Burger Bar

The newly opened Burger Bar on the sixth floor of Macy's in Union Square, San Francisco, has one of the best selections of taps downtown. In keeping with the growing emphasis of pairing beer with food, Burger Bar's drinks book devotes 24 of its 28 pages to beers on tap or in bottles, including a Burger Blonde from Speakeasy in San Francisco made specifically for the restaurant. Acclaimed chef Hubert Keller's third Burger Bar (the others are in St. Louis and Las Vegas) is open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and until 11 p.m. the rest of the week. Emphasis is on burgers, as the name implies, so I tried the sliders: a mini-buffalo burger with carmelized onions, an Angus beef burger with bacon, and a country natural beef mini-burger with cheese. They were all decent -- my favorite being the buffalo burger -- and paired well with my Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA. However, they weren't cheap at $12.75. Also, the ale was served in a very chilled glass, which didn't help bring out the flavor and aroma of the hops. Still, if you find yourself thirsty for a beer and hungry for a nosh in Union Square Macy's, it's not a bad stop.
Burger Bar San Francisco

The Monk's Kettle

A shrimp pot pie at Monk's Kettle with an IPA from Moonlight Brewing: Bombay by Boat.

It's a lot of fun matching good beer with interesting food at Monk's Kettle -- or is it the other way around?
Monk's Kettle makes a valiant attempt at escaping the pub fare that characterizes most beer bars. The Mission District gastropub does serve burgers/sandwiches, but they're made with lamb, salmon, turkey, pulled pork and chicken breast. Crispy, skinny fries come with chipotle ketchup, herbed aioli and curry aioli. All dishes are accompanied by a beer pairing suggestion.

Menu entrees are limited to an angus skirt steak, bone-in chicken breast and a beer and cider brined pork chop. I would like to see more dishes like the shrimp pot pie special I had. The floral bitterness of the Bombay by boat IPA from Moonlight Brewing nicely undercut the sweet creaminess of the pot pie, refreshing my palate with each bite of the perfectly cooked shrimp and vegetables and crispy crust. More offerings along this line would raise Monk's Kettle well past the ordinary.
How about some moules to go with those nice frites, or a cassoulet. Monk's Kettle's saisons, altbiers, tripels, lambics and biere de garde deserve more hearty dishes to sink their teeth into.

My Travels with Bake, Part Deux

Chris Baker and I met at Jupiter Brewing Company, a brewpub in downtown Berkeley that serves beers from several brewing companies. Jupiter also makes small batches of its own beer in the tank pictured here. From Jupiter, we visited several pubs and restaurants that serve good local beer. As I mentioned in my earlier post, beer is a natural with pizza and barbecue. But some restaurants, like Blakes, are taking pairings a little further. During the week, Blakes on Telegraph has “recession” specials like $1 tostadas all day on Mondays, $1 tacos on Tuesdays, and $1 sliders on Wednesdays from 9 p.m. to midnight, and happy hour from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Blakes also has music upstairs and in the basement.

Also on Telegraph, Manny’s Taproom offers a wide selection of craft beer from its 43 taps, along with food that matches well with the beer. Along with burgers, fries, onion rings, several salads, sandwiches and nachos, Manny’s offers the sort of spicy international food that is anathema to wine but sublime with craft beer. Andouille Cajun sliders, fiesta taco salad, mandarin chicken salad, Thai tofu on flatbread, fajitas and Yucatan burrito cry out for a refreshing pilsner or a robust ale. The beer garden in back is open until 9:30 Sunday through Thursday and until 10 on Fridays and Saturdays.

Two pubs in the Rockridge District in Oakland, also have a decent selection of good beer. Barclays Restaurant and Pub has 30 beers on tap every day. On tap this week were Sierra Nevada’s Triple, a Belgian tripel ale, and the Bear Republic 2009 Wet Hop Ale. As you can see from the sign, Barclays celebrated its 18th anniversary on Monday: Buy the first pint at the regular price and get the second one for 20 cents.

The selection at Ben ‘n Nick’s Bar isn’t as extensive as Barclays, but you can still find some good beers, including the inimitable Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Company and Deschutes Black Butte Porter. Proprietor Chris Friend (pictured) would just as soon kick back with a PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon).

Lucky 13 is a veritable beer oasis in mostly sleepy Alameda. In addition to Pliny and several other craft beers, Lucky 13 has a good selection of Belgians on tap and in bottles. No food, though.

Things not to do at the cheese store in the parking structure on Durant in Berkeley.


My Travels with Bake: Berkeley/Oakland edition

On October 12, I joined beer distributor Chris Baker on his weekly rounds in Berkeley and Oakland. It was a unique opportunity to check out several nice establishments that serve good beer and meet some of the proprietors behind them.Thanks in part to savvy marketers/educators like Baker, a former brewer at Drake's Brewery in San Leandro, good craft beer has become ubiquitous in Oakland and Berkeley and is available at unlikely places, such as The Bear's Lair on the U.C. Berkeley campus, where Jeremy Lauzier, pictured here (top), helps steer new beer drinkers in a craft beer direction. Hefeweizens are by far the most popular choice in Bear's Lair, Lauzier said.
The Shattuck Hotel, across the street from the Jupiter Brewing company, also had a surprisingly good selection of craft beers, pictured with manager Gerald Murphy.

BBQ is among the many classic beer/food pairings, and lovers of beer and Q could do a lot worse than sipping a Drake's IPA with their ribs or pulled pork sandwich at Looney's Smokehouse Barbecue. Another classic pairing with beer is pizza, and one of the best is Zachary's on Telegraph, which also boasts a pretty decent selection of craft beer.

Need to work off some of that ale? Step over to the Thalassa Bar and Billiards on Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley, where Pixie is pictured explaining to Baker that cue balls that work on the tables that are rented by the hour won't work the same way on the coin-operated tables. Also pictured: Thalassa's beer board and some of their many pool tables.
Tomorrow: my beer odyssey with Chris Baker continues in Oakland and Berkeley