December 31, 2010
The Alehouse in Auburn is pretty darned close to perfect. It's about halfway between Tahoe and the Bay Area. It's convenient to the freeway. The food is good but not overpriced. And the beer is good.
My only complaint is that it's maybe too good a place. If you don't time it right, it can be hard to get in.
If so, don't sweat it. There are plenty of other places nearby.
December 30, 2010
In some ways, the Blue Frog in Fairfield is the opposite of Sudwerk up the road a few miles in Davis.
If anything, it's more convenient to the freeway. And service is great.
Like Sudwerk, the food is just what you want from a road trip. No one would call it haut cuisine, but who would really want that when what you're looking for is a good meal to keep body and soul together until you reach your destination.
Unlike Sudwerk, the beer is, well, not great. The oatmeal stout I had last week on the ride to Tahoe for Christmas was phenolic. It had an off aroma reminiscent of Band-Aids. That happens if the brewer wasn't careful enough about keeping stray yeast or other biologics out of the brew process. Phenolics are an amateur brewer's goof, so i was sad about that stout.
It's too bad because that glass of beer seemed like it would've been pretty good. But it'd was hard to appreciate that with what seemed like a sterile bandage taped to my mouth. :-(
I'm hoping my next beer at Blue Frog is great. If so, I'll mention that here.
My family -- my wife and I and our kids, 14 and 9 -- make the 4-hour trip from the Bay Area to Tahoe quite often. Over the years we've identified several breweries among the places we'll stop for a meal going or coming.
Our requirements: Good food the we all will eat; decent service (meaning we can reliably dine and leave in less than an hour); convenient to the freeway (Interstate 80), and reasonable price.
By these measures, the best brewpub on the route -- Sudwerk in Davis -- succeeds on all but service. Sadly, on that it fails so miserably that we've crossed it off our list. The problem isn't lack of space, it's a big place. But they seem to staff it as if it were small. So service is slooooow. Good food can be had elsewhere, and i can't make the case for qualit of beer to my kids, or my wife either if it means we get home late.