Friday, December 7, 2007

Celebrating with Shmaltz

Earlier in the week I was fortunate enough to make my way to San Francisco's iconic Toronado for their party honoring He'Brew's (Shmaltz) 11th Anniversary and special pouring. I know I've gushed on about this place in the past, but there simply isn't a place I can think of that offers what I'm looking for in a beer bar better than what David Keene is doing out there. Sadly, speaking of David, he had to miss the festivities due to illness.

Sidenote: The current issue of DRAFT Magazine features Toronado as their Pub of the Month, which I was happy to write. I've receive a lot of good feedback on the piece, but I'd say that has more to do with the great quotes by Tomme Arthur at Port Brewing and Vinnie Cilurzo at Russian River (both major Big Daddy Keene fans). It was my first trip back since the article was published and was more than happy that the barkeeps had read it and liked it.

Back to business. The event started pretty casual, with Zak and Isaac both in attendance and providing finger food and a Chanukah cake (it was the second night of the Festival of Lights, after all). By 7pm the bar was hopping, with revelers of all types enjoying the fine beers on tap that night. Crowd favorites included the Jewbelation on Rye, Lenny on Rye and the 2006 Jewbelation. For my tastes, I couldn't get enough of last year's Jewbelation, the creamy body and deep, complex flavors were just spell binding.

Jeremy Cowan was fashionably late, a point we could criticize were it not for the fact his tardiness was caused by an appearance on CNBC's Donny Deutsch that afternoon on the east coast. When he arrived it was a wonderful thing to see his face as he gazed at "the board" and found an entire column of it dedicated to his beer. I've seen that look on other brewer's faces when they see a single beer of theirs on the board, further proving the 'lore' of this beer mecca.

Because of my lack of time, here's a quick list of things I remember of the night.
  • If you've never perused the bottle list, you're missing a real treasure of the Toronado. Talking with Wine Warehouse Beer Specialist, Peter, he passed on more than a passing praise for Dave's beer procurement abilities.
  • Don't let the rough exteriors fool you, the barkeeps at this place are about the friendliest folks you'd hope to meet, just don't ask 'what's good?' or 'anything new on tap?' or 'what do you suggest?' - you may be met with well deserved scorn.
  • I really do love my job. I went wearing a DRAFT polo shirt on and a dozen magazines in bag, just in case. First of all, it is cool to know that people even know about the magazine. I had several people come up and mention their thoughts on the publication, most of it very good. Second, I didn't bring near enough.
  • Walking in the city is a wonderful thing. My wife and I stayed at Cathedral Hill Hotel, which is home to Bruce Patton's monthly beer dinners, and decided to walk from there to the Toronado. The night was brisk, the walk mostly downhill, and each block interesting. In particular, we found the City Hall area to be stunningly beautiful at night and for the holidays.
  • Peete's Coffee kicks ass. I'm not a major coffee dork, but that seems to be the best chain coffee joint I've found, blowing Starbucks out of the water.
  • Cab's in the city are fun, so long as you don't take yourself too seriously. Our driver on the way back to the hotel was a real character, short tempered and in a sort of hurry that made us wish he'd have a beer.
  • Driving in the city is a bad idea, even before you have beer. I've learned that over the years, if you're going to the city and plan on hitting up the good breweries, restaurants or bars, a hotel is an absolute must! I only live 90 miles away, but I'm more than happy to drive my big car to the hotel and walk/cab-it for however long I'm there.
  • Duck/Fig sausage next door to the Toronado doesn't suck.
  • Neither does Ali Baba's lamb schwarma wrap.
  • Jeremy Cowan is a great guy, with a smile that just won't quit. In fact, the Shmaltz crew all seemed to be top-notch personalities.