Following Aussies Around the North Bay

Since it’s our primary mission to add breweries to “The List,” we often overlook old favorites in our efforts to add new ones. So, it’s always nice to beer tour with other people and let them set the agenda. A visit to the North Bay with our Australian friend Todd from beermen.TV and a couple of his friends was a great opportunity to re-experience this beer mecca from a fresh perspective.

Merideth tasting the beers at Elevation 66

Before we hooked up with the Aussies, we couldn’t resist making one quick stop to add a new brewery. Elevation 66 in El Cerrito opened a scant three weeks ago. I’m not sure there is a new brewpub smell, but the long and narrow, bright and shiny space had the distinct feel of being new. The first customers of day, Merideth and I bellied up to the bar for a quick taster set.

Elevation 66 only had three brews of the planned six available. The almost 7% ABV British IPA was a bit strange, our issue mainly being the alcohol content in a “British” version of an IPA. The standout of the three was Golden Age Ale, a 5.5% ABV Golden Ale that was very refreshing on a soon to be hot day. However, the beer with the most promise might be Esther Vanilla Stout. A true session beer at 3.5% ABV, once they get the recipe dialed in, this Stout could be a real winner.

Given the newness of the brewery, I think it’s best to reserve any sort of judgment. But there was enough there to warrant a return visit in several months. Our visit to Elevation 66 was not the shortest ever, but 20 minutes after sitting down, we were back out the door headed to the other side of the Bay.

Mt. Tam Pale Ale at Marin Brewing Co.

Back in the day, when Merideth and I lived in Oakland, I worked in Point Richmond. A few minutes drive across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was Marin Brewing Company, a place my co-workers and I visited on a regular basis. Those post-work beers sitting on Marin Brewing’s patio were some of my fondest memories of that job.

Until a few days ago, it had been almost 20 years since we visited Marin Brewing. Meeting the Aussie trio a bit past noon, Merideth and I relived those happy afternoons from the last century. While drinking the wonderful Mt. Tam Pale Ale, our group bathed in the sunny Marin weather on the patio. Just like in the old days, our crew joked about the people working out in the gym across the way. There’s nothing like eating fried food and drinking beer while watching someone sweat it out on the stairmaster.

Merideth enjoying Moylan's Kölsch-style beer

Despite its convenient location just off Hwy 101, our one and only visit to Moylan’s Brewery was in 1995. I guess our only defense for not making another visit since is that whenever we pass through Novato, we are always on our way to some place else.

Wednesday I realized what we have been missing. While Merideth drank their very nice Sommer Kolsch Bier, the boys indulged in one of Moylan’s better known and favorite beers, the Hopsickle Triple IPA. It had been several years since I drank the 9.2% ABV well-balanced hop bomb. I think the next time we’re in the North Bay, we just might have to make sure we stop.

I’ll admit that I’m not always the brightest bulb in the firmament. When Todd was planning which breweries to visit this day, I tried to convince him to bypass Lagunitas in favor of Bear Republic, a brewery I like better overall. Luckily Todd didn’t take my advice. Lagunitas was the stop of the day.

The Lagunitas beer garden

Our only prior visit to Lagunitas was in 2008. Back then, the tasting room was in a funky loft above the brewery. I knew they had built a new tasting room but wasn’t prepared for the amazing new setting for enjoying their beer. Despite its industrial park location, the beautiful beer garden was quite idyllic in the California afternoon sun. Throngs of happy beer drinkers were enjoying the Lagunitas brews on what turned out to be a hot day. We opted for a table inside the bright, airy tasting room.

Wet Hop Maximus, the beer of the day

A number of beers were sampled: Czech-Style Pils, Oktoberfest, Hop Stoopid and Fusion VII to name a few. But my favorite beer of the whole day was the wet hop version of Maximus. Wet hop beers the last few years have disappointed me. For the most part, they have been missing that resinous quality that made the beers so special. Wet Hop Maximus harked back to the brews that I fell in love with. I could feel the oily hop resins covering my tongue.

An enjoyable evening at Russian River

The encore stop for our day was, of course, Russian River Brewing Company. As usual, the brewpub was packed and hopping when we arrived mid-evening. We quickly acquired a table and let the fun begin.

After a point, the evening became a blur with beers continuously being ordered and consumed. Pliny the Elder, Defenestration, Supplication, Temptation, Little White Lie were among the great Russian River brews we drank that evening.

With the Aussies catching a morning flight to Denver, the night was ended on the relatively early side. With a full day of drinking fantastic beer, it was probably best that way. An always fun day in the North Bay was made more special hanging out with a few Aussies. Thanks for that, mates!

View all the images from our day…

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