If a place you’re visiting has local breweries or wineries, you should visit them. You should try the local stuff a place has to offer before busting open another PBR or calling the hotel’s front desk, breathlessly, asking for a corkscrew for your Yellowtail. Ann Arbor, Michigan has local breweries. With limited time to kill, I only could visit one while in town. Arbor Brewing Company.
Standing tall downtown in the college city, ABC stretches along Washington Avenue, right near Main Street. A small door unlocks the giant wood-trimmed space, equipped with high ceilings, a mid-room bar, a game room, grade school-esque bathrooms downstairs, and plenty of dining table and booths. I slid onto the smooth wood of a booth and ordered the Arbor Brewery Beer Sampler as soon as I could, exactly as I’d been instructed to by others. Eleven beers were lined up onto the table (usually the sampler is only ten, but the bar’s newest beer, the Devil Lock Dunkelweiss, was thrown in the mix at no extra cost. And that beer was my favorite).
I ordered the food, ignoring my collection of experiences with brewpubs who can brew and pub but not cook. To my surprise, there were some things on the menu that really looked good. A tomato/feta salad and a Sloppy Jill (made with tempeh instead of beef) caught my eye and all in all, they were both very good. The friendly waitress managed to (easily) talk me into an Apple Bake, topped with local vanilla ice cream which was some of the creamiest ice cream I think I’ve ever had.
I can’t say Arbor Brewery is soooo much better or soooo much worse than other breweries in Ann Arbor. I didn’t go to any others. I don’t know how it ranks. But I do know this: the beer was good and the food was good. That’s enough to make me like a brewpub.
Organically crafted microbrews, rustic Spanish tapas, and an emphasis on sustainability and recycling are just a few of the unique characteristics of ThirstyBear Brewing Company in San Francisco, the country’s first microbrewery specializing in authentic Spanish cuisine.
When I first read about ThirstyBear, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect pairing of things I love: microbrews and tapas. Homemade lagers and paella?!? Perfection, I know. The more I read about ThirstyBear, I knew in advance that I loved everything about it. It’s San Francisco’s only brewery serving organic, hand-crafted ales and lagers and also recycles all paper, aluminum, plastic, and glass, recycles their cooking oil into biodiesel, buys local produce when available, and uses only sustainable harvested seafood.
And upon visiting ThirstyBear, I was even more in love and lust over its perfections. Among my favorite qualities:
Its location in a massive historic brick building in downtown San Francisco.
Golden Vanilla beer. Yes, I said vanilla. Often times I’m not a fan of flavor-infused beers, particularly of the sweet variety; this, however, was the most refreshing, light beer infused with whole vanilla beans. This beer was euphoric. I’m craving one (actually six) now.
Valenciana paella. Love is an understatement when it comes to my adoration of traditional Spanish paella (when made properly). Microbreweries are renown for having classic pub fare; the fact that ThirstyBear successfully reflects regional dishes of Spain has formed my lifelong relationship with the establishment. The Valenciana paella is served with saffron chicken, chorizo, clams, mussels, shrimp, peas, and red peppers. It’s beautiful. And perfect.
A flatbread served with local clams, Manchego cheese, and peas.
Jamon-wrapped asparagus topped with a fried egg and Spanish spices.
House made sangria (dessert) alongside an ever-changing cheese selection with funky varieties like Leonora- with a golden raisin chutney & chives,
San Simon- with a port caramel & pistachios, La Serena- with a fennel marmalade & almond cookies, and Valdeon- with a rhubarb gelee & port reduction.
With all of the very unique attributes ThirstyBear offers, it will continue to be my favorite microbrewery in the country. Thank you, Ron Silberstein, a former attorney turned brewmaster, turned restaurateur. You’ve made my life complete. And have given me a very distinct reason to return to San Francisco sooner than later.