As many of you already know, this past Saturday, January 17th was the (quasi) annual pub crawl sponsored by Churchill’s Pub and Grille here in North County San Diego. For Beer Molly this is one of the seven or eight highlights of the year (right behind her birthday, Christmas, and any other event at which she might receive a gift), mostly because she gets to wear one of her (many) dirndls, drink beer and remind everyone how she got the “Beer Molly” moniker to begin with.
The day started bright and early with a rendezvous with the Monkeys (Mike and Michelle), Justin and Sarah, and Kenan and Sheryl, at Adam T.’s house at 9:30 a.m. or so where we did a “pre-drinking” in preparation for the big day ahead. After a couple of Bloody Marys we all piled into the van and had Adam’s son Ryan chauffeur us over to Churchills.
At Churchills we had breakfast, another beer or two, and piled on to the limo busses Ivan had secured for the pub crawl. I have to admit, the buses were sweet. They each sat forty people and the seats were arranged so that everyone faced each other. A jockey box and keg of Port Brewing’s Midnight Sessions were at the front of the bus; a big-assed flat screen TV was mounted to the back. (My only regret — the other bus had a stripper pole in the back, which would have been very entertaining after the third or so stop.)
Once the bus was off and rolling, we quickly got down to the business of settling in and drinking more beer on our 30 minute drive down to El Cajon for our first stop.
Stop 1: Main Tap Tavern, El Cajon, CA
Main Tap Tavern sits on East Main Street in the heart of El Cajon, about 20 minutes east of San Diego. El Cajon is a working class town; not something I’d consider a tourist destination. Downtown looks a little tired; ethnic markets, liquor stores, vacant lots and empty shops make up a good portion of its population.
As a result, I was pleasantly surprised when the bus pulled up in front of the freshly painted, stone façade building that houses Main Tap.
Inside was even better. Clean and comfortable, the bar runs nearly the length of the place and 24 taps with hand-blown tap handles serve as the centerpiece of the backbar. (Molly commented that the handles look a lot like some of her favorite adult toys. They do, but the tap handles do more for me.) At the back was a large outdoor patio that proved to be a favorite spot among the pub crawlers to sit and enjoy a balmy winter’s day with a pint.
The beer selection was excellent. Many of San Diego’s craft breweries were well represented, as were plenty of others from around the state and the country. I ordered a pint of Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merkin and took a seat near the large windows that open onto Main Street, which proved to be a great people-watching spot (one of my favorite pastimes).
We stayed at the Main Tap for a little more than an hour and then had to move on to stay on schedule. In all I thought it was a great bar, and if I lived anywhere near there, would definitely make it my local. As it is, if I ever have reason to be in El Cajon again, I’ll make it a point to drop in again.
Stop 2: Hamilton’s Tavern, San Diego, CA
Hamilton’s Tavern sits at the south end of San Diego’s famed “Beer Avenue,” 30th Street. (So many great beer bars line this road that Green Flash Brewing actually produced a beer called 30th Street Pale in its honor.) Beer Molly and I have been there a number of times and we never fail to have a lot of fun.
Not too long ago Hamilton’s took over what was once a small café next door, so now they have a small kitchen where they make an assortment of pub food. As a result, when our bus rolled up and we wandered in, one of the pool tables had been converted into a buffet table and loaded with an assortment of hot wings, poppers, and hop sausages – perfect fare for our now well-lubricated crowd.
Shortly after taking up a spot near the shuffleboard table someone brought me a pint (I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know what it was other than a decent West Coast-style IPA), and me and my companions proceeded to play shuffleboard and drink our way through the afternoon. At one point I recall catching a glimpse through the window of Beer Molly army-man crawling in her dirndl on the sidewalk out front. Turns out, she was sneaking up on someone to photograph this.
We stayed our time at Hamilton’s and then loaded back onto the bus for the two-mile trip up 30th Street to the Toronado.
Next: Churchill’s Pub Crawl part 2
Check out the pub crawl slideshow: