So, two weeks in, and no resting done to date, would we finally do some in California? Well, we did pretty well, and this was a great way to round off the trip.

On the first weekend the temperatures were in the high 80s, which was the opposite of what everyone had told us we'd find in SF in October, but we weren't complaining. We did the Alcatraz trip, with the great boat trip across the bay, visited the Golden Gate Park, had cocktails in the amazing Carnelian Room with the best view in the city, had some great food, and generally rested up and enjoyed the wonderful weather. Oh, and we managed to fit some shopping in too! Union Square is our sort of place.

On the Saturday evening it was off to meet Alan C and his wife Sabra in the Toronado. It was great to meet Alan, who had been unbelievably helpful in putting our North Coast/winery trip, and we shared a few great local beers, including Moonlight's Death and Taxes and Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA - both wonderful. Also had a couple of Bear Republic brews, the Hop Rod Rye and Racer 5 IPA. I was very impressed with the draft beer list in the Toronado, which was far better than anything we had seen in New York. Loads of interesting micro brewed beers on it, and a great selection. Also their bottled beer list was highly impressive, although again it was top heavy on Belgians - great for the locals, but not really my priority on this trip. The bar itself, though? - well, not really my cup of tea. Dark, noisy, stressed staff, not particularly comfortable. To make sure, we returned midweek on a quieter afternoon - the only thing that had changed was that the staff member was less stressed, but otherwise it's a bit of a weird place.

Also checked out Mad Dog in the Fog across the road, and apart from English football and a couple of decent beers, this place also had little to commend it.

With temperatures now in the mid 90s, the next couple of days were out of town exploring the wine country, redwood trees, and jumping naked into hot compost heaps (Alan's idea - but I would say do most things that this man tells you - his recommendations are usually spot on!) before winding up at Fort Bragg, where we had booked into a hotel right across the road from the North Coast Brewery Tap Room and Grill. So we tapped and grilled, tasting all the beers and buying a few little souvenirs. Got an Old Rasputin T shirt and a white brewery T shirt, 4 bottles of Old Rasputin and 3 of Old Stock. Now we were really in trouble in terms of transporting beer home! The tap room is very good at North Coast, although we once again fell victim to some of the more quaint US customs - for example, the bar man couldn't serve me a pint (just a half) of the Old Rasputin (or Pransqter, for that matter) 'because of the church next door'. Go figure, as they say locally!

Anyway, I enjoyed all the beers, but the Acme range I found to be pretty average (presumably they're their bread and butter beers in the range?).

Next day we hit the coast, driving Highway 1 most of the way back to SF, where we had another three days of wining, dining, drinking beer and shopping. Having not thought much of the two bars visited at the weekend, we decided to hit some of the brewpubs. Checked out Thirsty Bear, 21st Amendment, Beach Chalet and Magnolia. And this was a very pleasant surprise: we learned what makes brew pubs work - i.e. decent beer! In fact, in all four cases the beer was a bit more than decent. I was very impressed with Magnolia and 21st Amendment, with Thirsty Bear also doing a pretty good line up. I had previously wondered why American babblers were always going on about brewpubs, as my experience of the small number of brewpubs in Belgium was that they always had mediocre beer. Well, now I know different - in the US, there is some great beer in brewpubs. And we had some pretty nifty food in them too.

Wound up the week by drinking some of our beer supplies in the room so we had a realistic chance of getting everything in our luggage, so the last beers we had were the Stoudts IPA and Abbey Tripel, which John Sturm had meant to give us in Yellow Springs, but as we ran out of time he kindly brought them all the way to Denver, where we took them to California to drink! It was that kind of holiday, with this just one example of the superb kindness and hospitality we received from our friends in the US. A massive thanks to everyone.

Final tally was 166 new US beers, about 28 US beers I had had previously, plus four new Belgian and UK beers.

Just as well it wasn't a beer holiday!

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