Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, draft, with nitrous (will somebody explain to me exactly with this means?) at Golden State on Fairfax.
Sensuous, velvety, glowing, everything friggin' nutty flavor under the sun, that high stout glow, complete and total life. Glowing with glow-ecstacy. A great, great, *great* friggin' beer. I've always loved Old Rasputin - bottled, one of the two great stouts of America. But on draft, here, it's about four levels up, and it's perhaps the best stout I've ever had. I've never seen it on draft before, anywhere in SoCal. My buddy, Ira, who I was there with - my partner in beverage crime, my co-orderer of bizarre mainland teas, my experimental test subject for home-roasted coffee, and my compadre de liquor, turned to me three sips in and said, "Jesus, Thi, I think this is the best beer I've ever had in my life."
They *know* how to care for it, here, too.
Stout is a tricky beast, on draft. I don't exactly what it is - I remember searching around for good Guinness on draft in Boston, and finding that a few bars were significantly better and when I quizzed the bartenders on it, they always said something about the vast complexities of handling stout perfectly, and holding it at certain temperatures, and they waved their hands in the air talking about nitrous and chemical balances and texture and I really didn't understand, but I gathered that it was tricky, and it took care to do it right.
This feels right. It has the gorgeous, thick, velvet texture, and that high delicate sharp flavor that doesn't quite become sour.
Their beer menu is fantastic, too. Not only Old Rasputin and Green Flash, two of my total favorites, but one of the only places to get Russian River beers in town. They have Pliney the Elder bottles. The owner said he prefers Pliney in bottles to on tap, because the hemp flavor was stronger. I love the draft version better, but I respect his convictions. They have Allegash Curieux. They have rarities on special, too. They get limited edition stuff, weird-ball stuff. Stuff cured in weird bottles, limited edition experimental runs. I talked up one of the owners - he seems to care, big-time, about his beers.
Did you know they make a beer float? A scoop of Scoops in draft Old Rasputin. I may be going back to get this today. Where else can you get a scoop of Scoops, and Old Rasputin from a perfectly cared for barrel of draft? Nowhere, I'm pretty sure. I'd bet a hundred bucks on it. At least. Maybe a thousand. Depends on my mood.
Anyway: the food's pretty good. They're all into their good ingredients. I saw the other thread - some people were complaining about the food. I can see what they're talking about, a little. It's not friggin' exceptional. The ingredient quality is good. It's pretty yum. But really: I think this place is a *bar*. It's not a restaurant, not in its heart of hearts. They have exceptional beers, that they take care of with all their soul, and then good bar food to go with. Hot dogs and burgers (surprisingly great) jalapeno cole slaw. The burger I had was pretty good, and it was... kind of like a compliment to the Old Rasputin. The Old Rasputin dominated the experience, and the burger kind of supported and mostly stayed out of the way. I'm pretty sure this is intentional, although I don't know.
The place felt pretty Berkeley to me - casually made food with high-end ingredients, and exceptional beer. I asked the owner. He said he was from Berkeley. I said, "That makes sense, dude." He may have said, "Dude," back. I'm not sure. It's a Bay Area thing.
Also: I really appreciate the smallness of the beer menu, and the care of the paragraph-long tasting notes. I think the era of the 400-varieties-of-beer-bar is over (except for weird specialists, like The Trappist in Oakland.) The problem these days is information overload. Golden State is like... a filter restaurant. Like an information portal, like About.com. You're paying for somebody to have tasted every beer and picked out *seven* you should try. It's sort of like going to your friend's house, who knows all the good stuff and keeps shoving good beers he's found into your face and telling you all about them.
Restaurant as informational portal. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
Also: there were tasting notes on what beers would go well with Tai Kim's insane Scoops ice cream style. I appreciate this.