Friday, January 21, 2011

Up to Tank Hill, Down to Toronado

My final day in San Francisco was somewhat suck-eriffic.  We had time for one more short, fun beer hike, but it was also almost time to leave.  It was bittersweet.

I woke up pretty hung over and immediately felt that familiar pressure to get my ass in gear and make sure all of my shit was accounted for before checking out.  My flight home to Seattle wasn't until 5:55pm, but that time hung in my consciousness all day as it meant the end of my little vacation.  Unlike the past two days, I found myself checking my watch all the time.

A headache and a queasy stomach from yesterday's epic beer trek across town was enough, but I was also feeling depressed.  I felt a lot of connections forming with this city as I logged mile after mile.  I was finally beginning to know my way around.  I wanted another week in San Francisco.  I began to feel guilty that maybe I didn't make the most of my time here...

Wait --

Nah, that's bullshit.  I'd spent almost no time in my hotel room.  Just about every minute I was awake, I was either walking or drinking beer.  I had made new friends, had new beers, ate pork belly donuts, seen a statue of Yoda and the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset...  I did good.  But it was almost over.

With time for one more little urban beer hike, I once again turned to my friend and former SF local Chris for guidance.  His plan was to get some lunch at Magnolia, take in the Haight a little bit, do a death march up Tank Hill, and then end up back down at Toronado for our last beers of the trip before (hopefully) getting to the BART station in time to catch our train to the airport.  (Of course, there are many other fine establishments in which to sit and have good beer along this route.  Please forgive any glaring omissions.  We had so little time.)

Up to Tank Hill, Down to Toronado
Magnolia Pub / Tank Hill / Toronado / 16th St. Mission BART
About 4.3 miles

View Up to Tank Hill, Down to Toronado in a larger map

When I met Chris at the post office across from his hotel, I could tell immediately that yesterday's 11.86-mile UBH had hit him a little harder than it did me.  He looked fine and I smelled no unusual odors, but there was just something off about him.  It's just that sense you have about a person -- that they aren't feeling quite right and are struggling a little to keep it together.

We both had our full packs on, light as they were for a weekend visit, as we headed for the bus that would take us to our launch point, Magnolia.

1.  Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery
Magnolia is right in the center of Haight-Ashbury, where a lot of things happened before I was born.  I suspected that some food would help us feel better, but Chris admitted that he wasn't confident that he could hold anything down.  He gave it a good try, though and after a few nibbles of my fish sandwich and a few sips of his Kölsch, he was back in the saddle.  For the most part.  

I had another schooner of Chocolate George Stout before we set out on our climb and it worked wonders for me.  I felt almost back to normal operating mode.  The results were less dramatic for my partner, but he did seem to be struggling a lot less.

We left all too soon and began to head southwest toward our second stop.  I really would have liked to park at Magnolia a while longer and try some of their other fine beers, but time was not our friend.

2.  Tank Hill
Tank Hill is a small, but tall park right in the middle of the city.  It's a bitch of a climb up to the top, but the view is well worth the effort.  The nearly 360 degree view of San Francisco on a clear, cool afternoon gave cause for quiet reflection on my past three days in this brilliant city.  I stood and gazed for what seemed like an hour.  The Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, Nob Hill, The Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge, AT&T Park...  I could even see Candlestick Park way off in the distance...  As I looked out I wondered what I hadn't seen this weekend.  What would I do on my next visit?

The steep march up the rocky hill and the cold, fresh wind at the top revitalized us both and after taking a few pictures and bidding farewell to the city, we were ready for more beer.  We were finally on the way to our last stop of the long weekend. 

3.  Toronado
I don't have anything new to say about Toronado.  It's one of the prides of the San Francisco beer scene and the reasons are obvious.  If I lived there, I'm sure I would take it for granted the same way I take Brouwer's and Beveridge Place for granted in Seattle.  I was happy that we made it though.  I sat with Chris and a pint of Moonlight Brewing's Reality Czeck and tried to pretend that I was going to hang out there for the afternoon, chatting with the locals, getting a little drunk, etc.  We purposely chose to come here on Monday, our last day, knowing the vibe would be more mellow and comfortable.  We were right.

One beer at Toronado would have to be enough, though.  I assured myself that I'd be back.  Hopefully sooner than later.

The sun was getting lazy in the sky and we admitted that it was finally time to head for the BART station and get to the airport.  A quiet, beerless train ride brought my San Francisco adventure to a close.  There was a lot to reflect on as I watched the nameless (to me) neighborhoods whip by.  With all that I'd seen and done, I was both looking forward to and dreading writing these blog entries.

The city itself, as much as any I've ever been to, felt like a new friend I'd made, just as much as the beer geeks, the beer hikers, the beertenders, and the locals.  It's amazing how a place can cast a spell on you.  Much like Seattle, New York, Boston, New Orleans, Montreal...  I am so thankful that I was able to make this trip.  San Francisco:  one of the world's best cities for urban hiking, one of the world's best cities for craft beer.

I probably won't be able to make it back for San Francisco Beer Week 2011, but I will be there in spirit (and living vicariously via Twitter). 

My Final Stats for this San Francisco Weekend:
Hiking: 38.96 miles
Biking: 10.9 miles
Bars:  21
Beers: 24.5


  1. Thanks a lot for the travelogue. As an accomplished East coast urban beer hiker in NYC, Philly, Baltimore and DC, I raise my glass in your honor.

  2. All of those cities are on my list to explore. (I've been to NYC a bunch, but not since discovering good beer.) Cheers!