Video #308, Lagunitas: Flyin' high in NorCal.

FINALLY! The Happy Hour Guys have flown/driven coast to coast to get some coverage in NORCAL. We begin our tour in Petaluma, CA at Lagunitas Brewing, a friendly, music and herb driven collective that has gone from founder Tony Magee selling kegs out of his car in 1994 to a nationwide force in Craft Brewing that is selling world-changing beer. Click play to be introduced to this craft family, and big thanks to Matt Fabiano and Kevin Carolan for some stellar camera work.  Cheers!

 With Chief Marketing guru Ron Lindenbusch, "The Beer Weasel".

With Chief Marketing guru Ron Lindenbusch, "The Beer Weasel".

 VIRGO SUPER CLUSTER.

VIRGO SUPER CLUSTER.

 WHOA.

WHOA.

Soon, there will be San Francisco treats!

 Yup; that's the Golden Gate, from about 4000 feet.

Yup; that's the Golden Gate, from about 4000 feet.

 Our digs on Tomales Bay. WOW! (Thanks, Tony Magee!)

Our digs on Tomales Bay. WOW! (Thanks, Tony Magee!)

 Lagunitas, Petaluma, CA, USA, Earth, Sol, Local Group, Virgo Super Cluster, Space.

Lagunitas, Petaluma, CA, USA, Earth, Sol, Local Group, Virgo Super Cluster, Space.

 Don't take my awesome beer! With Mark and Jack Alger at Lagunitas.

Don't take my awesome beer! With Mark and Jack Alger at Lagunitas.

 We think these guys will be ok. The brewery, and us.

We think these guys will be ok. The brewery, and us.

 Gnawin' dem bones at SMOKESTACK. I do look a tad dog-like here...

Gnawin' dem bones at SMOKESTACK. I do look a tad dog-like here...

 Magnetic Letters R Us, at Brewcade in the Castro.

Magnetic Letters R Us, at Brewcade in the Castro.

Sometimes, as The Happy Hour Guys, we just get an opportunity to go where the wind takes us. And one of the directions we've always wanted the wind to blow? Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. We've been seriously lacking in our coverage there since the beginning; we've been around the country and around the world, but as far as the American West goes, we've always had a problem with getting very far north of LA. (I mean, we're Actors, can you blame us? Spielberg might call at any minute.) 

Those of you who know our content know that we've spent a lot of time in Colorado, a ton of time in the East Coast (we're based in New York City), we been down south, Texas, the Midwest (tons of stuff in Michigan); but NorCal? Seriously lacking. Now if your show is about Craft Liquids and great places to drink them, that's leaving out all whole lot of material. A ton. Okay, several tons. So when the opportunity arose for us to get to San Francisco, we jumped on it. It went a little bit like this: Mark is on the National Tour of the Broadway musical Newsies, and they are 'sitting down' in San Francisco for the month. I got a cheap fare, the good folks at Lagunitas gave us the use of their guest house for couple of days (many, many thanks, Tony Magee!!), and WE WERE ON.

Truly, I'm not going to give it all away, because in a 52 hour period we shot lots and lots of footage - maybe days worth of footage - (damn, I have a lot of editing to do) and this stuff is going to translate into some pretty terrific episodes. But for your edification (and jealousy) let me give out the lineup of where we were:

We opened in San Francisco's Castro District  at Brewcade, a Craft Beer Haven full of arcade games and flavor; that night made our way out to Tomales Bay about an hour and a half north of San Francisco near Marshall; the next day it was off to Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma California, and a day with some of the coolest damn people we've ever had the opportunity to spend the day with, in the brewery, the performance space, their FARM; then north to Santa Rosa and the Russian River Brewing Company (just north of Petaluma), where, because of the release of Pliny the Younger the week before, the staff had the 'thousand yard stare'... and they had every right to have. PTSD from Craft Beer. It happens.

We ended this epic trip back in San Francisco's Dogpatch District, at the Magnolia Brewing Company's Smokestack BBQ joint, with English style ales and some of the best brisket we've had in recent memory. Then I was back on a late plane and seemingly instantaneously, in New York with a cold wind cutting thru me and the snow melting around my boots, wishing I was back in Golden Gate country.

Man, is there a lot of fun content coming soon. As I said, we shot hours of footage - and here are some stills to hold you over until then we start rolling them out. 

If you have a chance... get yourself to NorCal!

Cheers!

The 14 Best USA Craft Beer Bars.*

*That we've visited.  

Alright, keep your shirts on.  We know there's a bewildering number of mind-numbingly awesome Craft bars there are out there, and we're aware of how many more there are for us to visit.  And it is our QUEST to get to every single one of them - (oh hey, do us a solid and add your suggestions to the comment section, will you?).  In the meantime, it's time to celebrate some great locals.  Check out these terrific Craft Stops:

First, one of our most recent stops, in Midtown Manhattan; Beer Culture. Just next to the Hirshfeld Theatre in the Broadway District, this new watering hole is also a bottle shop.


Winner of Best Beer Bar in NY in 2013? Check. Long Island City? Check. Amazing owners? You've gotta meet the folks at Alewife NYC.  


We happened to stop in to this spot in Hollywood a few years ago, and even though it's weathered some storms it's still going strong: The Blue Palms Brewhouse.


No NYC Craft Beer Bar experience is complete without a visit to Jimmy's. And if you're very lucky, you'll get to hang out with owner Jimmy Carbone, (or Jimmy Pots & Pans), a legend in the NYC Craft Community. Come home to Jimmy's.


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HOPCAT. The Midwestern Craft Beer Mecca in Grand Rapids, MI. We didn't shoot video here, but dammit, we visited. And we came away very, very happy.  By the way, HopCat is opening a new location in Downtown Detroit this year, and we hear it's going to be massive.  Beer hear!


Pacific Standard, on 4th Ave in Brooklyn.  We're pretty sure that this is what the dorm rooms at Beer Appreciation College look like.


Tucked away in the Berkshire region of Western Mass, MOE's Tavern is the bar you always dreamt about. No seriously, it is.


Adobe Blues - This may be the best reason to ride the Staten Island Ferry.  Over, and over, and over. You'll 'flip' for this place...


Pizza and great Craft in Amish Country?  Yup. We've seen rare beers at The Fridge in Lancaster, PA, that we have a hard time finding in a city of 8 million people! 


Truly not to be missed, Proletariat is a tiny (and we mean tiny) place in the East Village of NYC that sports some of the rarest worldwide Craft we've ever seen. A bucket list bar.


Ah, the Pony Bar Hell's Kitchen on 45th and 10th Ave in Midtown Manhattan; the bar that helped turn the Craft Beer wave in this part of NYC into a Tsunami.  We were there at the beginning.


This place in Minneapolis was Craft long before it was cool: Mackenzie, the Bar Next Door to the Theatre is the place you've always wanted in your neighborhood.


Ever been to Portland, Maine?  Once you've seen our episode featuring The Great Lost Bear, you'll be looking to book your ticket.


And lastly, in memoriam: The Collins Bar, which sadly is long gone now, reduced to a hole in the ground on 8th Avenue NYC that's on its way to becoming a tall shiny expensive set of apartments. We fondly remember discovering flavors of Craft here that we never knew existed.  Still one of our favorites, and deserving of the memory.  And as you can see, also one of the first places we ever shot.

That's how our list starts.  What's on yours?

San Francisco Beer Week!

Squigs here, back home in snowy NYC after a long rainy weekend in the City by the Bay.  The weather may be bringing the gloom, but San Francisco Beer Week made the world sunshiny for this beer dweeb.  Friday night, I kicked off the visit with the SFBW Opening Gala which brought together 80-something breweries from around the Bay Area.  Such an onslaught of beer goodness from craft beer pioneers and the new kids on the block and all in-between.  A couple of my favorites were Beatification from Russian River and a smoky porter with redwood branches from Moonlight called Camping with Witches.  The sold out event was rather well-run and really clued me into just how vast this craft community is and how serious they are about their beer.  I thoroughly enjoyed the event, then met up with my people at the amazing Mikkeller Bar which was a couple blocks from our hotel.

 San Francisco Beer Week 2014, Opening Gala.

San Francisco Beer Week 2014, Opening Gala.

I should tell you that I've been on a bit of a hunt for the much heralded triple IPA, Russian River's Pliny the Younger... for the past four years.  One year, I was driving up the coast on a rather tight schedule and had to pass by Santa Rosa... one day before the Younger release.  Another year I bought a crazy amount of raffle tickets to win a pour at the esteemed Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach, California.  The money went to cancer research charities so I was happy about that, but alas I didn't win.  And I watched many a patron drink theirs as I sat next to them at the bar.  In addition to spending time with good friends and experiencing this great city, I'd be lying if I said that the chance to finally get some of this beer wasn't an incentive.  The hunt was on, but my first chance was a bust.  The keg of Younger at the Opening Gala kicked just before the full line (and my place in it) got into the venue.  (Cue sad trombone "wah wah".)

SATURDAY: I wish I could build up more suspense on this beer-hunting adventure, but I've got to admit that Saturday morning brought me my victory.  There were accounts of folks who waited 10-12 hours in the rain in Santa Rosa for their chance.  But my pals and I attended the 14th annual Double IPA Festival at The Bistro in Hayward, and our first pour of the day was the elusive Pliny the Younger (which then kicked 30 minutes later).  The angels sang at the end of the rainbow.  It was time to taste what I heard was a really great batch. (Sip.)  Was it great?  Definitely.  Am I happy I made the effort and tasted it?  Most certainly.  So great!  Have I had other beers that I have enjoyed just as much?  Absolutely.  Is Younger over-coveted and over-crazed?  Yes.  Chasing those white rhinos of craft beer is a lot of fun, but every time I achieve one, I'm reminded that there are amazing beers practically made in my back yard.  Drinking a Younger actually made me think ahead to drinking a Peekskill Higher Standard or Newburgh Hop Drop or Barrier Daddy Warbucks.  Enjoy chasing those white rhinos (or pink elephants), y'all, but cherish your local goodness.  Those local to the Bay Area have the benefit of being in a pioneering and ever-innovating and passionate beer community, and this is the reason for celebration this week.  There was more to come.

The Double IPA Fest featured almost 70 double IPAs and almost 30 triple IPAs.  Seriously.  I tasted maybe 15 due to the size of the pours.  I didn't even taste the winners of the professional judging (Kinetic Afterburner DIPA, Iron Springs Compulsory TIPA) but I did sample the two that won People's Choice (Kern River Citra DIPA and from one of my favorite hangouts from my Southern Cal days, Pizza Port Carlsbad Thruster TIPA) and they were indeed fantastic.

Then for the rest of the day my peeps chased David Walker of Firestone Walker around town.  Just picture Walker's Wild Ride jeep followed closely by three beer nerds in a cab.  We sampled PNC and Sour Opal at Toronado and Parabola at The Royal Exchange.  And Squigs said it was good.

 DIPA Fest at The Bistro. Squigs getting Younger by the minute. Toronado. Walker's Wild Ride.

DIPA Fest at The Bistro. Squigs getting Younger by the minute. Toronado. Walker's Wild Ride.

SUNDAY: After carb loading for another day of sampling tasty brews, it was off to City Beer (bar and bottle shop) to taste a range of beers from Beachwood Brewing in Long Beach with head brewer Julian Shrago.  During my years in Southern California, I was happy to watch Gabe Gordon's organization grow from the small storefront beer and BBQ place in Seal Beach to adding their newer facility in downtown Long Beach to their big presence in the national craft scene.  Their lineup on this day was fantastic, and since I was still in a bit of a hop bomb mood from the previous day, I had to revisit their Hops of Fury TIPA.  It was great chatting with Julian (and Stillwater's Brian Strumke who dropped in as well) and local craft aficionados.  And the tapping of a keg of AleSmith Vietnamese Speedway Stout, was not unwelcome in the least.

Then we were off to Oakland and a sampling of SF Beer Week project Two Hop Varietals.  Hog's Apothecary was one of the venues featuring this endeavor that required nine (or ten) breweries to pick two hops to brew a beer specifically for the occasion.  I particularly enjoyed the offerings from Faction, Alpine, and Kern River.  We finished off the day with a return to the amazing Toronado where we found Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme.  Nice capper.

 City Beer. Brewers Julian Shrago (Beachwood) and Brian Strumke (Stillwater) among the people. Hog's Apothecary and the Two Hop Varietals project.

City Beer. Brewers Julian Shrago (Beachwood) and Brian Strumke (Stillwater) among the people. Hog's Apothecary and the Two Hop Varietals project.

MONDAY: While I eased off the beery activity to see some sights, I did manage an Irish coffee at The Buena Vista and one last stop at Mikkeller Bar.  As I wandered the city, I mused on a great weekend.  I did a lot.  I missed a lot too, but I had a great time with friends celebrating this region's amazing craft beer.  Success!

Y'all, San Francisco and environs have seriously got it going on.  A community with roots about as deep as modern craft beer can get.  Get there if you can (and if you're quick enough, you still have a few more days of great events this year).  There are great beer destinations all over this country.  So many wonderful things to taste that come from so many wonderful communities.  So many stories.  Enjoy them all.  And then go home and support your local folk.  Cheers, all!

 Many happy craft beer loving folk at the Opening Gala in San Francisco.

Many happy craft beer loving folk at the Opening Gala in San Francisco.