Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Santa Con - Beer and Bars in SF review

Union Square shot by Jess Maron
December 15th was Santa Con, which is my favorite event of the year.  Last year was my first Santa Con and I had an amazing time.  This year was even better.  For those that don't know, Santa Con is a spreading of joy and merriment.  Thousands of people flock to a designated area of the city around noon (last year was the Civic Center and this year it was Union Square) dressed as Santa Claus and other holiday characters and objects such as menorahs.  Some people stay at the gathering place but most drift off down the pre-planned routes which start the pub crawl aspect of the day.  The rules can be found here, but basically they state that Santas are always nice, to especially to kids, and Santas are respectful to businesses whether they are patrons or Santa-haters. The more fun rules are:
  1. You MUST address everyone as "Santa."
  2. You SHOULD "ho-ho-ho" like Santa.
  3. You OUGHT to give out gifts like Santa.
  4. You MIGHT want to drink like Santa.
Cloudy skies above Union Square shot by Jess Maron
The highlights for me were giving candy canes to kids, seeing children's eyes light up, the myriad of costumes, seeing my friend Jess who just got back from India on Thursday, beautiful women, and of course delicious beer!

The worst part was traffic and parking which was to be expected.

We took the China Town / North Beach route.  The first couple of bars were packed so we continued onward.  A few Santas and Mrs. Claus had bells on that make the most delightful sound track on our jaunt through China Town.

Fun with Mirror
Eventually we made it to O'Reilly's Pub where we had planned on having lunch.  It was packed, but luckily there was space at a table with a couple of girls who had also just arrived.  So we made a foursome, had some delicious food, and shared some stories.  I had the corned beef sandwich which was tender, juicy, and delicious.  It came with thick cut fries which I like much more than thin cut.  It was a smaller portion than I usually like to eat, but just the right amount to leave room for all of the beer I was consuming and planning on consuming.  Speaking of which, I had a pint of Lagunitas' IPA which is my go to beer.  I love this stuff.  Hoppy, but not over hopped with some nice malt notes.  It didn't seem like the bar was ready for this many Santas.  When we sat down there was only one waitress (a pretty, tall blonde) and she was amazing.  There were about 10 tables lined with people and she was friendly and courteous as she weaved her way through the crowd to each table.  The food came out within 10-15 min far quicker than any of us were expecting.  Everyone enjoyed their food, Jess had a burger, Shala had a lamb burger and Anchor Steam, and the other girl who's name is escaping me had some sort of scrambled eggs with spinach and country fried potatoes and a Stella Artois.
The restaurant area.  The bar area was completely packed.

When Jess took off, to get some sleep since he had been up since 4am because he was still adjusting from India time, I stood up and joined the crowd.
Jess and I at O'Reilly's Pub

I realized that I should follow my Irish heritage while I'm in an Irish pub so I got a Jameson on the rocks.  While standing by the bar a lovely, buxom lass (Katie) in a red and white corset and white fishnets bought me an Irish Car Bomb (Guinness and a drop shot of Bailey's Irish Cream) which tastes and has the texture of a mocha milkshake.  She was doing a Bingo scavenger hunt and I fit the "Santa with a real beard" box.  We hung out with her friends for a while before leaving together to find a cocktail made with eggnog for the Bingo.

After walking past a couple of packed bars, we saw Rogue Ales Public House.  We both like stouts and porter so we tried to go in, but they were enforcing a no Santas Allowed policy.  We found this rather annoying, but giving that some people act like douches when they are drinking all day I have no ill will towards Rogue (especially because their beer is delicious!).

Then we went to a little bar/restaurant called Bottle Cap.  It was lack luster: there was about half a dozen Santa's and it was much too quiet.  The bartender wasn't very helpful with cocktail advice and referred us to a menu with cocktails with any questions we had.  If he was busy then that would have been fine, but it was ssssslllllloooowwww.  I had a beer that wasn't particularly memorable and Katie had a honey infused cocktail that she liked.

We left Bottle Cap and found a liquor store (Colt Liquors) that had an awesome, but small beer selection.  The store really focused on wine and liquor.  While there a couple of Indian guys were having a hard time deciding what they wanted.  Katie mentioned my blog so after hearing what they were looking for, I recommended a Pale Ale to one and a bottle of Roederer for the other.  For the $15-20 price range Roederer can't be beat.  I chose Stone Brewing Company's Smoked Porter for us to share.  We briefly went to a house party before heading back on the town.

We walked around and found a table and chairs to sit at in front of Bottle Cap.  We shared stories and interests as we enjoyed the chocolate and coffee notes of the porter.  Katie mentioned a hard cider bar somewhere in the city.  Cider is not really my thing, but I do like new experiences so I'll have to check out Upcider at some point.

 Before I gave my beard to Jess
More Santa Con Pics by Jess Maron!

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