20 Tank Brewery Nearly Changed My Life
I was first introduced to craft beer around 1988 by a new found friend, Brian. Until then my exposure to beer was typical American homogenized light lager with the occasional import such as Heineken. I usually just followed my brothers lead. At first, we were Michelob fans. To us, this was kind of a premium beer. I was not much of a beer fan. My father didn’t drink much and I don’t recall anyone in my family drinking much beer. My older brother, who is a couple years older than me, was pretty much my guide. There was not much to choose from so his leadership role was pretty easy.
Sometime in 1983 Stroh’s beer came to our area. For some reason, this became our favorite beer. Probably because it was simply new. I remember thinking it was so plain. It was not any different than the other american beers but certainly not stale like the german beers. Not long thereafter was my 21st birthday. The love of my life at the time was Lori. Her family had moved about two hours north a year or so earlier. I was not entirely sure what was happening with our relationship. The distance was a strain but breaking up was a foreboding. She arrived to help celebrate my birthday bearing my favorite cake. Upon cutting into the cake, I realized it was not cake but a 12 pack of Stroh’s. It made me realize talked about Stroh's a lot, I guess though I don’t remember. I also realized it was time follow a different path than Lori. I don’t know if or how we ever broke up. I am pretty sure we did. I don’t recall ever seeing her again. I don’t know if I ever drank the 12 pack either.
Not much happened in my beer scene until i started a job in San Francisco three or 4 years later. Some time around 1988 I worked with Brian. Through sketchy memories, I recall conversations with Brian about the new craft beer revolution. Brian was also the first to talk about homebrew. Though I don’t recall much of conversation 25 years ago, I do remember Brian talking about exploding bottle in cupboard. I don’t think I ever tried any of his beer nor enjoyed the experience of exploding bottles. I do think fondly of him when I reminisce about the my first craft beer experiences.
My most vivid memory is our first visit to a new brewery in San Francisco; 20 Tank. There were three of us. Myself, Brian and John. I don’t recall how familiar John was with craft beer but I don’t think he was much of a drinker. I clearly remember a Red/Amber ale that was a bit coarse and kind of sweet. I also remember a powerfully bitter assault on my palate from an IPA called War Boner or something like that. This particular night, we sat upstairs and did an all out blitz on these delightful beers. The laughter was pain inspiring and I still snicker at the thought of chili but I don't know why. There is a permanent hilarious imprint burned into my psyche. I can’t help but smile now.
The three of us staggered out to the street and fell into a taxicab. I looked out the window and can still see the bright lights from inside the brewpub illuminating the building with 20 TANK BREWERY in big bold letters. I was dropped of at the train station and somehow made it onto a train and ended up home though there is no recollection of how or when.
I visited 20 Tank a few more times. I met the brewer and talked beer. He went on to start 21st Amendment Brewing some time later. I mostly recall the last time I was there. I was with a spectacular woman; Judy. We met at work. She shared an office with another strikingly beautiful woman. I don’t recall her name but I will call her Kim. I became friends with Kim often chatting on our train ride to or from work. Kim was just honest and sweet and engaging. At times, it was comical as to how many guys would ask me how I know Kim. There was real shock that a woman this beautiful would be friends with me I guess. There was a bit of fun sport in all of it and I did enjoy being in such company. I would, at times, visit Kim’s office for no particular reason just to say hi. It was there I met Judy. She was tall and slender and though different equally as striking as Kim. Two great reasons to find a reason to visit them. It doesn’t seem real but somehow I asked Judy to go out or maybe she asked me. I do know she agreed to and even picked me up though I don’t know why. We had a great time at 20 Tank and at the end of the night we walked to her car hand in hand.
I was in inner turmoil. I was on the cusp of maybe starting to date another woman. This other woman had a grip on my heart. I really enjoyed this evening with Judy but could not stop thinking of the other woman either. As Judy and I sat in her small car, just inches from one another, I explained this terrible predicament. Any other time, I would have not hesitated to take things as far as they would go with Judy. Instead, I talked about this other woman and how things were starting to blossom and I had to follow that path. It was awkward for sure. I did tell her I didn’t expect we would get on so well and I was not really prepared to have such a great date. She dropped me at the train. I spent the next hour and a half wonder if I was a fool. I married that other woman a few years later and we are still happly married today. I sometimes wonder what became of Judy. I do know 20 Tank closed in 2000.
That visit to 20 Tank almost changed my life.