enraptured by the time-honored struggle of nature against itself.

[Avery] 1/10/99
Well, if you've been reading this week's Barfly Chronicles, you'll realise that Avery's been stuck in a Brown Shugga rut. Brown Shugga is a beer that was brewed by accident at Lagunitas Brewery. Subsequently, they only made a few kegs, and once the Toronado burns through it's last keg, it's over. Forever.

So, every day since Wednesday night, we've made a point to go out to the Toronado, hoping to get a last few pints in before it goes away. On Thursday, I went over to the Toronado after work and had a few glasses of Brown Shugga (one half-pint and two full pints).

Friday night, Janet and I went over to the Toronado after meeting up with Jocelyn at a local bar called Chances. Chances are that we won't be going back anytime soon. Actually, that isn't true. Janet and I will probably go back to hang with Jocelyn, but the beers were sort of expensive, and they had Jagermeister on tap (icch!!!). Combine that with an excessive amount of smoke and really bad air circulation, and chances are that Chances will never be a regular haunt. Still, they have a couple of pool tables and an ATM and a good selection of hard liquor. But if I want hard liquor, I'll just go to An Bodhran (the local Irish bar).

Anyway, we went to the Toronado after finishing up at Chances and hung out with the people. Janet will tell you more about what happened Friday night... but suffice it to say, I polished off five pints of Brown Shugga and Janet had 2 pints of Guinness, and a bottle of Lindemans Kriek.

It wouldn't be a Saturday if we didn't go to the Toronado. However, this week we went there really late (about Midnight) hoping to miss the crowd. Well, we didn't miss the crowd... but we did get there in time to watch this little weasely dude really piss off all of the bartender.

The Scenario: This little weasely guy is nursing a pint of Guinness. He's got a lit cigarette and is hiding it under the bar ledge... because NOBODY ELSE is smoking. You see, Johnny is an ex-smoker. On top of that, he doesn't have any patience for people doing illegal stuff at the bar... and smoking is still verboten in San Francisco's bars. So, Johnny comes over and asks the guy to stop smoking. The conversation below is paraphrased... I don't remember the exact quote.

Johnny: Hey there... You know the law, no smoking.
Guy: I wasn't smoking (he then drops the cigarette and casually stamps it out).
Johnny: Yes you were... you had it under the table, and I don't appreciate it. Next time, take it outside.
Guy: Ok, I'll think about it next time.

Luckily, he left soon afterwards, and Janet and I took his seat at the corner of the bar. The mood was relatively somber... Johnny wasn't in the best mood, and everyone just seemed on edge. So we had our two pints each (Janet had a Beamish and a Guinness and I had two Brown Shugga) and when the bell tolled 2:00am, we left for home. Still, we'll be back on Wednesday for a beer with Ian. Hopefully, it'll be a Brown Shugga.

[Janet] 1/10/99
Fridays are generally the hardest nights of all to go out, especially if you've had a full and busy week, but this past Friday we decided to bite the bullet and go out anyway. We went to Chances first, a bar we walk past constantly since it's on our way to the comic book shop and our favorite sandwich place (King Foot Subs), but have never gone into. Personally, I hate going into strange bars. I always feel out of place and unaware of all the unwritten rules and nuances that a regular might know. That, and I almost always get carded, something I'm not used to, being a regular at the Toronado and all. We had fun talking to Jocelyn, then decided to get something to eat and maybe meet her at the Toronado later.

Another reason not to go out on Fridays is that it's generally the most crowded of the weekend nights, what with everyone going out after work. Every time we've tried to go to the Toronado on a Friday, we've always ended up getting pissed at the crowds and tired of trying to jockey for a seat at the bar. Ian and Robert were working together, though, which is the main reason we decided to give it a try.

When we got there, we welcomed back Tad, who had been at Joshua Tree since the middle of December. Since the Toronado was a mob scene even at the early hour of 9:30 PM, we got our beers and hung out near the door and talked to Tad, which ended up being OK, since the regulars that braved the weekend crowds also hovered around that area. Pauly, who was on shift right before Ian and Robert, was still there and decided to have a beer with us while waiting for his wife. Pauly was in rare form, talking and joking around...even doing his Larry King impersonation: "Whitewater, Wisconsin, you're on the air with Darth Vader. To my right, the Dark Lord. So, Mr. Vader...can I call you Darth?" Around 10:30 or so, Jocelyn came in and stood near the door with the rest of us. She had never seen Robert in person before, and mentioned that he was pretty attractive (as are all the rest of the bartenders, I think), to which Pauly responded, "Yeah, we got a lot of good lookin' meat behind the bar tonight." [Note: let me interject here that some readers may think that we at Scowl may be slightly exagerating when we talk about San Francisco and all of its negative points, and the crowds at the bar, and the amount and/or intensity of the annoying yuppies; being too "hypersensitive." On Friday, while standing in the corner of the Toronado watching the annoying Tommy Hilfiger-Wearing Crowd of Annoyance grow larger and larger, Jocelyn herself said "Y'know, I always thought that you guys were being too hypersensitive about this place...I thought, how bad could it [the crowd situation] be? Now I see that you're not exagerating at all...and you can quote me on that!"]

After three, count 'em three, hours of standing by the door, two seats finally opened up at the bar. Since we were finally sitting, we decided to stay for one more beer, and Ian welcomed us to our seats with Underbergs, as usual. A little while after that, Johnny (who wasn't working because he had gone to a Black Sabbath concert with Kirsten -- the other Friday night bartender -- and some friends) came in and ordered Underbergs for everybody. When Ian asked me if I wanted another Guinness, I told him no, because my teeth felt fuzzy from the other ones. "Yeah, my teeth are fuzzy." Johnny hoarsely repeated to no one in particular. 

[Avery] 1/7/99
Last night, we decided to go to Hahn's Hibachi, a new Korean barbeque joint next to the Toronado for dinner after I got back from the Mac World Expo (see Smirks for the story). The food was as good as it was last week, but instead of ordering the Pile of Pork, I ordered the Mountain of Meat. Both were good, but I really prefer their pork to their beef, so next time, I'll probably just get the Pile of  Pork again.

One of the nice things about Hahn's is that they have a decent selection of craft-brewed beers. Unfortunately, the Murphy's Stout was out (hey, that rhymed!)... so I decided to get the Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter. Black Butte is a very nice sort of mild porter. It went well with the pork, but it wouldn't have been drinkable on its own. Anyway, when we finished, it was close to 9pm, which mean that Ian was about to come on shift at the Toronado. Hell, dinner at Hahn's Hibachi followed by beer at the Toronado is a great Wednesday night ritual... and who are we to break from tradition?

We got into the Toronado at 8:45. I noticed a couple of new beers on the board, and since Janet likes stouts, I suggested that she tried the Beamish Stout. She found the Beamish to be extremely roasted (it tasted like espresso to me) and though it was good, she preferred Guinness to Beamish, which she then ordered as her second (and final) beer of the night. Now if they'll only take the Beamish off and put on the Murphy's Stout, Janet will be all set.

I, however, found a delightful surprise on the board. The mythical Lagunitas Brown Shugga was finally on tap. Brown Shugga, like many beers, was a complete mistake. The head brewer at Lagunitas was away while they were brewing this year's barleywine. Since Barleywines are very high in alcohol, you need to start off with a high Original Gravity (OG), or sugar content, for the yeast to convert into alcohol.

However, when the beer was ready to ferment, the OG was way too low, so the assistant brewer called the head brewer, and he suggested that they put in some brown sugar into the mix to raise the gravity. Blame it on faulty communications or someone drinking too much Lagunator while on the job, but they added over 200 pounds of refined brown sugar to the mix. When the head brewer came back, they realized that this wouldn't make a good barleywine. But, since they already had a ton of the brown sugar laden proto-barleywine in the fermenter, they decided to keg it and pass it to a couple of bars. Hence, Brown Shugga was born.

Robert was on shift, and I ordered up a 13 oz tulip glass of this 10.25% alcohol nectar, expecting it to be extremely sweet and heavy, like an Aventinus. Janet looked at me when I ordered it, thinking that a beer like this was bound to make me quite loopy, quite quickly. This was not the case.

Brown Shugga is sweet, but not in a heavy malty way... but in a sweet candy sort of way. It wine terms was closer to a rainwater madiera than a tawny port. Extremely drinkable with a light palate and mild hop taste. To hell with the flowery descriptions... it was fan-freaking-tastic.

Before the night was over, I would consume two full pints of Brown Shugga before the two of us bid adieu to Ian and took the long block-and-a-quarter walk home. Still, even after almost 50 ounces of Brown Shugga, I felt clearer than if I had just one Aventinus. Funny how that works.

Brown Shugga, how do you taste so good?

[Avery] 1/3/99
Last night, after a four hour sushi dinner with our friends Toshi and Trish, Janet and I decided to head over to the Toronado for a couple of beers.

We got to the bar a little after midnight and squeezed up to the bar and were greeted by Ian and Johnny. We ordered up our first round. I had a Moonlight Toast and Janet, as usual, had a Guinness. Our intent was to stay for one beer and then head home so we wouldn't be total zombies Sunday morning. However, that was not to be.

As the conversations with Ian and Johnny continued, we decided to stay for a second round, so we ordered up a 750 ml bottle of Gluhkriek (mulled sour cherry lambic). Saturday nights at the Toronado are usually loud and crowded, and last night was no exception. However, since it was 1 am by the we started in on the Gluhkriek, the crowd wasn't nearly as bad as when we usually go to the Toronado (the 9pm rush hour).

Well, in general it was better. Sure, a alterna-dude spent the better part of the night hitting on a woman sitting next to me. That in itself was more amusing than annoying, but he was constantly bumping into me while performing his mating dance.. but about ten seconds before I was about to tap him on the shoulder, he left.

Fast forward about a half of a bottle into the Gluhkriek. Janet and I are trying to have a conversation when this little brown haired, flat-chested annoying as hell little chippie of a girl who was sitting next to Janet started wishing Janet a happy new year. Every few minutes, she would repeat herself... tap tap tap... happy new year! In our usual style, since we didn't know who the hell she was, we simply ignored her as an annoying gnat of a person who couldn't hold her liquor.

Last call came at 1:45, but we were still working on our last beer of the night: a 750ml bottle of the candy-like Kasteel Brown (a belgian lambic). As a courtesy to the bartenders, we stepped up our drinking speed so we could finish the beer before the bar closed at 2am. However, Ian reminded us that the 2am last call law is a prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages... there is nothing wrong with staying and finishing up a beer that you already paid for.... that is only if you are invited to stay.

We eventually dragged our sorry asses home early in the morning... and after a post bar shower, we were asleep a few hours before dawn. It was a long night, but certainly worth it.

[Janet] 1/3/99
Yeah, after the sushi dinner, the first half of which came to us on a sushi boat so large it was more a sushi barge than a sushi boat, we got home at midnight and stood in front of the apartment hemming and hawing about whether or not we should go to the Toronado: "OK, we'll go for one beer...but then you know we'll end up staying until two. Well, I don't want to stay 'till two, so we'll definitely leave after one beer. OK, one beer. Maybe two." It's good that we went, because last night both Ian and Johnny were in extraordinarily good moods and everything was fun. Even that girl who felt that she needed to yell her New Years greetings into my ear didn't really bother me. 

[Avery] 1/1/99
This is going to be a looooong update which includes everything from our recent trip to New York City to my four hour stint at the Toronado last night.

12/20/98 - City Steam Brewing Company -  Hartford, CT
One of the goals that I had when going to back to Connecticut to visit relatives was to evaluate all of the local brew pubs in the Hartford area. So, the night after we arrived in Connecticut, we decided to meet up with Janet's family for dinner. Janet, my mother and I decided to kill two birds with one stone and go to a brewpub.

My first choice, based on the reviews in Celebrator Beer News was to go to to Hartford Brewing Company, but they were closed... because everything seems to close in Hartford on the weekends. Anyway, I digress. So, we decided to go to City Steam Brewing on Pearl Street.

I was hoping that City Steam was trying to emulate San Francisco's Anchor Brewing Company's Steam Beer. However that was not the reason that it was called City Steam. You see, Hartford is one of the last major cities that has a steam works. That is, most offices and many apartments in houses in Hartford are heated via steam pumped in from the Hartford Steam Works. City Steam was designed to use a direct feed in from the Steam Works, creating a brewing system that is unlike any other brewery in the world.

The beers were not outstanding, and the food was uninteresting. The highlight of the place was that they actually decided to brew a Roggen, or rye beer. It was the best domestic rye that I have had, significantly better than the Red Hook Unfiltered Rye that I get in Safeway for making chili. The beer was dark and strong with a hint of caraway seeds, making it similar to the Thurn und Taxis Roggen, one of my favorite beers.

Every other beer was lackluster. The Amber was unbalanced and the Belgian-Style Tripel was spiked with juniper berries making it interesting... yet thoroughly undrinkable. The stout was nice, but the cinnamon taste was distracting. City Steam ranked a low 3 (out of three) breweries in the Hartford area.

12/21/98 - Trout Brook Brewing Company -  Hartford, CT
Monday evening, the three of us (my mother, Janet and I) all decided to go out to Lena's Pizza (which has the best double-stuffed pizza in the world) for a final meal in the Connecticut. When we got there, I noticed that they had the Elm Street Brewing Company's Amber Ale available on tap. So, I ordered one up... just to find that they no longer stocked Elm City. Instead, they had the locally brewed Trout Brook Brewing Company's Hooker Ale.

Now, before any of you start thinking dirty thoughts about this... Thomas Hooker was the founder of the State of Connecticut. Hartford has a Hooker's Day Parade, we all sang songs about Hooker in school, and it's no surprise that they named their first beer after Tom Hooker.

The Hooker Ale was a very nice beer, reminiscent of a standard hoppy Pacific Northwest style Amber Ale. It was so good that we decided to head over to the brewpub for a quick drink. Unfortunately, the brewpub was extremely crowded with stogie-smoking bags of manly testosterone and we couldn't get the bartender's attention... not that I have problems with cigar smokers (as I am a cigar smoker myself)... but there was absolutely no ventilation, making even my eyes water. I grabbed a souvenir pint glass and we went to our next port of call.

Still, smoke be damned, the beer definitely ranks a strong #2, and I would drink it if it was available in California.

12/21/98 - Hartford Brewing Company -  Hartford, CT
After leaving Trout Brook, we all decided to go to Hartford Brewing. At first, we thought about not going at all, because we were a little tired... but we were happy that we decided to stop in for a pint!

Hartford Brewing is a small dark bar complete with a British brewing system (taken directly from a brewery in the United Kingdom) which focuses on British Beers. When we walked in, the bartender (who was also an assistant brewer) greeted us and set us up with our first order. Janet had their ESB and I grabbed their Pale Ale. Both beers were exceptional, even if Janet found her ESB a little dark for her normal taste. Before the night was done, I would also try their strong ale and a beer called "Bacchus." Then to top everything off, the bartender drew some extremely potent Imperial Stout of the fermenter to me to sample. Aah Heaven.

Hartford Brewing Company not only served its own beer, but they also had a tap dedicated to the Lindeman's Framboise, the only non HBC beer available there. Add a selection of hard liquor and you have my third favorite brewpub ever (after Goose Island in Chicago and Magnolia in San Francisco).

Before coming to Hartford Brewing Company, I thought the best beers that I would have in Connecticut were the bottles of  Speakeasy Untouchable that Forest (the president of Speakeasy Brewery) gave us for our long trip to the East Coast. I was happy to be proved wrong. Hartford Brewing is listed in Avery's ranking as not only as the best beer in Hartford, but one of the best overall breweries (which includes: Spaten, Lagunitas and Speakeasy) that I have had the pleasure of sampling.

12/22/98 - Abbey Pub -  New York City
Tuesday night, about 5 hours after making it to New York City, we decided to head up to the Upper West Side to grab a beer and hopefully meet up with Catherine Skidmore, a fellow RENT (the musical) fanatic.

Well, we never met up with Catherine, but we still spent an enjoyable couple of hours at this little local pub.

The Abbey has a few beers on tap, including Murphy's Stout. In addition, they also have a number of Belgian beers available in the bottle, including both Duvel and Lindeman's Framboise... which is unheard of at a small local bar in San Francisco. however, it was practically the perfect neighborhood bar. Heck, we were probably the only non locals in the joint... I hope they didn't mind our intrusion.

The worst thing about drinking in New York City is that they have a tax on drinks served at a bar. This makes a pint of beer cost around $5.00, where it would cost only $3.25 in San Francisco. Sigh... I guess everything can't be better in New York, can it?

12/23/98 - d.b.a. -  New York City
Dave Keene, the owner of the Toronado told us that if we only visited two beer bars in New York City, that we should go to d.b.a. and Brewsky's/Burp Castle. So, when RENT ended at 10:45 pm, we made our snowy trek out to 1st Ave and 2and Street (not 2and Ave and First Street like the cabbie took us to, leaving us to walk the remaining two blocks) to check out d.b.a.

If the Toronado sold hard liquor in addition to beer, the result would be d.b.a. They had a tremendous selection of hard liquor (including Anchor's Old Potrero and Junipero), fifteen taps, three handpumps and about sixty different bottled beers... and not a Corona or a Budweiser could be found.

Janet and I spent around three hours here, and I started off by drinking a nice 1996 Cantillion Brouscella Lambic (which is unavailable at the Toronado) and a Thurn und Taxis Roggen. Janet had a Guinness. Then we asked the bartender to bring out a Cantillion Kriek (sour cherry lambic).

They brought out a perfectly stored kriek that was probably 5 years old. It was absolutely fantastic. When we left, we promised to each other that when we return to New York we will go back to d.b.a.

12/25/98 - Brewsky's - New York City
Christmas night, we decided to go out for a post-dinner beer. Since we had not been to Brewsky's yet, we decided that it would be best to give them a try instead of going to d.b.a. again. The cab dropped us off at the corner of 7th Street and 2and Ave. We then walked east towards 1st Street, as we were told that the bar was on 7th between First and Second. Unfortunately, the bar was between Second and Third, so by the time we made it into the bar, we were ready for that beer.

Brewsky's only serves beer... no wine or hard liquor. It is connected to its sister bar: Burp Castle. When I asked the bartender what the difference was, he stated that at Burp Castle, they waiters wore monk's robes and served every Belgian beer in the appropriate piece of glassware... but you couldn't get the draught beers.

Brewsky's had about 100 different bottled beers... with the focus on moderately priced Belgian beers, and seven or eight taps. Janet had the Brooklyn Brewing Company's Chocolate Stout, and I had the Ipswich Christmas Ale. Also found here was the Anchor Christmas Ale, yet I declined to have another pint of it, as I was completely unimpressed with that beer in San Francisco where it is brewed. I then had another Thurn und Taxis Roggen, and less than an hour later we were on our way home.

Would I go back to Brewsky's? Possibly, but I certainly preferred d.b.a. But still, Brewsky's has a nice neighborhood feel that makes it attractive. But like most bars in New York City, they really need to increase their ventilation... because it was so smoky, it even kept me from lighting up a Nat Sherman cigarette.

12/26/98 - Steak and Ale House-  New York City's JFK Airport, Terminal 4W
Since we were stuck at the airport for four hours due to Tower Air's little screw up, we searched out a bar in which to drown our sorrows. We ended up at the Steak and Ale House because Janet saw a sign for New Amsterdam beers by the stairs to the restaurant.

New Amsterdam Brewing is a wholly owned subsidiary of FX Matt Brewing, the people who brought you Saranac and Brooklyn Brewery. The only New Amsterdam beer that they had was the Amber, but it was good enough for us to stay for two pints each, then leave for a snack and then return for another beer before leaving for the gate.

The Amber was a fantastic, extremely drinkable beer. Though it isn't a microbrewed beer, it certainly a craft beer, brewed with care... and when I find it in San Francisco, I would certainly pick up a six pack.

12/30/98 - Toronado -  San Francisco
Since Ian was working Wednesday night, we decided to make our first trip back to the Toronado on his shift. Our plan was to go out to Hahn's Hibachi for some Korean BBQ and then head over to the Toronado at 9pm. However, we finished dinner early, so we decided to head over at 8pm. Johnny was filling in for Kirsten (who was on vacation) and he greeted us and we ordered up our first round. Janet had a Guinness and I had a Boont Amber. We spent the first few minutes talking to Peg, the former senior pastry chef from the Ritz Carlton and jockeying for a seat at the bar. By 8:45, we replaced Peg at the best seats in the bar (seats 1 and 2 from the diagram in the 11/15/98 entry).

At 9pm, Ian arrived and Johnny left to cash out. Fifteen minutes later, so did everybody else. I'm not kidding here, within about thirty minutes about fifty yapping yuppies came in. Johnny stood up on his stool (with his International Orange-colored jeans) and asked if Ian needed any help with the crowd. Ian just said no, took out a cigarette, coolly lit it, took a puff and then turned around to take the next order. Oh yes, he was ready to deal with the yuppies tonight.

We only stayed for a few minutes... long enough for an Underberg and a Lagunator (Janet had another Guinness)... and then came home for a long night's sleep.

12/31/98 - Toronado -  San Francisco
Work ended early for me on New Year's Eve, so I headed out to Rosamunde for a late lunch and then to the Toronado for a beer. When I walked in, Robert was on shift.

Robert, as you might remember, is one of our favorite bartenders. We actually went to the Toronado five days in a row back on Thanksgiving just because he was the bartender on shift for most of those days. Anyway, I walked in and immediately ordered up a Moonlight Toast. The Toast was a great, lightly smoky yet mildly hopped beer... and was consumed slowly so I could enjoy it... as there was only this keg left, and when it is finished, it will probably be another year before it is back at the Toronado.

While I was working on the Toast, Ted, a regular at the Toronado who was on break from his job in the Fire Department, showed up. Ted ordered up a Liberty Ale and said that he would only be there for a quick beer before heading out. Within a few minutes, Jet from Rock and Roll San Francisco showed up, and Ted ordered up a Chimay... because locals should never drink alone. I followed suit and ordered up an Aventinus.

Before Janet arrived at 5:30, I engaged in lively conversation, made contact with a beer distributor who is going to help me build a keg dispenser at my house, and finish off a pint of Boont Amber, a Prohibition Ale and an Underberg.

Right after I started the Prohibition Ale,  Robert left and Pauly came on shift. It's been months since I had been to the bar when Pauly was on shift, so it was a treat to catch up with him again. Pauly told me that Yancy's Bar, a local bar in the Inner Sunset, was closed by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board for serving a minor. The penalty was a 25 day closure over Christmas and New Years, essentially robbing them of about $100,000 worth of revenue and taking the Christmas salary out of the hands of the bartenders and waitresses. Needless to say, Pauly was being overly diligent, even carding regulars that afternoon.

At 5pm, I started up on a Big Ass Ho. That is to say that I ordered an 800ml glass (approx 2 pints) of Hoegaarden White. Janet got there about 200ml into the beer, so I asked Pauly for another glass and we split the remaining pint and a half before heading to a Thai  restaurant for dinner.

Whew. What a couple of weeks!

[Janet] 1/1/99
In addition to all of the above, I have to say that drinking in New York city is a hell of a lot different than drinking in San Francisco. The alcohol is out-of-this-world expensive (even when we went out for sushi, the alcohol portion of our bill was $32...for only 2 beers and 2 small sakes!), and they often serve beer in glasses that I'm sure are smaller than the usual 16-ounce pint glass that we're used to, even though they're charging $1 or so more.

I can't seem to find an explanation for the plethora of empty bars and restaurants in Hartford, CT. After sunset, the downtown area was so desolate, it was almost depressing: the day we went to City Steam, they said that they were closing at 10:00 PM, and many of the other places regularly close by midnight! Granted, it was the weekend before Christmas, but the night we stopped in to the Hartford Brewing Company, we were the only people there, and the bartender was considering just closing up if no one else came in. This might be the norm for a lot of small cities across the nation, but once one gets used to San Francisco with it's hordes of bar-going people -- the majority of which stay out until last call -- where10:00 PM dinner reservations are the norm, anything less can be a little bit of a shock.

[Avery] 12/18/98
Wednesday night, we went to the Toronado to say hi to Ian and have a quick beer. Of course, with us one beer turns into two which turns into four. So, our initial plan of bring there for a half of an hour was scrapped, and it we didn't get home until after 11pm, two hours after we left.

Wednesday nights are quickly becoming my favorite nights at the bar. First off, it's quiet. Also, you can usually count on most of the regulars being there (this week it was Tad, Todd and Crab)... and since the new beers seem to come on tap on Tuesday afternoons, there's usually a surplus of fresh beer on too.

Janet is still on her Guinness kick, and she polished off two imperial pints before the night was over. I started off with a nice Lagunator Doppelbock, then moved onto a Fred followed by a pint of Untouchable and then concluded the night with a Boont Amber.

I know you're thinking, "What the heck are you talking about... a beer named Fred?" Yep. Hair of the Dog brewing of Portland makes three beers: Adam, Fred and Golden Rose. Fred is a strong beer served in 13 oz tulip glasses. Fred is a very malty beer that is reminiscent of a barleywine. Regardless of what exact type of beer it is, it's damn tasty.

There are two types of craft beer manufacturers out there. One type makes very classic-style beers. Breweries like Sierra Nevada, Deschutes and even (ugh) Gordon Biersch makes beers that follow the classic recipes. Their pilsners taste like Pilsner Urquell, the Marzens taste like Spaten Oktoberfest, and the stouts try to taste like Guinness. That doesn't mean that they aren't great breweries (with the exception of Gordon Biersch)... just that they aren't very creative.

Then you have the breweries like Speakeasy, Lagunitas and Hair of the Dog. They start off with the basic idea (I want to make a Marzen style beer...) and then take that and make it into something unique. Breweries like this come up with hoppy doppelbocks (which are usually sweet) like Lagunator and extremely malty Marzens like Untouchable.

The unfortunate thing is that most beer festivals judge against the "classic style." Based on this, an Anderson Valley  Hop Ottin IPA will always win over a Speakeasy Prohibition and a Guinness will always win over a Lagunitas Imperial Porter. I thought about this while drinking my Lagunator wednesday night. Though it may never win an award, it's still one of the best beers out there... no matter what type it is.

[Avery] 12/14/98
Yesterday was the Belgian Beer Festival at the Toronado. Actually, it wasn't at the Toronado, it was at the Golden Peacock, a rental hall across the street. The Belgian Beer Festival is one of the most important beer events in the United States... the others being the Toronado's Barleywine Festival, the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado and the Firkin Festival (or whatever they're calling it these days) at Goose Island Brewery in Chicago. People made the pilgrimage from as far as Seattle to attend this festival, and it was well worth it.

The Belgian Beer Festival is a formal tasting of 19 Belgian Beers over a seven hour period. You arrive at 11:30am and don't leave until well after 6:00pm... during that time, you listen to some of the masters of the brewing craft describe the beers and you eat a six course gourmet meal.

Janet, Carlos and I grabbed a four seat table in Robert's section, and the fourth chair was filled by Peg, the Pastry chef from the Hotel Majestic, and winner of a number of city wide dessert competitions.

The beers that we sampled were:

The food was pretty much unremarkable... the Waterzool (fish soup) needed salt, pepper and a bay leaf. The Canapes were unbalanced... the pork loin was flavorless, and the compote... well, it was mushy. However the fresh fruit and cheeses were a real highlight of the night.

The pairing of the Chimay Grande Reserve and the Chimay Beer Cheese (which tasted almost like a smoked gouda) and the 6 month Old Chimay Cheese, which is similar to a Stilton or an Aged Cheddar.

The last three beers: Orval, Wit and Kasteel set up a perfect finish to the night. The Orval is extremely complex and malty, which led to the palate cleansing Wit, followed by the candy-sweet Kasteel Brown, the perfect dessert beer with its sweet, almost amaretto-like taste.

The three unblended cask-aged Lambics. They make less then 500 barrels of these beers, and we were one of the only groups in America to ever try these beers.

Rodenbach Red - one of the finest lambics ever produced. Full flavor and a great nose... if it was available on tap, I would never leave the bar.

The unfortunate thing about yesterday is that Janet fell ill about 6 beers into the tasting, and had to head home. However, her seat was never empty, as friends and locals kept on stopping by to see how Janet was doing. I bumped into Nico Freccia, the co-owner of the new 21st Amendment and local writer for Celebrator Beer News... where we talked about the fate of the dearly departed Golden Gate Brewery and the new brewpubs on the horizon. I also spent some time with the Speakeasy Brewery crowd, and noticed people from Russian River Brewing and Elysian Brewing in Seattle.

After the festival ended, we all retired to the Toronado for a quick drink. Peg, Carlos and I grabbed a table next to Tad and Steve. Then Jeff from Rosamunde came over to bum a cigarette from Steve, so we all talked. Then Travis and Todd, the bartenders from Great Water, a Thai Restaurant and good beer bar in North Beach came in for an end-of -the-weekend beer. I only stayed long enough to have a Hop Ottin before going home to check on Janet. All in all, a good night, considering the circumstances.

[Avery] 12/10/98
Last night, Janet and I decided to head to the Toronado after dinner to say hi to Ian. Also, Jocelyn (who we had bumped into on Saturday night) said that she and her brother Paul would be there... with my belated birthday gift.

We were only there from 9pm to 10:30. Janet had a pair of Guinnesses and I had an Aventinus and a Hop Ottin IPA. Jocelyn only had a root beer because she was in training, and Paul had a Celebrator and an Aventinus. We also had a couple of underbergs too before we left.

It was a quick few minutes of good fun and great conversation. However, it was certainly not worth more than seven sentences. Ok, maybe eight.

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