healthy spirits, bistro gambrinus and hopmonk tavern – an SF weekend

last weekend AP and I flew back up to our old stomping grounds in SF for a swim as well as some much-needed beer exposure.

  • on friday we made a pit stop over at columbus cafe, and old favorite, where a couple pints of lagunitas’ dogtown pale and bear republic’s racer 5 eased me into the weekend.
  • we also cruised by bistro gambrinus for dinner per AP’s research, which turned out to be a great idea.  the food was great (the burgers looked awesome), and although the service was spotty and a couple taps were kicked, the beers were still outstanding.  I grabbed a köstritzer schwarzbier (drinkable and well balanced, a little more refined than death and taxes) as well as a schneider aventinus (not my thing, tons of clove and banana), and AP knocked back a neumarkter lammsbräu dunkel, which was damn tasty and made me wish I had ordered it (AP has been doing a lot of that lately).
  • on saturday we hit the bridge and went up to the hopmonk tavern in sebastopol with the CBs and TB (after trying some of CB’s pale and his killer saison going to town in his fermenator).  after getting off on the wrong foot with their house kellerbier (super corny and actually pretty horrible), I recovered with pliny, while the table was being peppered with favorites like lagunitas’ kronik/censored and rodenbach’s grand cru.
  • we also stopped by bottle barn on the way back to grab some beers, highlights including ’08 bourbon county stouts for $3.50 a pop!
  • before taking off on sunday, there was one essential stop to be made over at healthy spirits.  this spot was my first major beer discovery in the city and is still a must-visit location for many reasons, a few of them being:
    • the staff – the owner, rami, and resident beer expert, dave, are super friendly and can talk for days about beer.  dave has given me great homebrewing ideas (kvass IPA) as well as insightful beer procurement advice (bi-rite for brews?).
    • the selection – unless I cruise down to port’s bottle shop in SD, there is really no other place I can go to get ANY hard-to-find beers, much less small batch belgians from cantillon, fantome, drie fonteinen, etc.  healthy spirits carries them all, and aggressively stocks some of the finest beers money can buy.
    • the blog – dave maintains a great blog that is consistently updated with their new procurements.  even though I can’t make it in most of the time, I can check the blog to keep updated on new killer releases.
  • of course, this selection and service does come with a price (healthy spirit beers ain’t cheap), but if you mix a sixer you get a discount.  I grabbed a boxload of brews and checked them on my flight without any issues (FYI, a standard 24-pack filled with 6-7 wrapped bottles weighs about 25 pounds, well under standard airline limits).
  • when AP and I finally got back to LA, we were glad to be home, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss the amazing beer scene up north.

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