Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pliny the Elder in San Francisco

A friend of mine, Rich, is a retired Latin and History teacher and travels the world in search of gastronomic delights.  He's been to Europe many times and has traveled extensively throughout the States.  He took me with him to visit the oldest brew pub in New Jersey this summer. He just returned from California and I asked him if he would share his craft beer experiences with us. 

I recently traveled to San Francisco. My list of things to do was pretty standard tourist stuff, like visiting museums and sampling the local ale. Wandering around after a lunch in Chinatown, I stopped outside the 4th Street Bar and Grill and took a look at their beer menu. Although the list wasn’t very long, they had a few local beers on tap so I thought I’d give it a try. I have a weakness for IPAs and the bartender suggested a Russian River Brew, Pliny the Elder.  One of the reasons I ordered it was because of the Latin Language connection. Pliny may have been the first person to mention hops. Once you know it is an IPA with 8% ABV and 100 IBUs there are not a lot of surprises. I'd rank it up there with Dogfish 90, which is saying a lot, at 9% and 90. I didn't have the chance to A/B them so it's really hard to compare them from memory. I thought at the time it was less aggressive than Dogfish. It might have been the slightly lower ABV or the fact that east coast IPAs usually use a different hop blend. The one I really wish I had gotten a chance to try is the Pliny the Younger. That's 11% and, according to the Russian River Brewing website, it has "Gobs of BUs". 
The bartender mentioned that there was a place connected with Rogue Brewery in the North Beach neighborhood. Since Rogue is located in Oregon it isn’t exactly a local brewery but Oregon is a lot closer to California than it is to New Jersey.  He also mentioned a bar named Church Key which, unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to get to but that’s another reason to head back to San Francisco.

Earlier I had made plans to meet an old Jersey friend of mine the next day. She has been living in San Francisco for more than 30 years and I had not seen her in more than 20. I suggested we meet at the Rogue pub and, although it turned out she was not that interested in the beer, we spent an enjoyable few hours catching up.
Like much of San Francisco the pub was welcoming and very informal. They had the day’s specials posted on two blackboards. One listed their own brews, about 20, including things like their Dead Guy Ale, which I’ve seen back in New York, and more obscure brews like Smoke Ale and John John Barrel Hazelnut Brown, aged in rum barrels.  The second board had an equally large selection of craft beers and ales from all over. Examples included well known national brands like Samuel Adams, Magic Hat and Anchor as well as many I hadn’t heard of such as Drakes, Ninkasi and something they listed as Bud “Limited Edition” Light.

I was in the “Rogue Nation,” as they call it, so I stuck with their stuff. I was not disappointed. I started with the XS Imperial I²PA, at least that’s what it said on the board, it was, as expected, rich and full of floral hop notes. Next, I asked for A St. Rogue Dry Hop Red. It was less heavy than the IPA but still dry with a crisp bitter finish. The two made a nice afternoon libation and put me in a good mood for the long walk back to the hotel. If you’re in San Francisco and looking for a place to quench your thirst you could do worse than stopping here.

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