From the West: Bay Area Brew Fest, Part One

On this particular day, I woke up with noticeable pep in my step. This wasn’t any normal Saturday. No sir, this was the day of the Bay Area Brewfest. As I alluded to in my prior post, I recently moved to San Francisco’s East Bay. That being said, this was my first brew fest since the relocation. And for the first time in my beer festival career, I was tackling this beast as a solo mission.

Since the lady friend was off at a conference in the city, I had the house to myself. The first item on the agenda was limbering up… my liver. I scrambled up two eggs with some cheddar and accented the meal with a crisp, cold bottle of Tecate. Say what you will about this flavor of cervesa, but I love it. With my heuvos and beverage in hand, I scoped out potential plans of attack (read: bars to hit pre-fest). You may be asking yourself, “But Hoke, why wouldn’t you save yourself and just go to the brewfest sober?” After a kind-hearted chuckle, I’d answer with something along the lines of “priming the pump” and “taking a few warm-up laps”. Anyway…

I decided on a brewery that I’d yet to visit, the ThirstyBear Brewing Co. From there, it would be a short walk to BART, then hop on a trolley (ding! ding!) to Fisherman’s Wharf and hoof it to Fort Mason. Perfect. With a few last sips of Tecate, I readied my bag and made my way to the BART station to begin what would turn out to be an interesting day.

Arriving in the city around 11ish, I walked over to ThirstyBear. The sky was an awesome blue and the sun was beating down. As I rounded the corner after the Museum of Art, I saw the big sign for the brewery. Excited to quench my thirst, I walked right up the door but, much to my chagrin, it was locked. A quick look at the hours verified that, sure enough, they didn’t open until noon on Saturdays. This caused a bit of confusion, not because I was unsure of what to do next, but because what in the hell kind of bar doesn’t open before noon? Seriously?! I quickly recovered and fired up the iPhone to find the nearest watering hole. Luckily it was right down the street and was an Irish pub. That sounded good to me.

As I entered Kate O’Briens, I noted quite a visual shift from the streets of San Fran. Inside it was quaint, cozy and compared to the massive sign outside, fairly small. I bellied up to the bar and ordered a pint of ice and a bottle of Magners Irish cider. To date, I’ve yet to find a better alternative to Magners for pre-afternoon drinking. As the gold foiled treat was served, I realized that the eggs I ate earlier were long gone. This could be a problem, I thought. The only thing worse than heading into a brewfest stone cold sober is to arrive on an empty stomach. After I quickly eyed the menu, I asked the bartender which item I should order, the sweet potato fries or the Irish nachos. Without even responding she punched in the nachos.

The nachos didn’t last long. Combined with the pint of apple goodness, I felt as ready as ever to start my voyage to the northern shores. I took BART up several streets, and hopped on the light rail that goes along The Embarcadero. From Fisherman’s Wharf, I walked through Ghirardelli Square and right into Fort Mason. This all went swimmingly, until I realized something. Though I knew the fest was being held here, Fort Mason is really quite large. Part park, part warehouses and part ex-barracks, I didn’t have a clue where to go. What made matters worse was the fact that there wasn’t much in the way of signage. While I roamed around a bit, I found a few young folk who appeared just as lost as I was. Moments later, we stopped and ask for directions. The lady responded, “Go through those trees there and down the stairs, you won’t miss it.” We followed her directions and sure enough, we couldn’t miss it. The Bay Area Brewfest was being held in one of the fort’s long warehouses, dubbed the Festival Pavilion. As the bay shimmered in the background one could almost entirely miss the obscenely long line coming from the front of the building.

After I waited in the wrong line for ten or so minutes, I ended up in the will call line for people whose last names begin with a letter from A – J. Once I proved that I had a ticket and that, yes, I was over the age of 21, I got my little plastic mug, a bracelet and was ushered into the building, where things were obviously well underway.

Join me next Thursday for Part Two as I share my thoughts on the scene inside and watch as my notes get fuzzier and fuzzzzzzzz…