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Beer Geography

I moved to San Francisco about a year ago and the beer here is just too hoppy. From what I can piece together from some foggy memories of Portland, the beer there was nice and malty and dark and wonderful. Of course, I still love the hearty beers from my home in New England (Did anyone out there get a taste of the Smoked Lager that Sam Adams was brewing a few months ago). From what I can tell, beers from the middle of the country tend to be on the light side for my taste. Would anyone out there like to speculate on the cause of vastly different regional beer tastes? Can I get some sypathy for being stuck here in SF drinking hopped up beer while soon my friends back east will get to trudge to the pub in the snow for all those great porters and stouts and lagers.

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  1. The West (primarily WA, OR, ID) is where most US hops are grown, so I'd think it would follow that they'd make a lot of hoppy beers.

    Lots of German (lager) influence in the MW.

    But back to your plight, I'm sure someone there makes the beer you seek. There are zillions of breweries in the West. Have you tried some of the local brown ales? I recall Lost Coast makes one, and I'm sure there are others. Stone Smoked Porter?

    Have you looked for a copy of Celebrator Beer News? That should be a fine resource in your search. And I wouldn't doubt if there was a local Internet mailing list or other forum on beer.

    1. Sam Adam's has been making a rauchbier at their pilot brewery in Boston for a couple of years now. It usually shows up at beer fests and maybe Doyle's near the brewery. Its ok, but not enough smoke flavor imo.

      You will be able to find malt accented beers where you are. Just don't drink the hoppy styles.

      Use this website to begin your search:


      1. Anchor Porter is brewed in San Fran, and is not a hop-monster. Other options that should be available to you:

        Bear Republic Big Black Stout and Red Rocket Ale
        Lost Coast Downtown Brown Ale and Great White
        Lagunitas Brown Shugga
        The aforementioned Stone Smoked Porter
        Hoptown Oatmeal Stout
        Anderson Valley Amber, Oatmeal Stout, and Poleeko Gold

        1. Rogue also makes plenty of porters and stouts which should be available in SF. Try their Shakepeare stout, it is excellent.

          By the way i think you will have a hard time getting people to feel sorry for you as far as beer goes on the west coast. Most of the top breweries in the US reside there.

          1. No sympathy from me. Although the styles in the area often emphasize hoppiness, there are more and better choices of beer in the Bay Area than anywhere else. You need to get to Toronado or Pacific Coast Brewing (or any of the other good beer pubs) and start sampling. Ask the bartender for help. I've found most to be very knowledgeable about what they are making and pouring. Also, if you want some Oregon beers, there are plenty of good ones available at BevMo.

            1. What about the south? The only brewery I know of down there is Lone Star and uck...no thank you. Abita's good. I guess they'll just have to keep making really good bourbon.

              8 Replies
              1. re: erikka

                This site has a pretty good guide to brewpubs if you're traveling and crave a local beer:

                Over 100 in Texas now. Atlanta has some good ones too.

                1. re: erikka

                  Shiner makes some good beers. Texas also has a number of microbrews, whose names escape me.

                  1. re: Josh

                    Usually when I visit I get stuck in the dry counties. Such a bummer! Any of those good beers made in Austin? I'll be there in December and drinking heavily.

                    1. re: erikka

                      I don't recall - I went to a taphouse in Waco that had an insane selection of drafts. First time I'd seen Fuller's London Porter on tap. Not sure if there are breweries in Austin.

                      Shiner is squarely German-style brews: hefeweizen, bock, lagers, marzen. I liked them OK. Their hefeweizen is pretty good.

                      1. re: erikka

                        Brewpubs in Austin:
                        Bitter End Brewery - Brewpub Map
                        311 Colorado St.
                        Austin TX 78701
                        Ph 512.478.2337
                        Copper Tank Brewing - Brewpub Map
                        504 Trinity St.
                        Austin TX 78701
                        Ph 512.478.8444

                        Draught Horse Brewery - Brewpub Map
                        4112 Medical Parkway
                        Austin TX 78756
                        Ph 512.452.6258

                        Live Oak Brewing - Brewpub Map
                        3301-B East Fifth St.
                        Austin TX 78702
                        Ph 512.385.2299

                        Lovejoy's Brewpub - Brewpub Map
                        604 Neches St.
                        Austin TX 78701
                        Ph 512.477.1268

                        North by Northwest Brewing - Brewpub Map
                        10010 N. Capital of Texas Highway
                        Austin TX 78759
                        Ph 512.231.8157

                        Bitter End has very good beers, but I haven't tried the other places.

                        1. re: fiddlr40

                          All of those are independant breweries that make their own beers? Damn! I had TX all wrong.

                          1. re: fiddlr40

                            Thanks for posting that - I'm going to be in Austin in a couple of weeks.

                      2. re: erikka

                        Lone Star hasn't been a "Texas" Beer for years. It was bought by Pabst in 1999, and went the way of PBR - brand name only and contract brewed wherever it's sold (except maybe San Antone). Sort of like Sam Adams in that regard.

                        And despite what their web site says about being the "national beer of Texas", any true Texan would disagree while drinking their Shiner Bock.

                      3. The Austin list isn't accurate - Copper Tank and Bitter End have closed.

                        The best brewpubs are Lovejoy's (punk rock vibe), North by Northwest (suburban vibe), or Draught House (old-school neighboorhood joint).

                        Live Oak and Independence beers are both brewed in Austin but both only do occasional events open to the public. Independence opens the 1st Saturday of every month for a tour/happy hour. Live Oak I think is by appointment only. The other nearby microbrews are Real Ale in Blanco and and St. Arnold's in Houston. There is also one called Rahr in Fort Worth, but I haven't has any of their beers, so I can't give any advice on them.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: tthorn

                          I'm going to be in Texas in a couple of weeks, are there any locally brewed beers of note I should try?

                          1. re: Josh

                            I had the Live Oak Liberation IPA last week.

                            It brought back memories of some of the fruity/hoppy IPAs I had in San Diego earlier this year. Definitely worth seeking out if you are a hophead.

                        2. Have you tried any of the Lagunitas line?
                          They're right by you too.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bbqboy

                            I had a Lagunitas Euphoria this past weekend on draft. A belgian style ale. Yum.

                          2. I agree about the hop thing out west-and I think it is all of N.Cali and PNW. But I also thing the the US in general is in to the hops. Have you been to the toronado in Haight Ashbury? they have a lot of west coast micro (hops of course) but a lot of other interesting choices too. Go early on a tuesday and have the hamburger from next door. too complicated to explain here...anyway I live in the midwest and most of the microbreweries tend to try and do a cross section of styles- with lager and pilsners seeming to sell well-actually whatever is closest in "taste" (if you will) to bud.