Last week, we worked our way from Flagstaff to the Bay Area, where we have a handful of awesome friends.
- The Comfort Inn in Barstow, CA is really nice. Like, really nice. There was a towel turkey in the bathroom, y'all! However, the walls are paper thin, and I can't unhear the neighbor noises that woke me out of a sound sleep at 1am.
- We visited the Firestone Walker Brewery in Paso Robles- their Bretta Weisse was just the right amount of tart, but also very Bretty (funky/horse blanket), which I really enjoyed. Their Anniversary Ale was super bourbon-heavy, which isn't always my favorite, but I appreciated what they did!
- We grabbed drinks at the Libertine Pub in Morro Bay- all their beers are done with wild/open fermentation- I was digging their chocolate vanilla Gose and the Gouden Foeder (this one reminded me of burnt popcorn, which should be disgusting, but I couldn't stop drinking it). We grabbed a late dinner at House of JuJu, the deliciousness of which was a pleasant surprise.
Here's the thing. We really had planned on Morro Bay as just being a place to sleep before we got up to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, so the fact that we were able to enjoy two craft breweries and a great meal was incredible. We wouldn't have known about Libertine had we not struck up a conversation with our bartender at Firestone Walker. Aside from always wanting to ask a billion questions about what I'm eating and drinking, I almost always choose to sit at the bar because bartenders are usually in the know about what to do and see in a given town.
The Pacific Coast Highway
Have you ever been driving and seen something so incredibly beautiful that you needed to stop to take it all in (and maybe get a few photographs)? California Route 1 is exactly that, but for the entire ride. Seriously, by the end of the ride, my face hurt from smiling so much. One of the coolest sights during this trip was the elephant seal scenic vista at Piedras Blancas. We pulled over and headed towards the water, at which point I saw a seal swimming a little ways out, and remarked "oh cool" then I noticed that the entire beach was covered in cuddling elephant seals! Fortunately, there was a docent present (seriously, always take advantage of an opportunity to talk to someone who knows stuff), who told me a little bit about elephant seal behavior, but more importantly, informed me that there's a webcam set up on the beach.
Here are a couple more photos from the drive:
The Bixby Creek Bridge
While the drive along the highway was an experience in and of itself, there were several points along the way where we wish we could have stopped and spent some time. We could have easily spent an extra day hiking trails and checking out one of the many state parks we passed. We're excited to come back and drive South on the highway- if our rearview mirrors are any indication, it will be a completely different experience.
- Monterey seems like a really cool city. Again, we were mostly expecting a simple dinner and a place to sleep, but were pleasantly surprised when the gentleman at the front desk provided us with a ton of information about where to eat and drink. After some quick Google recon, we decided to check out Alvarado Street Brewery, and they did not disappoint.
- Their beers are awesome. We ordered two flights (8- 5oz pours), and enjoyed everything we sampled. Our favorite beers were the Farmer's Market Cask (their California Common Beer cask conditioned with vanilla and cinnamon), the Peanut Butter Cup Milk Stout, and the Muay Thai (a super spicy beer infused with Thai chilis. We were seriously disappointed they didn't do growler fills of this one). They also had an impressive selection of guest taps and bottles, and they offered wine and a full bar (I saw luxardo cherries in drinks, so it seems they do it right).
- Their food menu was also awesome. It's fairly straightforward pub grub/comfort food, but it was executed incredibly well. We started off with fried brussels sprouts and poutine, then moved on to Greek salad and chicken pot pie. We contemplated ordering the bacon & egg flatbread once it arrived in front of our neighbor, but we were too full.
- Despite getting fairly busy during the time we were there, the staff remained attentive and friendly, which is always nice.
- On our way from Monterey to San Francisco, we stopped at the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park for a short hike. With the exception of having to cross some smaller streams (side note: I was increcibly happy to learn that my new hiking boots are very much waterproof!), the trails were relatively easy to maneuver, and the Redwoods were absolutely breathtaking.
One thing about planning a trip without really planning a trip is that when someone asks you when your travels will bring you to their neck of the woods, you can totally make it happen if you want to. Most of the second part of our time in California was spent staying with one of my oldest friends, Lacy, at her house in Oakland. As soon as we arrived, she took us to Drake's Brewery for some local beers and tater tots. I was a huge fan of their Brette Davis Eyes and their Kriek. Casey was a huge fan of their duck fat tater tots (rightfully so, they were awesome). I also had a chance to see the school Lacy has worked at for the majority of the ten years she's been in Oakland. Seeing the sheer volume of middle school aged children en masse was enough to convince me that I am still not ready for children. Additionally, we spent copious amounts of time with Lacy's dog, Charlotte York Goldenblatt.
We also had the chance to catch up with some of our Boston friends, Dale and Heather, who just moved to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. We met up for drinks at their place (among them, we split our last bottle of Equipoise, which we maybe let age a little longer than we should have- the cantaloupe seemed more present in the bottle we drank back in June at Dale and Heather's wedding), then grabbed dinner at Mission Chinese Food, where we proceeded to order way too much. It was excellent.
On Sunday, we said our goodbyes, and headed out with plans to hike around Muir Woods and visit Russian River Brewing Company. Being Sunday and all, Muir Woods was extremely crowded and wound up being a total bust. Instead, we drove a little further to Muir Beach, where we were pleasantly surprised with a strenuous 4 mile hike and a quick dip in the ocean.
I am typically against posting images of one's feet, but made an exception here because we did some damn good work on our hike!
We then made our way to Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa. I don't totally know what I was expecting, but I was very surprised to see that the space was a beautiful brewpub situated in downtown Santa Rosa, and the wait wasn't long at all. For those of you who aren't that into beer, Russian River Brewery brews a beer called Pliny the Elder (they also make Pliny the Younger). In the beer community, these beers are known to be both very good and very difficult to get. I think this is why I was envisioning a bare bones warehouse with a giant line and a grouchy, pretentious staff.This experience was none of those things- the staff was incredibly friendly, the food (pizza) was great, and all the beers we tried (Pliny the Elder, Blind Pig, and Supplication) were aces.
On Monday, we visited the Jelly Belly Factory and took a tour. This was my first non-brewery tour in a long time, and it was interesting to see everything that goes into making those jelly beans. Sadly, they do not allow photography in the factory, so you'll have to take my word for it that the process is impressive. Or visit the factory yourself (tours are free!).
Now, we are beginning to make our way back East, with stops in NV, UT, WY, and CO scheduled for this week.