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This quickly planned (mostly unplanned) solo trip to the US was great fun.  I tried a lot of great beers, ate some great food, met some interesting people and travelled alone for the first time.

I have to be honest, this was far from a planned beer holiday. My best friend of more than 20 years and his family had been living in the USA for almost two years and was coming back in a few months.  I had said I was going to visit from the day they left and opportunities were running out.  A quick call confirmed that the week of Thanksgiving was good, so it was on like Donkey Kong.

Then came the dilemma of planning this trip in about a month.  I had to fly in and out of LA. The last week was reserved for Virginia with my friend and his family. Somewhere in the middle I also wanted to get to Columbus Ohio. Some American friends that I hadn’t seen for a few years were living there.  Around that I just needed to get to those places and try some beers in between. So the plan went like this:

LA → The Bay Area → Chicago → Kalamazoo → Columbus → Quantico → Home.

This wasn’t my first trip to the US so don’t fret at some of the notable exclusions.  Time was limited and I wanted to try new things (beers).  I packed my backpack (carry on only for me) and set off.

LA:  I step off a plane at 7:30 am.  By the time I get through customs in a cab and to my hotel at Venice Beach it is 9am.  I can’t check in yet.  Not many bars open so I grab a coffee and walk along the beach from Venice to Santa Monica.  On my way I spy the Venice Beach Alehouse. This had been on my list to visit, so I take note of its location and plan to return.20141114_230634371_iOS

As soon as I am able to check in I do.  After showering 15 hours of flight and a few hours of walking off me I head straight to the alehouse.  Perched at the bar I enjoy many west coast brews including some from Ballast Point.  I get chatting to a couple of people at the bar and despair that there isn’t enough room for one of the tasting paddles that are served in a skateboard.

Before I know it the afternoon is gone and I had to get to the rooftop bar at my hotel to see the sunset.  This was exciting for me as I had never seen a sunset over the ocean.  I grabbed a Dogtown Duck IPA and sat down to watch the sunset.  I got talking to a couple of other tourists and had several more beers.  Good thing to remember: eat during the day while you sightsee and remember that west coast IPAs have a little bit more %ABV than beers at home.  Needless to say I had a great night but the latter half of it is hazy.  Getting up to fly to San Francisco was a challenge.

20141115_004612817_iOSThe Bay Area: I manage to climb out of bed and into an Uber to LAX, consume a large bottle of water and board the plane to San Fran.  I have been to SF once before and loved it.  It is however a little expensive so I opted to stay across the bay in Oakland.  I am very disorganised and once I get into where I am staying am shattered to realise that Anchor brewing isn’t open for tours the days I am in town.  I decide I should have a beer and something to eat and regroup.  I find a tiny little bar that has fantastic burgers and even better an extensive list of draught craft beers.  While enjoying the first White IPA I have ever tried I get to work on Google. I discover that Berkeley has a Sierra Nevada bar called the Torpedo Room. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to Chico, the home of Sierra Nevada, when I booked this trip. This was going to make up for that. I also find that Bay Area Brewery Tours are running a tour of local breweries the next day.  I book it, enjoy a few more beers and then head to my accommodation to have a little more sleep, get changed and head out to the Torpedo room.

My plan is simple for the evening.  Have a few beers and something to eat and get home at a reasonable hour to wake up fresh for the tour.  I arrive at the Torpedo Room just in time to hear them call last drinks.  I am shattered.  Apparently my googling didn’t include me checking the trading hours.  I ask the bartender what beer he would choose if he could only have one.  He recommends the Harvest Wet and Wild.  It is a beer brewed with whole hops found on a wild vine on a property in Chico.  It doesn’t disappoint. I strike up a conversation with the guy next to me.  A PhD student at UC Berkeley, he tells me a little bit about his fascinating research into bacteria that produce electrical charges.  After making me feel completely inadequate on an intellectual level, he tells me that not far away is a Brewpub called Jupiter that has some good beers and also does decent food.

Once I muscle my way into a seat at the bar at Jupiter I peruse the beer list and decide to take it easy and stick to low %ABV beers.  I immediately strike the Quasar Double IPA off my list.  As good as it sounds, I want to be standing tomorrow for the tour.  Once again I am surprised by how friendly people at a bar are.  I get chatting to the guy next to me and we start talking about beers, America, Australia and everything in between.  He insists on buying me a Quasar and as such I feel I should reciprocate and a few more follow.  Before I know it I am quite drunk and it is quite late.  Oh well, at least I remembered to eat this time.

Stay tuned for part 2 

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