Enjoying beer and food in the wine country

If indeed it takes a lot of beer to make wine, then vintners are in luck; there’s some great beer in the wine country. Just as the modern U.S. wine industry has its roots in the 1970s in Sonoma and Napa counties, craft beer companies like Russian River, Bear Republic, Lagunitas and Moonlight are making their mark today, brewing some of the most distinctive and adventurous beers in the state. And while much of the wine industry is sadly becoming a parody of itself, with wine tourism eclipsing wine making, brewers are demonstrating the innovative spirit that’s dwindling among too many wineries.
If you’re visiting Sonoma’s Russian River wineries and find yourself weary of paying for the privilege of tasting 2-ounce pours of overoaked Chardonnays and overpriced, wimpy Pinot Noirs, drop down to Santa Rosa, just a few miles south of Healdsburg for some great beer and good food. And if you want to sample a brew that you’re not familiar with, breweries and pubs are more than happy to pour generous tastes – for free.
Visiting Russian River Brewing is the beer lover’s version of making a pilgrimage to a sacred shrine and should not be missed, but brewpub Third Street Aleworks, just a couple of blocks away, makes some decent beer in its own right and serves good food to go with it. On a recent visit, we tried Third Street’s award-winning Oatmeal Stout and Annadel Pale Ale, pairing the latter with one of the biggest small Caesar salads I’ve ever had (pictured). For the main course, we split a rib eye steak, which was more than enough for two people, accompanied by a Bodega Head IPA. The hoppiness of the beer cut right through the fattiness of the well-seasoned, nicely grilled medium-rare steak.
Not long ago, drinking beer exclusively meant American macrobrew lagers, fizzy yellow beers that were OK for quenching your thirst, but not much else. By default, then, wine was what you matched with food. With the emergence of craft brewing, that’s all changed, and pairing beer with food is at least as satisfying as matching wine.
Many years ago, Sonoma was the largest hop producer in the country. The historic old hop kiln at Hop Kiln Winery is a relic of those bygone days, cut short by disease and mechanization, which resulted in hop growing moving mostly to Oregon and Washington State. Sitting on the Third Street Aleworks patio, with a little breeze, good company, tasty food and refreshing, full-flavored beer, it’s easy to forget that you’re in the wine country. Perhaps as the craft beer industry matures, the “wine country” appellation will once again become more inclusive of the brews that are gradually redefining the area and quenching the thirst of winemakers.

Third Street Aleworks Brewpub
610 3rd St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 523-3060

Russian River Brewing Company
725 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 545-2337

Lagunitas Brewing Company
1280 N McDowell Blvd
Petaluma, CA 94954
(707) 769-4495

Bear Republic Brewing Co.
345 Healdsburg Ave
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-2337

Hop Kiln Winery
6050 Westside Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-6491

The Beer Revolution has begun in Oakland

In just four years, City Beer has become an indispensable destination not only for San Francisco beer lovers but for beer aficionados from all over.
The formula is deceptively simple: well-selected craft beer poured from a handful of rotating taps and bottles sold on the premises (with the option of paying an extra $1 to be consumed on site), plus some simple food to nosh on if you’re hungry. It works because of the dedication and attention to detail of City Beer’s indefatigable owners, Beth and Craig Wathen. Their passion and grace have made their Folsom Street beer store a regular stop for thirsty downtown office workers and visiting beer pilgrims alike. If you can’t find the beer you’re looking for at the diminutive City Beer, you probably won’t find it anywhere else in the Bay Area. City Beer turns 4 years old on May 2. Happy birthday, City Beer, and many happy returns.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Bay Bridge, there may not be any “there there” (at least according to Gertrude Stein), but there’s quite a bit of beer. One of the more recent additions to the vibrant Oakland beer scene is Beer Revolution, which has the potential to be as good as or (at the risk of heresy) even better than City Beer.
The playbook at Beer Revolution is similar to City Beer’s, except more so: more space, more sun (from a patio in front), more cold cases (no shelves whatsoever) and twice as many taps. As with City Beer, the most important component is the owners, Rebecca and Fraggle, who set the convivial tone with their extensive knowledge and infatuation with great beer. They are tireless in their efforts to find and stock the best beer available.

Beer Revolution is an easy walk from downtown Oakland (and from the 12th Street BART station) and not far from Jack London Square. A roomy, sun-drenched outdoor patio leads to the spacious pub, dominated by a beautiful bar and several cold cases, with the beer organized according to style: stouts, lagers, IPAs, etc. The barrels/tables inside the pub are decorated with beer caps and sometimes-edgy rock music accents the ambience. There’s no food available on site, though you’re welcome to bring it in. Like City Beer, there are no televisions to distract from conversation or the enjoyment of the beer. Although the setup looks simple, it’s obviously been intelligently thought through.
Beer Revolution has only been open for a few months, but it has already attracted a steady clientele of beer lovers, especially in the late afternoon. Even when it’s busy, however, Beer Revolution never feels as cramped as the tiny City Beer.
Just like City Beer, the owners of Beer Revolution are dedicated to helping customers explore the nuances of beer and will happily pour a taste if you’re curious about a particular beer on tap. On a recent visit, Beer Revolution focused on strong dark beers (stout Wednesday), including Allagash Black, Dark Force from HaandBryggeriet in Norway, Lost Abbey Serpent Stout, the delicious anniversary collaboration between Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman and Anchor Brewing’s Fritz Maytag, Unibroue’s Chambly Noir and several others.
Before diving into the dark side, I needed a lighter beer to quench my thirst after the walk from downtown and settled on a cold bottle of the crisp yet complex Weihenstephenar Vitus, a weizenbock from Brauerei Weihenstephan in Germany. Beer Revolution’s bottle prices are remarkably reasonable, and you don’t need to turn on the taps to enjoy some great beer. But the Allagash Black (pictured) was irresistibly tempting and it poured blackly beautiful, crowned with a foamy white head. It’s a full-flavored beer that expresses its nuances as you sip it. Once some of the darks are cleared out, Beer Revolution will tap a keg of Dogfish Head’s delicious Burton Baton double IPA.
Beer Revolution is a newborn compared with City Beer and it’s still working out a few kinks with distributors and format. Having some rudimentary food available would be a plus, or perhaps forming an alliance with some of the local restaurants to have food delivered. Even in its infancy, however, Beer Revolution is already a worthy destination and a strong addition to any Bay Area beer lover’s itinerary.

Beer Revolution
464 3rd St
Oakland, CA, 94607
Tues - Thurs:
noon - 9:30 pm
Fri - Sat:
noon - 10:00 pm
noon - 9:00 pm
closed Mondays

City Beer
1168 Folsom St
(between Hallam St & Langton St)
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 503-1033
Tue-Sat Noon to 10pm
Sunday Noon to 6pm
Closed on Monday

Major League food a hit at the Giants new Public House

Denied the joy of celebrating a World Series victory since the team moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958, Giants fans also have suffered through a couple of culinary missteps outside the Giants’ gorgeous China Basin digs. But with the opening of Public House, coinciding with the start of the 2010 season, fans finally have a go-to player at 24 Willie Mays Plaza.
One reason the previous tenant, Acme Chophouse, didn’t make the cut was that its game plan was tilted toward “fine” (whatever that means) sit-down dining. That too-formal strategy was at odds with the casual atmosphere fans expect before a baseball game. Redesigned inside and out, Public House seems to have corrected the stodgy atmosphere and the restaurant/pub now feels more casual, airy and welcoming.
The entrance to the room is dominated by two large bars that face one another. The bar on the left is mostly for mixed drinks and wine while the bar on the right is primarily for beer (the empty beer kegs are a dead giveaway). You can order anything from either bar. However, the two bars form a sort of funnel as you proceed deeper into the room, creating a potential bottleneck for bartenders and wait staff scurrying back and forth (staff refers to it as the “kill zone”). It will be interesting to see what creative steps Public House takes to avoid congestion. Beyond the bar are some tables, a large, open kitchen and the turnstile entrance to AT&T Park. There are also tables in front of the bar in a patio that is designed to be warmed by heaters below the sidewalk rather than space heaters.

The menu features casual, beer-friendly appetizers and pub food like fish and chips, a BLT, a variety of hotdogs and sausages, sliders, a burger and salads. Considering the location and the quality, prices are not outrageous. Unlike in Philly, you will not find Velveeta on Thom’s Cheesesteak Sandwich ($12). Instead, there’s a nice pile of tender, juicy beef, grilled onions and sweet peppers encased in a soft, fresh roll. Although the sandwich is not huge, it’s very tasty and big enough to share as an appetizer. The Mac-n-Cheese appetizer ($5), a holdover from Acme Chophouse, is not to be missed. It arrives piping hot, with melted yellow cheese atop soft, creamy elbow noodles. Matched with an Allagash White or an Ommegang Pale Ale, the cheesesteak and mac ‘n cheese combo is almost as satisfying as a Brian Wilson strikeout to close out a game. Just like with your beer or alcoholic beverage of choice, you can take the food inside the park with you.
Dave McLean, owner of the Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery and The Alembic in the Haight, was on hand to help inaugurate the new baseball season and the new pub with a special beer brewed just for Public House. McLean called his cask-conditioned English ale “Billy Sunday Bitter,” which combines the name of an 19th century baseball player turned evangelist with a Grateful Dead lyric from Ramble on Rose* (if you spend more than 10 minutes at Magnolia, you’re bound to hear some Dead). Billy Sunday the ale is the kind of beer you might have in a cask in England: naturally carbonated and served at cellar temperature (rather than refrigerator cold) so that you can appreciate all the nuances of the beer. It seemed somewhat hoppy for an English style bitter but was delicious nonetheless.
Having Dave McLean and Magnolia onboard, along with beer from several local breweries, helps establish Public House as part of the San Francisco beer scene and might even make China Basin a beer destination beyond the estimable 21st Amendment a couple of blocks away.

The Giants seem finally to have a lineup of decent hitters and one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, playing in one of the most beautiful parks in the country. And for the first time since the park opened in 2000, long-suffering Giants fans have a pub worthy of a pennant contender. Who knows? Maybe this really will be their year after all.
Public House
24 Willie Mays Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94107

No reservations

*Ramble on Rose
(Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia)

Just like Jack the Ripper
Just like Mojo Hand
Just like Billy Sunday
In a shotgun ragtime band
Just like New York City,
Just like Jericho
Pace the halls and climb the walls
Get out when they blow

Public House beer scouting report

You’d have to be a very, very picky drinker not to find an acceptable brew among the new Public House’s two dozen taps and a similar number of bottles. More challenging, perhaps, is figuring out which beers are best at different times of the day and which beers match best with what you plan to eat. Here are a few tips to get you headed in the right direction. Keep in mind that although these beers are well chosen and represent a broad range of styles, many of the taps are likely to rotate over time.
Percentages refer to abv, or alcohol by volume. Remember that a lot of these beers are higher in alcohol than the typical American lagers and should be treated with respect. But high alcohol does not necessary connote more flavor.
Rule of thumb: when the seagulls start swarming as they do in this picture, it's time to think about an Old Rasputin.

Beer keg tapping.
Public House alert:
Magnolia brewer, David McLean, has created a cask ale just for Public House!

We will be tapping it for the first time today, April 7 at 5pm. Come join us to celebrate and try out this exclusive ale paired with some of our favorite menu items.


These refreshing, thirst-quenching lagers and ales are relatively low in alcohol and great for warm days in the park. They pair very well with a variety of foods. Try a Belgian pale ale or saison with a burrito or a Cha-Cha Bowl, or even with sushi for instance. If you’re accustomed to drinking American lagers, Trumer Pils is a good first step up, as are wit beers like Allagash from Portland, Maine, and hefeweizens. If you like hoppy beers, go for an IPA or an American pale ale. They’re perfect with grilled sausages and meats.


Trumer Pils (German-style pilsner) 4.8%
Anchor Steam (California common lager) 4.9%
Ommegang Belgian-style pale ale 6.2%
Valley Brewing London Tavern English Mild 4.8%
Marin Brewing Tiburon Blonde (American blonde ale) 5.1%
Speakeasy Big Daddy (American IPA) 6.5%
Allagash White (Belgian style wit bier) 5.2%
Bear Republic Racer 5 (American IPA) 6.8%
Firestone Walker Pale 31 (American pale ale) 4.6%
Sierra Nevada Cristalweiss (filtered wheat beer) 4.4%
Stella Artois (European pale lager) 5%


Saison Dupont (Belgian farmhouse ale) 6.5%
Hopf Helle Weiss (hefeweizen) 5.3%
Schonramer Gold (Marzen/Oktoberfest) 6%
Pinkus Pilsner (pilsner) 5.1%
Georg Schneider Edel-Weisse (hefeweizen) 5.4%
Zatec Pils (Czech pilsner) 4.8%
21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat (fruit flavored wheat beer) 4.9%
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (American pale ale) 5.6%
Pacifico (American adjunct lager) 4.8%


The following beers are a little more full-bodied and complex and would work well in the early evening right before the first pitch and during the first half of the game. Some of them are relatively high in alcohol. Pale and red ales stand up well to spicy foods.


Port Midnight Sessions Lager (dark lager) 5.5%
Guinness Draught (Irish stout) 4.2%
Anchor Liberty Ale (American pale ale) 6%
Moylans Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale (Scotch ale/wee heavy) 8%
Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale (American red ale) 6.8%
Lost Abbey Devotion (Belgian-style pale ale) 6.2%
*Firestone Walker Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale (American pale ale) 5%
*Magnolia (a special cask-conditioned English ale brewed especially for Public House) probably under 5%

*The last two are hand-pumped from a cask the old-fashioned way. They’ll be low in carbonation and not as cold as beer from a regular keg.


Orval (Belgian pale ale) 6.9%
Chimay White (Belgian tripel) 8%
Witkap Pater Singel (Belgian pale ale) 6%
Kasteel Geuze Fond 6%
Reutberger Dunkel (Munch dunkel lager) 5.3%
Wiehenstephaner Korbinian (dopplebock) 7.4%
Fullers 1845 (English strong ale) 5.9%
Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale (English brown ale) 5%


These beers are heavier, darker, higher in alcohol and more suited for the late innings of night games. If you’re driving, be careful with these beers and drink some water afterward.


North Coast Old Rasputin (imperial stout) 9%
Lost Abbey Judgment Day (quadruppel) 10.5%
Deschutes Black Butte (porter) 5.2%
Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (American strong ale) 8.7%


La Trappe Isid’or (Belgian pale ale) 7.5%
Rochefort 10 (quadruppel) 11.3%
Westmalle Trappist Tripel (Belgian tripel) 9.5%
Trappist Achel 8° Brune (Belgian dubbel) 9.5%
Rodenbach Grand Cru (Flanders red ale) 6%

Public House
24 Willie Mays Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94107

No reservations

Play ball: Craft beer comes to AT&T with Public House

Baseball and beer share a cherished and, for the most part, an amicable history. The exception was the ill-fated ten cent beer night the Cleveland Indians scheduled against the Texas Rangers in 1974. “America may need a good five cent cigar,” observed American League President Lee McPhail after the ensuing insanity, “but it doesn’t need ten cent beer.”
The Cleveland beer riot notwithstanding, beer is woven into the fabric of professional baseball. Milwaukee’s team is known as the Brewers, and the Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals and Brewers all play in stadiums named for beer company sponsors. And it’s no wonder. Ballparks sell a lot of beer, most of which is made by the same giant brewers that advertise all over the parks and during commercials in televised games. But like a growing number of restaurants and pubs, major league ballparks are acknowledging that there’s money to be made selling beer to more discerning drinkers.
As microbreweries become more established across the country, ballparks are tapping into local and regional beer. Philly fans get Troegs, Flying Fish and Victory beer; in the Midwest, Indian fans can drink Great Lakes, Harpoon IPA and Goose Island. The baseball gods have not smiled on San Diego of late, but thanks to the area’s rich microbrew culture, Padres fans can drown their sorrow in Stone Pale Ale, Levitation and IPA; Firestone-Walker; Red Hook Swim Chance; Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale and Big Eye IPA; Alaskan IPA; Rogue Dead Guy Ale; Deschutes Black Butte Porter; Green Flash IPA; Widmer Drifter Pale Ale and Anderson Valley Boont Amber, among others.
Sadly, Giant fans have been poorly served by a bush league lineup of overpriced, underperforming “craft” beers poured out of bottles at remote outposts scattered around the park.
With the opening of Public House, Giants fans might finally have the beer to match the majesty of the park. Public House, along with the adjoining Mijita restaurant, has replaced the Acme Chop House this season. Public House has about two dozen taps, most of them representative of West Coast brewing stalwarts like Bear Republic, Moylans, Marin Brewing, Firestone-Walker, Port, Stone, Deschutes and Valley Brewing. The pub also has a couple cask-conditioned ales, including an unfiltered Double Barrel Ale from Firestone Walker in Paso Robles and a cask-conditioned English-style ale from Magnolia in the Haight.

Interesting bottles include Belgian beers such as Rodenbach Grand Cru and Westmalle Tripel, and German beers like Weihenstephan Korbinian, from what’s reputed to be the oldest brewery in the world.
This is all well and good for a pregame beer, but what really separates Public House from the other pubs in the neighborhood is the turnstile that leads into the park from the bar. That turnstile magically transforms ordinary pub beer into ballpark beer that you can enjoy while you watch the game.
Here’s how it’s done.
When you order your beer (or any other alcoholic beverage) make sure to have it poured into a plastic cup, since you can’t bring glass into the park. Carefully tote your beer or two (taking a sip if necessary to avoid spillage) to the turnstile/doorway in the back of the Public House, which leads into AT&T Park the same way the Giants Dugout Store does. Have your ticket scanned and proceed to your seat with your beer and whatever food you want to bring in from Public House, Mijita or wherever else you buy your food.
That’s all there is to it. While your neighbors are draining blue bottles of crappy Bud, you can savor a craft beer fresh from a tap.
But that’s not the end of the story. You can also exit the park, duck back inside Public House and return with another craft beer. You’ll need to have your hand stamped when you exit the park and have your ticket with you.
The quickest way out of the park and into Public House is probably via the steps behind the center field bleachers. If you want to maintain contact with the action as long as possible, you can stroll through the arcade or around the lower deck seats until you reach the exit at Second Street and King, then duck into Public House for your beer. Armed with your beer, head for the turnstile again and show the ticket taker your ticket and stamp, and presto, you’re back in the park with a craft beer that is typically not only cheaper than what you can buy in the park, but infinitely tastier. Moreover, you might be able to return to your seat faster than if you were waiting in line for a Miller Lite.

In our next post, we’ll provide a scouting report for the beers currently available at Public House and suggest how to best enjoy them.

Public House alert:
Magnolia brewer, David McLean, has created a cask ale just for Public House!

We will be tapping it for the first time on Wednesday, April 7 at 5pm. Come join us to celebrate and try out this exclusive ale paired with some of our favorite menu items.

Public House
24 Willie Mays Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94107

No reservations