It seems like yesterday.
On October 19, 1991, Chris and I walked up College Ave in Rockridge headed to the Cal football game against Washington. We spied a tall blond woman handing beer mats through the windows to passengers on the buses headed to Memorial Stadium. As we passed on foot, she handed us a couple of coasters. One said, “If Cal kicks a field goal, win a free appetizer.” This one moment led to who we are as beer travelers today.
Although we lost the game 24-17, Cal did kick a field goal. Beer mat in hand, we walked back down College Ave and made our first visit to Barclay’s Pub.
With good beer flowing out of each of the 28 taps, Barclay’s quickly became our local. There was much more to Barclay’s than just the beer, though. It was a place where you truly knew everyone.
Within a few years of opening, I started working at Barclay’s as a waitress. Little did I know that it would change our lives forever. Wanting to be a knowledgeable server, I needed a way to better acquaint myself with the beers I was serving. The solution we came up with was going directly to the source, the breweries. Two decades and hundreds of brewery visits later, here we are.
If Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, we left ours in Barclay’s. Even after we moved away, Barclay’s has remained a special part of our lives, especially during Cal football season. Before every Cal home game (this season excluded), we have lunch and a few beers before walking up to the stadium.
As I wrote in a recent post, our pre-game Cal football ritual has been disrupted this year because Memorial Stadium is being remodeled. But this past weekend, twenty years and three days after that very first visit, we were back at Barclays before Cal’s game versus Utah.
The staff has changed and we rarely see the old familiar faces, but Barclay’s is still Barclay’s to us. It’s just as comfortable and homey as it was when we lived in the neighborhood. We’ve made new friends and there’s never a shortage of people to chat with at the bar. Chris and I have decided that if we ever opened a pub, we’d want it to be as neighborly as Barclay’s has always been.
We want to thank our friends at Barclay’s who made the twenty years special for us: Gene, Rowdy, Bill, Chef Bruce, Harry, Jack, Phil, Frannie, and all my regular customers, including Ted and the ultimate frisbee guys who came in every Sunday. Cheers!
I can’t mention our first visit to Barclay’s without also mentioning the tragedy that befell our neighborhood the following day. The Oakland Hills fire swept across the hills above our neighborhood on October 20, 1991. Like many Rockridge residents we were evacuated. Our friend Jon helped us evacuate, birds and all. At my in-laws house, we watched with horror as the news ran non-stop coverage of the hills engulfed in flames.
We were some of the lucky ones. The fire stopped several hundred yards from our apartment building. Others weren’t so lucky. We raise our glasses to all the firefighters who worked tirelessly to put the fire out. We also want to remember those who lost their lives that terrible day. You are not forgotten.