Earlier this year, I fulfilled a long-term ambition of travelling along the US West Coast, from LA to Seattle. The plan had been cooked up along a London pub crawl the previous autumn (the brainstorming process for many of my very greatest ideas). It was to be the ultimate IPA pub crawl, my travel partner and I decided – 10 days of fantastic food, beer, and stunning coastal views. We would stay in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, and drink our fill of craft beer in each.
It was January, and upon arriving in Silver Lake, LA the weather was perfect – the sun was shining, the sky was decorated with a few small fluffy clouds, and a gentle breeze kept the air cool. On the first morning in town, we headed for brunch, and whilst we tucked into eggs, coffee and orange juice, one cheerful patron came in with a dog and ordered a pint of IPA. It was 10.30am. Truly, this was the city of ‘anything goes’.
That night, it was time to hit the bars. We took a cab to Angel City brewery. The vibe was chic and industrial, and the place was lively with hip locals. Oh, and the beer was pretty good too.
We punctuated the drive from LA to SF with a night in Cambria. It was a great chance to soak in the coastal beauty for just a little longer. The next afternoon, we made it to San Francisco, and checked into our Castro hotel. Our first watering hole of the evening was a self-styled dive bar playing loud rock music. In the UK, this would be the sort of place you’d hang before a gig, and there would be a choice of Stella, Carling or Fosters. They probably wouldn’t have heard of cask ale or craft beer. But here in the US, even the bars that were a little, er, ‘rough around the edges’ seemed to be fluent in craft. There was a tap wall featuring more than 20 pumps. Americans, after all, love to be paralyzed by choice.
We also checked out Vesuvio Cafe, on the recommendation of a colleague of mine. It was like stepping back in time, and I expected to see Jack Kerouac sitting in the corner, propping up the bar and staring pensively over some scribbles.
The next day’s driving was the most grueling of the trip. We made it to Eureka in Northern CA without stopping, and took a welcome break for a late oyster lunch. The rain was pounding now, and would barely give way in the coming days. Our abode for the night was just over the Oregon state line, right on the ocean. We arrived hungry and tired, but our helpful Air B&B hosts soon made us comfortable, and we sat back with a glass of wine and cheese supper to admire the stunning coastline, under the stormy skies.
The next day, we made it to Portland. The city was rainy and gray, but happily there were microbreweries on what seemed to be almost every road intersection. I especially liked Mt Tabor, in which the taproom was situated right on the brewery floor; there’s something nice about sipping a pint surrounded by mash tuns. I arrived in the mood for something hoppy and refreshing, and was a little intimidated by the choice of FOUR different IPAs, but the barman was really friendly, and asked about my preferences before giving me a couple of samples. Later in the evening, via a few more spontaneous beery stop-offs, we moved on to Burnside, where we sat at the bar and ordered an artisan sharing platter. This is probably the most hipster place I’ve ever been to, I thought. Shoreditch, eat your heart out.
Before long, it was time to leave the craft beer mecca of Portland and move onto our final destination. As we arrived in Seattle, a glimmer of sun came through the clouds. We met up with our local host, freshened up, and tried out best to put our nine-day hangovers aside to do justice to the final leg of our trip. Our first pint was at yet another bar which placed brewing equipment in pride of place on the bar floor. When I tried to pay for drinks with a $20 bill, the barman informed me ‘oh, sorry, we don’t take cash’. What the…? This is REALLY getting too hip for me now, I thought, secretly partly looking forward to returning to an old-man’s boozer in which the card machine would be permanently broken.
To finish the night, we moved onto the Capitol Hill area. My favorite brewery in this part of town was Outer Planet. It’s a small but perfectly formed taproom, with a great range of board games to play whilst getting tanked. The red ale was a stand out winner. The next day, after browsing comic and vintage shops in the trendy Fremont area, we had time for one final beer before packing up and preparing to head home. The trip had been incredible; a journey rich with cuisine and craft beer culture. Can’t wait to do it all again someday, but only after I’ve seen some more of what the US has to offer. The next craft beer location on my wish list is Colorado!
Have you travelled the West Coast? Did you discover some killer IPAs? I’d love to hear your comments about your travel experiences 🙂