Sunday, October 31, 2010

Magnolia Pub & Brewery, Haight-Ashbury

Ringing that bluebell
Caught up in sunlight
Come on out singing and I'll walk you in the sunshine
Come on honey, come along with me

Lyrics from Sugar Magnolia; Robert C. Hunter, Robert Hall Weir


You know, it's pretty easy feelin' the vibe evoked by those lyrics--you might've felt `em yourself: mayhap feelin' the sweep of a warm October day passing over you...

Standing on your baby's porch, sunlight filtering down through the trees, moving across you, catching and warming your arm, releasing and moving across your cheek...

Then, ringing your honey's bell, there she is smilin'! You happy to be asking her to go out for a walk in the fabulously brilliant sunshine. Arm in arm.

Remember those days...

Well those lyrics were going through the `ed, and it was just like that when we got off the bus in the Haight and walked back a block or so to the Magnolia Pub & Brewery for a bite `n pint.

(When you see this on a wall, you'll know you're getin' close.)

Like the dream, there it was situated on the corner of Haight and Masonic, the structure of a certain age, this superlative day the door wide-open, pleasantly beckoning to come in and have a look around.

Passing through the corner doorway crowned by a stained glass transom declarative of the building's address at 1398 Haight Street, the pub's bright and ethereal, with plenty of windows for late afternoon sunlight to beam in from two sides. Tables and chairs arranged in front and to the right and booths and semi-banquettes down the left side. A linear bar standing along the back wall with the kitchen behind that. Another lustrous wide pine bar top similar to the one over at the Monk's Kettle. We sure don't see `em like this in NEPA!

Almost all of the beers on the menu are their own, brewed below Haight Street. Look closely and you'll see a smattering of guest beers--as it should be, natch. Major styles give good account of themselves but overall there seems to be a definite English ale bent to the menu with a Stout, a Porter, a couple of Bitters, a Pale Ale and a couple of IPAs on the menu. This menu was from last week--hit their site to see what's on today!
There was only a pico-second hesitation before selecting and ordering up a flight of six of their beers: five from the casks--one depreciating sawbuck was all it took.

Don't wait: you might only get five a few minutes from now!

They arrived in approximately a pool rack, and a half hour later, after talking the ears off a fellow beer aficionado visiting from Boston, we had cleared the table of all six and could reflect on the experience. Overall, we favored the High Time Harvest Ale hopped with Simcoe®. (We assumed the hops were fresh but didn't ask. Duh.) A beautiful light amber color welcomes, glinting through the tall cylindrical glass topped by a thin head. Subtly nice aroma and hop flavor, by no means overwhelming, with a clean finish and decent lacing--very nice overall. We'd characterize this as a pretty darn good harvest ale.

Next favorite was the the Long Break. The others in the rack were more English standards, of which we're not a super-huge fan. Still, good drinkable session beers all around. Bright, fresh, crisp and clean. Very British (sans the bad teeth,) and the perfect complement to fine conversation. The ten-spot turned out to be a good investment for a chance to sample six of the brewer's best work. The flight card's a great idea as a reminder to what you're drinking--any place offering flights should have something like this.


`Bout this time we were feelin' it and decided to have the aforementioned bite. As it was to be, we discovered the food menu here, creative and unique. Both the food and the design of the physical menu on which it's presented.

The menu's pages are bound within a mid to heavyweight dark front and back cover. The front cover is cleanly embellished with the establishment's name and printed on the inside of the back cover is a brew house worksheet--just the sort of thing that we were pondering as the waiter returned for the third time to ask if we were ready to order!

We didn't wish to spoil our appetites too much so we chose an order of house-cut fries and chicken andouille from the bar menu.


After we finished, the press of places to go and things to do propelled us (as they often do) up and out, and we left and reentered the brilliant sunshine.

Overall, we'd have to say that the Magnolia Pub and Brewery was impressive all-around. The beers were top-quality and the savory munchies we tried were satisfying and top-notch--the likes of which you won't find just everywhere. The bar-tenders were attentive. The pub was popular, busy, and buzzing with vibrant flavors. Ladies room clean and accommodating according to S--this would most assuredly be an excellent place to meet for a first date. Not insignificant is the convenience of reaching this gastropub: several Bus and MUNI routes pass nearby: 6, 7, 37, 43, and 71.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

As Cold as Witch's Wit

We think it's mighty wit of Lost Abbey to even consider changing their label for Witch's Wit based on the feelings of fringe loonies.

Not that there's anything wrong with being looney. Or a witch for that matter.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

12th Annual Learn to Homebrew Day

The 12th annual Learn to Homebrew Day is coming up soon on Saturday November, 6th.

We feel that homebrewing is as rewarding a hobby as gardening and quite similar in many ways.

For example: you get to carefully select your ingredients, mix them with nutrients and water, and nurture and monitor growth. Finally you get to harvest and ingest the fruits of your labor. And no weeds to pull!

It just don't get any better than that, folks.

Here's more information.

We may be brewing that day, so if you're interested in learning a little, let me know.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Chorus Line

Yesterday afternoon we delighted in the matinee performance of A Chorus Line at the Scranton Cultural Center, with S, J, and S-prime.

I had seen the show on Broadway probably 20 years ago when it was still on it's first run. It went on to set the all-time record for first-run performances which stood for quite a while only to be surpassed by Cats. Yikes!

(At least I think it was Cats... And speaking of Cats, unfortunately I had the dubious distinction of being herded there multiple times while it went on to its own record run. Alas, there is no real story to Cats: First act's great and the second act sucks--until the very last number were it's ultimately redeemed.)

A Chorus Line is a moving and heartfelt story that while told in the milieu of a theater audition, just as well applies to all of us as we try to find our way in this world. It covers the trials and tribulations, the triumphs and heartbreaks, that we all encounter as we sometimes strive for what we love, never settling, and at other times strive and are forced to compromise due to need. This performance was not as breathtaking as the first time I saw it, but the story carries the show.

Afterwords, it was off to Cooper's. Not for the food, but the beer.

(Ok, the food is none too shabby either.)

Alas, S still hasn't had her Fall pumpkin ale fix!

Stymied again!

No fear: it's just not yet--it's still early. Still, it's highly doubtful she'll turn to a pumpkin if she doesn't find some, but my esteem is dropping for not delivering post haste.

She settled (if you can ever call choosing any Dogfish Head beer settling), for Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. She wasn't impressed: the pumpkin flavor just wasn't as punchy compared to others she's had.

S-prime and J asked moi to pick a beer for them and there really wasn't anything that really caught my eye on the draught list--everything seemed to be Oktoberfest/Marzen styles or higher ABVs--I wanted them to get home safe and sound after all! Finally, on the back page, my eye fell to Victory Hop Devil on the hand pump.

We have a winner!

J likes a hoppy beer and the Hop Devil was the first time he and S-prime had tried this particular beer. Both J and S-prime enjoyed it immensely. As did I.

(You know: Victory Hop Devil may just be the perfect hoppy ale to whet the burgeoning beer drinker's tongues as a step up from the relatively tame Saison's, Witte's, Pilsners, Hefeweizen's and such....)

Best part of every day.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Which four beers to have at a party?

If wehad to choose four styles of beer from this list to have on tap for a party, what would they be?

1) Double IPA
2) English Pale Ale
3) Cascadian Dark Ale
4) Porter
5) Stout
6) Amber Lager
7) American Pale Ale

Note: A party may be in the planning so choose carefully if you care about what you drink!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Monk's Kettle


The wonders of the brew kettle pouring at Monk's Kettle in San Francisco!

We visited Monk's Kettle the weekend last and while it's undergoing some outside work, it's open and definitely worth the longish bus ride (for us) and scaffold navigation to scoot inside for a chance to try some really great beers.

It's located in the friendly-peopled Mission section on 16th between Guerrero and Valencia and a very few short skips from the 49 bus route.

(If you're in town visiting for a few days, pony up for the MUNI Visitor Passport transportation pass. Available in 1, 3 and 7 day variants for $13, $20, and $26 respectively. Since cable car fares are $5.00 per and buses $2.00 per, it's easy to see their worth getting around the city.)

The bar is spotless and the ladies restroom is exceptional according to S: clean, candle-lit, and perfumed.

Draught and bottle lists: also exceptional. Not too many run of the mill beers on here. Beer menu organized by style which is always nice.

The Food menu looks awesome but we can't vouch for taste as we only stopped for a quick one, while out and about doing the tourist thing.

The bartender D, is a cicerone and really knew his beer and was able to please an always finicky S who's usual request is for something not too hoppy and light.

Seeing how it was a mid-70s day again, D suggested and S agreed on a real winner which neither of us had every tried before: Blanche de Bruxelles Brasserie Lefebvre SA, Rebecq Quenast, coming in at a fruity 4.5% ABV. And served in the Brasserie's recommended glassware.

Light, crisp, refreshing and had we more time, we'd surely have had another. And another.

I opted for a change of pace beer and asked for what turned out to be a super-creamy Fuller's London Porter whose taste reminded me of my childhood when I was precociously quaffing my go-to beverage of that period: Nestle's chocolate milk!


Bar-top constructed of what I believe is a single Ponderosa or Sugar Pine plank, perhaps 20 inches wide. Beautiful! Shallow back-bar framed by a mansion-sized fireplace surround. Nice.

This is a casually upscale bar, read: not your everyday dive bar, and as such is the perfect place to take your lady friends to turn them on.

To some great beers, too.

N.B. There is no wine or hard liquor served here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Simply Homebrew to Host Intro to Brewing Class

We received this email today from Pete over at Simply Homebrew in Drums.

If you're at all interested in learning more about this fascinating hobby, give him a call and reserve a spot. His email is and his telephone number is 570-991-5567.

The seminars are to be held on 10/23/2010.

Please read below for some upcoming seminars to be held at the store:

Intro to Brewing 12:00pm to 2:00pm

Don Abraczinskas, Brew Master from The Inn at Turkey Hill Brew Pub (Opening Spring 2011) will be making an Indian Pale Ale Brewers Best Kit. Don is also an "all grain brewer" and will save time to answer any questions that you may have.

This class, for the first-time brewer, will explain the basic equipment needed to homebrew and how it works. Participants will get hands-on experience brewing, bottling, and tasting homebrew (Pale Ale, Cherry Porter, and Belgian Strong Ale).

Intro to Winemaking 2:00pm - 4:00pm

The class will cover a wide range of topics such as making wine from kits and fresh juice, and will also include live, hands on demonstrations. Class topics include: equipment, sanitization, testing, procedures, and troubleshooting.

Bonus "Making Cello Classes" 4:00pm - 5:00pm

This class will cover how to easy it is to make Lemon Cello, Orange Cello and even Chocolate Cello!

Feel free to bring samples from your own home brew or wine making to share.

Please send an email to let us know you are coming and we will reserve a spot for you!


Thursday, October 7, 2010

A visit to to the Toronado

Binky asked once: “What would a visit to San Francisco be without a visit to the Toronado?”

Spam elucidated without hesitation: ”a day without great beer”.

Today we wanted the proverbial happy ending so we visited the Toronado with the Navy Blue Angels' F/A-18 Hornets roaring overhead flying practice for this weekend's air show over San Francisco bay.

It's fleet week here in San Francisco and car alarms city-wide will never be quite the same.

We wanted to do a micro pub crawl so we took the 6/71 bus route along Haight St. to this place. When we arrived, a Dutch door with upper half open, like a friend, welcoming, beckoned us inside to a cool beer bar. The way beer bars oughta be in the early Fall, imho.

Large Duvel bottles ring the table area on a high shelf and are privy to conversations for the ages: preachers preaching the gospel of the economic downtrodden; office workers unwinding with friends; lovers languishing over each other and a cool brew on a warm October day.

Take a close look at the draught beer board (50 beers on draft) and you'll see some great beers here: locals from Anderson Valley and Russian River Brewing Company, as well as a nice selection of Belgian and German beers to appease European beer-liking palates.

And further, some great progressive music: someone had the audacity to put on Bytor and the Snow Dog.

Amazing, huh?

(And when is Rush going to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Sheesh!)

S chose the Alagash White while we kept it local with Russian River Brewing Co.'s Consecratation `09. The Consecration has what we think is an ecumenical appeal, almost wine-like in nature--one that would be enjoyed by anyone and everyone as it is one for sipping. The Allagash White was what we remembered--cool, spicy, and refreshing.


The Toronado lives up to the legend we kept in our mind's eye: gruff `tenders, a scintillating draught menu, a cozy space: a beer drinker's paradise.

Highly recommended.

A chance to try Pliny the Elder. For real.

Well that sometime soon morphed to yesterday as we continued our west coast trek to parts known and unknown.

Santa Rosa streets were deserted and our gas tanks (car and belly,) empty as we made our last-gasp push to the finish line to make it to the Russian River Brewing Company brewpub yesterday to sample Pliny the Elder and compare it against the clone we brewed, the one we like to call Slimey the Imposter.

(No disrespect intended.)

Inside the bar it became clear where everyone was: transported to the loooooooong bar--every bar stool occupied and every beer drinker worshiping at the alter of hops and barley.

As it turns out, Slimey the Imposter truly has as it parent, Pliny the Elder and shares almost all the traits of that celebrity. The color, head-color and retention characteristics, superb lacing, and aroma of both are very close--what I would call the perfect beer in these aspects. The one difference between the two I could detect, was a touch more sweetness in the real thing. And the imposter tastes a bit dirtier in the finish, with a few more rough edges--maybe not quite as dry. I'd have to chalk these differences to Slimey's brewer mishandling the recipe. Still, the real thing is fantastic and everything about Pliny the Elder is excellent in every way.

Finished up with the Blind Pig IPA which, in it's own right, is also a good hop-forward beer at a sessionable--ok, barely sessionable, 6% ABV.


Convenient metered off-street parking in the back, drinking alfresco outside in the front, a nice collection of dishes on the menu (the meatball sub is heavenly as is the Tuna Melt,) and a quieter dining area to the side. Everything you might want in a brewpub.

A little out of the way (about 50 miles north of San Francisco,) but worth every darn minute of 101 traffic--highly recommended!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stephen J. Cannell, Dead at 69

“He was a cop, and good at his job. But he committed the ultimate sin, and testified against other cops gone bad. Cops that tried to kill him, but got the woman he loved instead. Framed for murder, now he prowls the badlands. An outlaw hunting outlaws, a bounty hunter, a Renegade.”

Man! What a show and what a storyteller.

Brings back memories.

Every week J would come over, have supper and we'd watch Renegade.

Wishing we had a Wide-Glide® cruising the Badlands. Looking for trouble.

J'd ride home afterwards. On his Sporty.

I could hear it echo in the night all the way into Middletown.

Thanks for the memories Stephen.


Hey Tazio, What's in the Beer Meister?

Weeeeeeeeeeeeelllll, let's see....

Only the best beer we've ever brewed.

Not to be disrespectful to `ol Gaius Plinius Secundus but we're calling this beer Slimey the Imposter--a Pliny the Elder clone from Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, California.

The recipe is by none other than Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River Brewing Co's brewer and co-owner. It was recently published in Volume 33 No. 4 of Zymurgy.

We pretty much followed his recipe except for a few hop substitutions--but we tried to keep the same bitterness by adjusting quantities for the different hops.

This beer is off the charts taste-wise. Beersmith was telling me a calculated 237.3 IBU! Wow!

This is a great beer and I can't wait to try the real thing sometime soon at the brewpub to see how it compares.

Deeeeeeeelicious and the best party of every day!