p>If you are like me, and have looked at pictures of Frank Sinatra in his 20s and wondered, “Why the hell did women find him attractive?” the answer can be found in one of two places. First, he could sing, and his songs were romantic, which makes an otherwise dingo-faced wimpnugget into something altogether bangable. The same holds true today; I was listening to Radiohead the other day and thinking, Man, that Thom Yorke is one sexy, sexy man. Oh, that he would train that damaged eye my way — but just for a second.
The second thing that helped Frank along was some serious propaganda. In his early days, his handlers paid young girls to show up at his performances and go apeshit. Other young girls saw the ape dung being thrown about, and promptly joined in, and before he knew it, the Plebe Dweeb was a Hoboken Hottie.
When I saw people crammed into the Cervecería de MateVeza on opening day, my first instinct was, damn, they must have handed out some serious coupons: “Half off if you show up and go apeshit for our microbrews and empanadas!” But then I realized that the storefront is the size of an affordable studio in Pac Heights (meaning “tiny,” for those of you new to our way of life). If 10 people were inside the place, it would look jumpin'. They have also billed the bar on their website as being in the more trendy Mission, instead of the Castro, where to my mind it actually is. Shrewd move, Cervecería de MateVeza. Shrewd move.
The brewpub sits on the corner of 18th Street and Church, just northwest of Dolores Park. I was sad to see that spot's previous business go, Lilah Belle's, or the Little Healthy Organic Eatery That Couldn't. I would go there time and again and get something (expensive) that sounded promising — Vietnamese wrap, chocolate chip cookie — and they never quite delivered. Not enough flavor; not even enough salt. I could tell they were struggling. There was so much heart in that place. I thought on a few occasions of giving them feedback, but it felt like telling someone that you didn't like their haircut. I didn't want to hurt their feelings. Then something really weird happened. They went out of business, and I found myself tearing up. Crying! I was sad for the imagined owner who funneled all her dreams into the business and saw them all turn to dust. I used to cry when I was a little kid when I saw “Going out of Business” signs. I guess I haven't changed much.
But all this explains why it was so surprising to see so many people packed into the joint on its opening day, and why my immediate thought was that there was payola involved. Never mind that putting a good beer place right there is genius. Never mind that a million people who go to Dolores Park will want to stop in there for cerveza and empanadas to go. Never mind that all the owners had to do was invite their immediate family to have folks pressed up against the walls.
Speaking of which, I tried to squeeze my ass in that day, but I found the mass of metrosexual microbrew mofos to be a bit stifling. I'm fragile. So I returned the following day, and I actually found a seat right away. The pub is a perfect square, with a wall of bottled beer on one side, a big communal table and seating by the window, and a small counter in the back where they serve local brews on tap, and, of course, their own concoctions, including beer's answer to Red Bull, Yerba Mate.
I really hate to say this, because I love craft beers and the people who make them, but those of you who spend your time describing each beer, its hoppy grassiness, its playful coquetry, its assertive but not cloying smokiness — you people can go fuck a duck. The cool thing about the rise of craft beers has been the motley crew of ragamuffins behind the whole thing: guys named Jake who played soccer in high school and dropped out of college to move to the foot of a mountain and make beer. The foodies who have taken this idea and run with off with it (and a well-worn thesaurus) are giving alcoholism a bad name.
So yes, there is much highbrow beer talk in Cervecería de MateVeza, but I'm sure if you stick around long enough for the beers to really set in, the conversations will switch to something much less pretentious. And it is definitely an inviting and warm place to hang out with friends.
I hopped on the 33 to get home, and there was an older lady sitting across from me. “What's that?” she asked, pointing to the Mission High School. The beleaguered folks next to her told her, and I quickly surmised that she had been asking similar things for the last five miles or so. “Oooh,” she said, seeing the long line around the block at Bi-Rite Creamery. “Are they giving out free ice cream?” “No,” said her patient co-passengers, “It's just really popular.”
“I don't see why, though,” said one girl.
“I've never gotten the appeal either,” said her friend.
“I'll have to try it,” said the elderly lady.
Shrewd move, Bi-Rite Creamery. Shrewd move.