Before you scoff, whilst it is true that every country has mega-swill that the masses drink there are discerning men and women the world over who love a craft beer as much as me.
I decided to only drink locally brewed beers in each place & found some exciting commercial brews. Congratulations to America's small scale breweries I hope to spread the word about your product so Aussies know your names.
Flying out of Australia takes a bit of effort... A 5 hour drive to Brisbane; A one hour Flight to Sydney. Then a 14 hour flight to the West coast of the USA. Are you exhausted yet? You need a stopover and Hawaii is the obvious choice!
This is Waikiki Beach...
... and Aussies will marvel at how small it is, yet it is world famous.
Hardcore surfers aren't here... they're all around the outer islands catching those waves... This is just a very laid back, calm beach to rest and drink exotic cocktails in all the bars which line the beach.
Stayed two night stay - and really recommend the Aqua Waikiki Tides Hotel (415 Nahua Street).
Two things; The Aqua group purchased quite a few hotels and put the word "Aqua" in front of the name AND they keep changing names to more fancy sounding/ tropical things.... so if you're looking for "MY" hotel check that full address for a great location... no matter what they call it these days.
Location? Just back from the beach, no ocean views here but priced well. All-night sports bar downstairs, and surrounded by good food places. International Markets just opposite.
Takes about 3 minutes to walk to beach.
No visit to Hawaii is complete without the Pearl Harbour tour which includes entry to the Pearl Harbour exhibit and a US Naval boat ride out to the Arizona memorial
There are separate tours available of the USS Missouri (pictured below) and USS Bowfin if you want to make it an all day visit.
A tip; Spend the $5 & rent headsets - you'll get so much valuable information.
Another tip for first time visitors; Book your tour with Discover Hidden Hawaii Tours and take the early morning tour so you're at the museum/movie for the first 7:45am show which means you're on the first boat ride out to the memorial, while it's still tranquil, before it becomes packed with visitors.
A Five star tour - half or full-day available - I only did the half day... as beer was calling.
OK, I hear you ask, where's the beer.
They make Kona Longboard, Big Wave and a couple of others. You can travel to one of the other islands and visit their brewery too!
Dungeness Crabs at Thanh Long Restaurant & drinking Mission Street Pale Ale, brewed in the region.
Roast Dungeness Crabs are a specialty at the famous Thanh Long Restaurant (4101 Judah St).
It's right on the Muni Line so easy to get to by public transmport but... you'll have to take a number and wait for a table.
This is just the best, noisiest, friendliest place to go and the word has spread so it has become very popular.
Next it was off to the Wharf area which is a bit confusing because San Francisco has a long wrap-around wharf to explore.
You can begin at the Historical Ferry Terminal building (where you catch the ferry to Oakland). And check out the bars stocking draft IPA's.
It was a freezing cold summer day in San Francisco so a Summer Heferweizen seemed appropriate and in the spirit of things...
Not a Bud or MGD to be seen. Oh and a really nice wheat beer from Pyramid.
To walk off some of the food and beer then walk from the ferry terminal right around the piers to those VERY touristy ones!
Pier 39 is the usual tourist trap and the big attractions are the Sea Lions which come and go as they please and fight and squabble for the best spots in the sun on those freezing cold, fog filled summer days...
Yes.. summer days are very cold in SF. It's actually warmer there in winter! Go figure.
Now keep walking and you arrive at.... Fisherman's Wharf
At Fisherman's Wharf street Vendors cook and bash crabs into submission for you.. it's a novelty if you want a take-away pack but the huge pushy crowds, no seating and few garbage bins make it all a bit ...... 'eewwww'... but you have to see it...
This wharf precinct is packed with tourists and buses all the time so don't even think about this place during U.S. school holidays.
But having said that, you do have to see the street vendors cooking up crabs and other seafood.... so toughen up! it's just for an afternoon.
Don't bother eating at the fancy restaurants, they're overpriced and pack-em in, but if you can handle food while you walk, you might enjoy a handful of crab.
No good beer down on the wharf, it's time to head to the city but it's WAY up there... up and over all those hills.....
You've all heard about the cable car and you think, why climb up that hill when you can ride the cable car? Well get in line... because about 10,000 other tourists got there first.
Think ..... Just another "tourist trap".... The Cable Cars might be famous but...
It's a silly nonsense really to stand in a queue, or a "line" as the rest of the world calls it.
Then to be packed like sardines onto a cable car and have your head in someone's armpit, just so you can say you rode it?
Give it a miss!
WALK up the hill a ways, and settle in to Kennedy's Irish Pub
To be sure, to be sure, this is one place not to be missed.
First the placard will intrigue you... and when they say $2 Pint's of Guinness they mean a full 20oz pint! A pommie pint - not one of those sissy Yank pints!
If you're Irish and can say "Terrty Tree" - that's how many beers they have on tap.
The beers were all different and truly excellent.
So many local Californian beers and some wild IPA's and Wheats.
And here's a picture to prove it... as I tried to count the Taps!
SF has a really great public transport system. Now what bus was I supposed tocatch up to the city? Damn if I can feed those $1 notes into such a tiny slot... and then I'm supposed to go underground to get the next connection??
Well there's nothing like rolling up to your friend's house and falling out of a cab, now is there... and your hostess tappin' her foot and askin' what have you done to yourself?
And next morning asking yourself, did I eat a Duck? as you scrape something dry off your tongue and swear to never drink again.
But it got you to wondering if you actually did try every one of those 33 beers at Kennedy's Irish Pub & Indian curry House on the pointy corner of Columbus Avenue & Taylor Streets?
OK now you'll recall that I've sworn off drinking for life..... so it was time to walk all over San Francisco and check out the sights.
A walk to the second largest Chinatown in the US and wandering through the mazes of junk shops.
Down to the end of Grant street to see the murals painted on old apartment blocks.
But then look.... A beer truck... That can only mean one thing.... good quality beers are somewhere nearby.
And the logo on the truck says Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, well now that's a fine drop.
So I left Chinatown and entered North Beach, and pretty much followed the beers truck to what's left of the Barbary Coast.
Look what I found....
A truly excellent micro brewery on a busy street and their motto - From Grain to Glass ! The San Francisco Brewing Company, 155 Columbus Ave. North Beach.
This place is a real hit with local drinkers.... no tourists in sight *yay*
The Albatross Saloon, original name plaque... one of the many names attached to this place over the years.
Here's the story from the bronze plaque in the window.
It was originally the infamous Billy Goat Saloon operated by Pigeon Toed Sal.
It was the last of the Barbary Coast saloons and was destroyed in the great earthquake and fire of 1906.
Rebuilt & renamed the Andromeda Saloon in 1907. The fighter Jack Dempsey worked the door around 1913, before he became world champion .
In 1977 it became known as the Albatross Saloon.
In 1985 Allan Paul established the San Francisco Brewing Company on the site.
This was San Francisco's first and the 4th USA operating brew pub after prohibition.
And now for the funny dedication on the plaque.... (and I quote)
Dedicated 22 March 6008 (2003) by Capitulus Redivivus, Yerba Buena number one of the Ancient and Honorable order of E Clampsus Vitus.Credo Quia Absurdum
Google these guys... like all good brewers... they don't take themselves too seriously.
House Brews and such good beers they were too.
The wheat that they call Hugh Hefnerweizen was a truly delightful drop with wonderful banana overtones. All the rest were equally well made, with IPA hoppiness to die for.
Now once again I bring to your attention that we've sworn of the evils of drink but they tempted us beyond what man or woman could bear.
And they had these cute little samplers.... and lots of ice water...
Wee drops to whet your appetite before you ordered up a pint or two.... here we go again.
To sum up... well worth the visit, rich in history and great tasting beers
Time to be walking on... there's more to see
Yes, they do build houses on this much of an angle in San Francisco because the hills are very steep
Which is all very well until you see the steps you have to climb up to get to your front door!
And they can cram a tiny 3metre wide house in between 2 others!
I'm guessing you enter via the garage at street level and then somehow climb to your sweet little home.
Some of the houses are plain, others are so ornate that they take your breath away.
Not sure how the locals feel about people just wandering around the streets taking photos.
I walked up telegraph hill... it's UP there, you can't miss it. The fire hose thingy on top is called Coit Tower.
The view from the top of telegraph hill give you a good idea of San Francisco city; the two bridges and the fog-shrouded bay with the famous Alcatraz Island.
Time to move on.
Worn out all welcomes in the foggy city.
Ate clams and crabs and drank beer to excess.
Next stop... Massachusetts.
Nice wide highways, 4 or 5 lanes in either direction.
Plenty of power under the hood from a Dollar Rentals Dodge Charger.
It was big and comfy and it knew to stay on the other side of the road just fine - although the Chinese speaking GPS threw me for a while....
It's June, It's summer & it's 50 Degrees F - Enough said!
Yes it's summer in Massachusetts but still only 50 bloody degrees F ! - which calculates to be 10 Celsius - that's cold in anyone's language!
Still there were plenty of clams dipped in hot butter to take your mind of it.... Around here going back for seconds and thirds was expected.
Not to mention some damn fine Sam Adams's to make you wonder what you were complaining about.
Six pack of Sam Adams or Hoegaarden costs around US$10.... makes it a cheap night too.
Lobster dinner anyone? With hot dipping butter to accompany them... **yumm**
You need a plan of how to get there!
One false exit and you're way off course so armed with map, GPS and a faulty sense of direction it was time to hit the freeways and headed for the tunnels.
Hmmmm note to self... DON'T try to enter Manhattan on a Sunday afternoon ever again... that's when all the day trippers are coming in as well!
Tolls, tolls, and more tolls... mostly $5 each but $10 on some bridges
Quickest way in from New Jersey is through the very long Holland Tunnel - more tolls and long delays as you try and run through residential streets to break into a line of traffic and into the tunnel.
Finally offload the car, check in to a "downtown" hotel and begin the walking adventure.
The crowds will astound you!
How's this for an innovation? They block off the busiest square in the known universe and put out cheap garden chairs and recliners.... The City did this. Why?
So people will stop rushing and just sit, relax, talk, have a coffee, watch the traffic and people go by.
Of course the Mayor was up for re-election at the time so perhaps he's trying to be noticed.
People go to New York for all kinds of reasons. 100's queue to see the shows like Letterman, Colbert and John Stewart.
So let's go way downtown....
Staten Island FREE ferry ride
Did you know that the Staten Island Ferry (the best way to see the city and Lady Liberty) used to cost 25 cents and now it's free! Bargain!
You just ride the ferry over to Staten Island, exit the ferry and re-enter the terminal and ride it back to the city.
NY is a working harbour so all types of shipping is going on around you on the trip.
Once back on land you're at the bottom end of Manhattan so a wander through Battery park is a pleasant interlude.
There's artwork and street theatre... these are some sculptures in Battery Park
At left is a tribute to the immigrants the mangled golden sphere a memorial to 911
This was the the original "Sphere" fountain which stood in the World Trade Centre Plaza for 30 years.
It was damaged in 911 and it's battered remains were placed here as a memorial to that day.
As you work your way north you pass by the World Trade Centre Development
The New World Trade Centre site is slowly taking shape.
There is massive underground development of transportation etc and only one building (the ethereal glass building in the Right Photograph) is complete at this stage.
From ultra modern steel and glass to timeless classical architecture of days gone by
And to see another icon, the Empire State Building
View looking Uptown past Central Park
Or look Downtown to the Battery and the Financial District, it really is a stunning island.
Must admit we didn't find a micro brewery but then again I was right in Manhattan where space is at a premium but I drank plenty anyway and seemed to gravitate to the Irish pubs.
Some of them leave a lot to be desired, cranky bar staff who are trading on the good old Irish namesakes without delivering much service, let alone a smile... and yes it galls when you're expected to tip 17-20% these days or you're considered a cheap bastard.
I managed to get out alive leaving only 10% tip trying to express our disappointment with the service in the only way you can.
Prices were outrageous too. A bottle of half decent beer in some places was $9 U.S (plus tax plus tip!).
And here's another snag about NYC - no public toilets! So when ya gotta go, you have to go into a bar and buy high priced beer to use their 'bathroom' - then you walk on and need to go again so you repeat the process. Hmmmm do you find you're continually topping up and going, topping up and going.
But now there was one fine establishment with true green Irish lads running the bar.
Very good food served till late and a terrific sports bar feel. There are dozens of bars around the area as Madison Square Garden and Penn Station are nearby. The Ice Hockey and the NBA play-offs were on, so bars were humming as people shouted at the screens.
They were also showing Aussie sports too, AFL & NRL games as well as Rugby Union so it was an excellent atmosphere for a couple of Aussie's sampling the brews.
Not France! It's the Paris Las Vegas hotel - a 1/3rd scale of the original thing....
... only in Vegas and complete with fountains
You've heard about it and you just have to see it... The Fremont Street Experience in "old Las Vegas"
If you've dreamed of seeing Vegas at it's best, you might have missed it.
Yes the architecture of the Casino's is interesting as each place vies for your dollar. The Paris, New York, Luxor all famous names along "the Strip" but the Old vegas is trying to be different. They have roofed over their main street and have regular light and music shows. It's amazing and not to be missed.
Our biggest whinge
The Strip itself is a bit of a mess with a giant construction site as 3 new casinos go up (and go broke) side by side so expect heavy truck traffic, loss of sidewalks, noise and dust and shuffling along in a packed crowd like herd animals... it's frustrating but you can forgive construction, as it's temporary.....
What you can't forgive is Las Vegas is pretty dirty now with litter in the streets and gutters and worse, the 'flicker' men - or pimps as they really are. They hand out cards for prostitutes although the graphic cards say the 'girls want to meet you and be your friend'.... lucky me huh?
The major Casino's try to move these sleasebags along but they flourish and touch you with their cards and flick them to attract you. Tourists take the offered cards and then drop them immediately in the streets so the ground is littered with thousands of girlie cards - try explaining those photos to your kids.
So from the noise and filth that is outside, escaping into a Casino feels like heaven. If you're gambling drinks are free... but are they? You have to tip the dealer to thank them for your winning hand and you have to tip the waitress for bringing you the drink...
And speaking of waitresses... the same girls from 20 years ago who wore sexy bustier tops and fishnet stockings are still working there... Talk about a fright when you turn around and your grandmother is serving drinks with her boobies pushed up and out the top of her outfit!
So how do you visit Las Vegas and beat the system?
I wont be the first to tell you that the "big" hotels are rubbish these days. I stayed at The Paris and the staff all throughout the hotel were rude. The room I'd booked wasn't available... and now you read the fine print... they didn't have to give you that room after all! But if you PAY MORE suddenly a nice room is available.
But it's not just the Paris... The New York is dirty and the staff just plain rude as well... they seem to have this feeling of entitlement and now that the dollars are drying up they're mean and nasty and expect more tips for less service.
SO - Don't stay out on Las Vegas Blvd. - commonly know as The Strip.
Make hotel reservations in old Las Vegas known as "Downtown" or "Fremont Street".
Down here the Hotel Casino's are way better priced, staff actually seem to enjoy their work, their pokies and tables pay better odds, drinks are much much cheaper and that lead us to a micro brewery!
Don't know which beer to try? No problem they have a cute little rack thing they bring you with 5 sample beers. Then order away
The beer is brewing up on the mezzanine, pretty impressive although difficult to photograph behind all that glass
Tried their Porters and Wheats and IPA's. They weren't up to the standard of the the San Francisco brewing company but still way beyond what the masses are drinking.
By the way if you're just into grabbing a beer and want to keep walking then they have $2 Heinekens all day every day and everyone drinks in the street.
If you're staying around Fremont Street, the Main Street Station Casino runs a shuttle service up to the Strip or you can buy a 24 hour bus pass on the Deuce double decker bus.
It costs $3 for one trip or $7 for the 24 hour pass. Get on or off as you please so you can stay for cheap in Old Las Vegas and visit the sleaze pits as you please.
Some random photos.... Some Casino's are trying to imitate classical art...
Or classic architecture & fountains?
Some have just given in and enjoy tacky
Harley Davidson Cafe has GREAT food!
The old MGM lion still guards the MGM Grand
So that's it. A quick trip in seach of good Beer and fine Seafood
I hope you're inspired to find some good beers in the U.S.A.