Posts Tagged irish

Nickel for your Thoughts

Nickel Beer Co. CollageWith the weather heating up, what better way to celebrate than to head for where it is hottest? Way out east of San Diego is the town of Julian. Julian is home to some of the best apple pies you can find. They even have hard cider on offer, too. If beer is more your thing, there was a cool jailhouse-turned brewery and tasting room called Nickel Beer Co. just off the main drag in town. A quaint green brick building on the outside, the inside had the same green brick and lacquered wood paneling everywhere. An open beam ceiling exposed some insulation and ducting that was sprayed black. There was an iron stove to the left of the front door and a very small tasting bar to the right. One room at the back right of the place was a jail cell that was converted to a game room, with a foosball table as the main attraction. There was an inexplicable pass-through window to the left of the door behind the stove that sat next to the door, with a shelf on which sat an impressive collection of beer steins. A pretty odd vibe to start with, but certainly nothing to keep me from getting a taste of what I came for.

IMG_4042Nickel Beer Co. Store RoomNickel Beer Co. Jail CellNickel Beer Co. Brewing Tanks
Nickel Beer Co. Tap Room




As is my standard in a new place, I went with a flight. At Nickel, this comes in a muffin tin. This was the first time I had seen this and I thought was a pretty cool presentation, considering the rural locale. I started with Blair’s Not Bitter Fresh Hop Ale (4.1% abv): This beer poured amber with loose white head. It smelled mild and light. The taste was indeed mild and somewhat malty. With light body, there was just enough carbonation to keep things moving. It finished light and malty, despite the hoppy name. Not a real impressive beer overall.


Next, I tried C.C. O’Neill’s Irish Red (5.4% abv): It poured almost the same color amber as the hop ale with smooth white head. There was virtually no aroma. The taste was malty and mild. There was a little sweetness with just a hint of bitterness. Almost no hops came out to play in this one. The middle was mild and light. Lightly carbonated and light body, it finished malty sweet. Though better than the first, it was just ok.


Nickel Beer Co Muffin Flight

The top row was for someone else

I finished up with My Way Fresh Hop IPA (6.3% abv): It poured light golden in color, with thin white head that had some staying power. There was a heavy dose of hops on the smell, with some floral aromas and a little bitterness. The taste was smoother than the smell implied and was somewhat sweet at first. Fruitiness followed with some more bitterness into the middle. Light bodied and lightly carbonated, the middle was light, finishing with fruity and bitter flavors. Tasty, but not real dynamic.


Definitely a quaint brewery in a quaint area and worth a look.

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It’s Time for a Pint (Part 2)

IMG_1819In case there are any that were not aware, San Francisco is a pretty awesome city. Not only is there a fantastic atmosphere, with the people being about as friendly as you could want, but there is a vibrant Irish culture in pockets throughout the city. In and around Union Square, where we stayed however, there wasn’t a whole lot. It became our mission immediately upon arriving there to seek out the best pubs we could.

That brought us to the main feature of our trip: dinner at Foley’s. This place does indeed have a very authentically Irish feel immediately upon entering; from the whiskey barrels, to the old paintings and 19th century decorative furniture, everything gave the place a nice inviting feel. It’s a larger pub, with a huge open room with a high roof just past the host stand. I suspect the large windows were a product of updated building codes, as traditional Irish pubs try very hard to block out natural light (they are called “Ireland’s sunblock” for a reason).


We sat at a table under the watchful eye of a Mona Lisa painting, showing her holding a glass of what we assumed was Guiness, with a white beer head mustache. The menu had lots of good selections on it, but they sure knew how to charge, so don’t go in there expecting a cheap meal. We got the beers we all wanted, mine being a delicious Kilkenny, and ordered some garlic fries. All of this got us watered up for the main course we had been itching to have since my uncle started singing its praises before we left: the Guinness Stew. Yes, I have certainly had this wonderful dish before and I couldn’t wait to try it. Looking at the entrée selections on the menu…no Guinness Stew. No, they stopped making it a few years earlier and replaced it with- wait for it- a vegetable broth stew. Yep, they went cheap. “No matter,” said I and ordered my second favorite and had a fine time of it.

IMG_1821After that, we went to our concert/show and that was fantastic. Lots of history at The Fillmore and the sound was great. The next day we went exploring the city for some more Irishness (when together, our group is real into that.) We found a diner/bar across the street from our hotel called Lefty O’Douls. It turned out this place wasn’t as Irish as we had hoped, as good ol’ Frank “Lefty” O’Doul was a member of the San Francisco Giants baseball team in the 1920s and ’30s. Once again, we made the best of it and had a grand time over pints of Guinness.

That night had to be one of the best times I have had while exploring a big city. We had stopped at a shop by our hotel selling Irish trinkets and decorative items. We asked the very Irish lady behind the counter if there were any good pubs around and she mentioned a couple, one of which was “down a kind of alley.” That’s all we needed and we were off. We never did find that pub, The Irish Bank. We landed at a little nondescript place called Murphy’s Pub. This place was great. There were no free tables when we arrived, so we headed out to the ‘patio’ out in back of the place. This turned out to just be a tarp hanging over some plastic patio tables set up in the alley. It was so unusual for us that is what made it special. Aside from some spilled Guinness, due to the tables being very sensitive to any movement, we had a great meal. When using the restroom inside, we discovered that the door lock did not work and the door did not hang flush in the frame. This became a comical game with each person unwittingly opening the door on the prior occupant.

One particular victim of this game was very good natured about it and after talking with him for a little while, we invited him and his buddy to share a round with us. We pulled up a table in a private back room and had a great time with them. It turns out they are from Malaysia and they had lots of fascinating stories and descriptions of home. This just made this particular stop all the more special and a fine way to end a great trip. I hope to be back very soon.

Oh, and…


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It’s Time for a Pint!

Indeed it is! This week I am heading up to San Francisco for a road trip to see one of our favorite bands. Of course, that will not be the only focus. A central part of the trip for our merry little group is a stop at Johnny Foley’s Irish House. This pub is smack in the middle of the City Center/Union Square part of the city’s northern end. From what I have read, this is a very authentically Irish place, with lots of attention to detail in the decor upstairs. The main attraction seems to be downstairs with a dueling piano bar. Reviews are mixed, however, at how good of an experience this is, but I’m still going in with enthusiastic curiosity.

Foley’s is absolutely surrounded by other pubs and restaurants. The most intriguing to me are a Scottish place called Sutter Pub & Restaurant and a speakeasy-style bar called Bourbon & Branch. Never one to be prudish about where I enjoy a pint, I look forward to trying these places out, as well. We will also take some time to see other sights around the city, such as Golden Gate Park, the Wharf (typical tourist fare) and the Blackhawk museum. 

I’ll be sure to post pictures here when I get back. In the meantime, does anyone have any suggestions on other places to check out? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

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