Stamina was essential for meeting the challenge of a private tasting of some very special beers.

Running out of table space, Doc and David Keene consider stacking bottles as an option.

Tom Dalldorf & the Roiling Boil Blues Band.

"The lovely Colleen" was one of three outstanding female vocalists to work with the Anchor band.

Yeah, I took a lot of photos of the pretty girl singers. You got a problem with that?

Liquid Diet on the road
Day Four: Private Tasting & Celebrator Anniversary Party

EVERYTHING WAS LEADING UP TO THIS. WISH I REMEMBERED IT BETTER. You know, writing this story is getting to be almost as hard as living it was. Just thought you'd want to know. It's not like I've run out of things to say or anything.

In fact, one of the things I want to say was touched on before and that is the, to me, amazing awareness of the Toronado Barley Wine Festival that I found just about everywhere I went in San Francisco. Guyer argues that it's because I was mainly traveling in beer circles and there's some merit to that, but not enough to negate it entirely. Even just dealing with that point, every beer person I talked to made it his business to mention the event. It was cross promoted in both the brewpubs I visited and at a Mexican tequila bar. There wasn't a soul on Haight Street that I saw who even blinked an eye as they passed the crowd spilling out into the streets from the Toronado. There was a real sense of being part of a vibrant, living, growing beer scene.

We like to think that we have something like that going in Philadelphia. I have argued, and will continue to argue, that more good beers, in more styles, are being brewed in this area than anywhere else in the country, but I'm not nearly as sanguine about our environment as I once was, because I've seen what I've seen. Want to disagree? Get back to me when there's a note up on the Standard Tap chalk board promoting a beer dinner at Monk's, or when Nodding Head's Royal Stumble earns a paragraph in a Victory newsletter.

Guyer crapped out entirely Sunday morning, allowing as how he'd be there for the Celebrator party that night but had no stamina to go and drink more beer all afternoon at the Toronado. And then he convinced me I ought to walk down to Union Square with him before continuing on over to the bar. I think he was trying to kill me, extending my walking distance to nearly four miles on all those SF hills. Still it was a fascinating journey, especially since I hit Market Street just about the time the big Peace March was taking shape and got to mingle with those folks a bit as I made my way toward my more mundane and self-centered activities.

My plan was to spend a few hours with our new pal, Doc, who has put together a tasting session on the day following the Barley Wine Festival in what used to be the private back-back room at the Toronado (now it's officially the back room and the old back room is officially the side room and both are open to the public) for a couple of years now. I figured this would work fine with the 8 PM starting time for the Celebrator event. When I arrived at the bar, however, I found out that I had somehow misread everything I'd been sent about the anniversary bash--it didn't start at 8 PM, it ended then. It started at 4 PM. Ouch!

As it turned out, there were more than a few of us who were going from the tasting to the party, including David Keene, Fal Allen, Chris Black and Don Younger of Portland's Horse Brass Pub & Belmont Station, so it wasn't so bad.

Beers from all over the world were poured in rapid fashion, including locals such as Victory V10 (unfortunately, one of the bottles gone bad), Sly Fox Ichor (my contribution), Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot and several Dogfish Head brews. One of the fascinating things I discovered on the trip is how well known, respected and prevalent Dogfish Head beers are out there. Everyone still associates our region with Victory, which is in everybody's top ten brewery list, but Sam's reputation is growing rapidly.

I can't even begin to try to capture the two hours we spent there on paper. I did my part with the Ichor and by springing for a bottle of Signature, an 11% ABV Dutch brew early on and then sat back and sipped Fish Posiedon, Abbaye D'aulene 8, Bieken, Old Viscosity '00, Rochfortoise Ambree, Kulmbacher Eisbock '96 , Lou Pepe Kriek '98, Grottenbier (De Smedt version), Rogue Old Crusty '93, Fantome Automn '95, Bigfoot '00, Bigfoot 96' (very rare and never distributed outside Chico), Ommegang Three Philosophers, Fullers Vintage Ale '97, Oud Beersel Geuze, Aventius Eisbock, New Glarus Red '00, Rose De Gambrinus '96 & Postel Dubbel before having to call it quits. God only knows how many additional beers those who remained behind managed to taste. I've never seen anything quite like it.


The Celebrator party would arguably been worth the trip all by itself. The Roiling Blues Band led by our esteemed editor is, if not a legend, certainly a welcome diversion at any beer gathering and Anchor's Hysters, with its mix of employees and serious professional musicians, is an attraction all to itself. We arrived late, given the afternoon's activities, just as the Roiling Blues guys were coming on stage. As best I could find out, Portland Brewing's Prince Charles Pipe Band had opening the evening piping somebody or other on stage to get things going and another band may also have performed.

Dalldorf and his guys got the place jumping and the Anchor folks upped the ante with three, count 'em three, lovely female vocalists who sang separately and together and did whatever they wanted, which was as it should have been.

There were a dozen or so breweries pouring beers, and I started calmly with an Anchor Liberty Ale, moved on to Unibroue 11 (okay!) and Alaskan Winter Ale (now there's a brewery whose beers, especially on draft, we rarely see in the effete East) and a Cream Porter from Portland Brewing. Others too. Many, many breweries. I drank a lot of beer. I don't remember them all. So shoot me.

This was followed (What? There's More?) by an After Party, hosted by Sierra Nevada at the nearby Cathedral Hill Hotel and an After-After Party (Will this madness ever end?) in the Dalldorf suite back at the Holiday Inn.

Before all that happened, as promised, the writers, a motley group at best, did get their moment in the sun during the festivities at the Great American Music Hall. Here it is.


Monday, February 17: Unleashing the Inner Tourist

Return to Liquid Diet February 2003 Page