I won't go into quite a whole lot of detail here as I'll be posting a very detailed report on my blog http://microcosmk.blogspot.com but I wanted to give a brief overview of my experiences in the SF area.
Our first day we went out to Oakland and checked out both the Trappist and Beer Revolution. I was expecting to like BR better, but was happily surprised with the service and atmosphere of the Trappist. The guy behind the bar really new his stuff, they made great use of the natural light and it wasn't overly crowded or loud. I was tempted to order Dogfish Head 120 Minute, but the high abv deterred me. Instead I went for De Dolle Boskeun at a slightly more managable 10%. I'm definitely enjoying strong golden/blonde ales as of late.
Beer Revolution was extremely loud and quite packed. They were happy to let me sample a variety of beers, but where the Trappist was somewhere I could've spent all afternoon, at BR I just wanted to drink my beer and leave. I had Great Divide Old Ruffian which is a 10.2% barleywine. While not the best barleywine I've had, it was servicable. My experience here came to an abrupt end when I went to use their coed bathroom and walked in on a cracked out chick blowing up the toilet. I knocked twice before I entered, but I guess it was too loud to hear her response... Why would you not lock the door in a public bathroom?
A few days later we did the 10:30 tour of Anchor Brewery. They had a gorgeous taproom with all sorts of interesting memorabelia. This was without a doubt the best smelling brewery I've ever been to. The 100% roasted barley smelled like oatmeal laced with roasted dark fruits. It was heavenly. We sampled their Summer, Steam, Liberty, Breckle's Brown, Porter, and Old Foghorn barleywine. I liked their summer and brown, but disappointed in the barleywine, the only brew I hadn't had previously.
Later that day we went to Monk's Kettle and really enjoyed our time there. The people behind the bar were extremely nice and accommodating, and since I'd read that this place catered to beer snobs I was happily surprised. Just proves that you shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet. We'd already had a pretty long day of drinking and eating so I opted for something lighter. I'd been wanting to try the Green Tea IPA collaboration beer by Stone/Ishii/Barid and it hit the spot. It was light and hoppy and the green tea flavor really shone through. I enjoyed it so much I ordered two.
A few days later after a long morning hiking Muir Woods and Mt. Tam I convinced my wife to dedicate our first day in "wine country" to beer. So we hit up both Lagunitas and Russian River Brewing Co. Lagunitas was... how do I put this... interesting. A moment after we walked through the door they announced they were doing a brewery tour with free beer samples. The guy led us upstairs and started pouring samples. We sampled the Pils, Pale Ale, Lil Sumpin Sumpin, IPA, and Lil Sumpin Wild. I hated the Pale Ale, and absolutely loved Sumpin Wild. After we got our samples my wife and I ditched the tour and headed back down to the bar so I could sample some of the beers I really wanted to try. I was unimpressed with Maximus, Hop Stoopid, and Gnarley Wine, but I enjoyed their Brandy Aged Hairy Eyeball. The beer that really wowed me was their Bourbon Aged Cappuccino Stout. Holy hell now that was a good beer. You could actually taste the bourbon from the barrel aging. Too bad you can only get it there. It was one of my favorite beers of the trip.
Next up Russian River. Oh yes, I'd been looking forward to this. It was loud and the lighting sucked, but I didn't care, this place was all about the beer. I immediately ordered the sampler and eagerly awaited my beer. While there are far too many beers to name them all I will tell you that I felt Pliny the Elder, while quite good, is seriously overrated and that their beers aged in wine barrels are some of the most unique and delicious beers that have ever crossed my lips. My hands down favorite was Consecration, but I also enjoyed Supplication, Damnnation, Temptation, and O.V.L. Stout. I didn't care for Defenstration or their blonde. Three bottles of Consecration came home with us in our checked bag, and I'm praying that the 106* heat during our layover in Houston (damned hurricane!) didn't skunk my precious, precious beer.
Since our flight was delayed a day due to Irene, our extra day in wine country lead us to Sonoma. I did a quick google search on my phone for a decent beer bar and was directed to the Olde Sonoma Public House. This turned out to be my favorite bar of the entire trip. They encouraged sampling, the space was huge and open and brightly lit. They had free wi-fi and encouraged you to bring in your own food. They had a great juke box and you could tell that everyone in the place (besides us) was a local. When I played Juke Box Hero it was met with rampant applause. My first beer was Grand Teton Cask Conditioned Double IPA and while it was great, it was upstaged by my second round which was Urthel Hop It which was a Belgian Style IPA that hit all the right marks.
All-in-all I was extremely impressed with the bar scene and the beer selection in the Bay area. I told my wife I wanted to move somewhere between Santa Rosa and Sonoma so I could have immediate access to both Russian River and OSPH. You locals don't know just how lucky you are.
If you want to check out some (alright, a lot) pictures, here is a set of our entire trip on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/57628994...