There’s a Hofbrau in Them Thar Hills

Things to Do, What's New — By Mary Polizzotti on June 9, 2011 at 9:23 pm

The best thing about San Francisco weather reports is they are never accurate. Last weekend promised a deluge of rain threatening to shatter a 127-year-old June record. I’m not sure what the results were, but after a drizzly Saturday, Sunday offered up a warm cloud cover — perfect for a leisurely escape to Marin.

After hiking around Mt. Tamalpais (where my friends and I stumbled upon an outdoor theater with mossy steps, spectacular views, and a bright pink set for HAIRSPRAY – the Broadway musical), we reckoned we had earned our right to an afternoon drink. In the lush (and still very green) oasis that is Mill Valley, hidden among the trees high above Muir Woods, a small treasure exists – the Tourist Club. This place was rumored to have beer, and thirstily, we set off in search of our reward.

Tourist Club San FranciscoPhoto courtesy of Nature Friends Tourist Club

A members-only club founded by German immigrants in 1912, the Tourist Club opens to the public every weekend (except the second weekend of the month) from 1 to 5 p.m. You can drive, hike, or bus there, but on such a marvelously beautiful day, hiking was the way to go. Arbitrarily pulling off onto the side of the road, we lollygagged along in search of the Redwood Trail or the Sun Trail (either would get us there). The air was sweet with eucalyptus, the trails lined with dazzling, cantaloupe-colored California poppies, and the breeze laden with humidity.

california poppiesPhoto courtesy of planetware

A few minutes later, we encountered a park ranger guiding two middle-aged lovers, who sneaked kisses while we asked him for directions. He inquired about our destination, to which I laughed and sheepishly answered “we’re trying to find the beer.” At first, he seemed confused, and then slightly flustered, as he unfolded his gargantuan map and informed us we were heading in the wrong direction. A one-eighty set us off toward the Redwood Trail.

An easy 20-minute descent later, the first peals of laughter echoed from the distance and eventually the clubhouse appeared. A large deck gave way to panoramic views of the forest below and the Pacific Ocean beyond. Picnic tables were shared by various intrepid travelers, some German, some not, but all lingered happily over hops and hefeweizen. Various small bites are sold inside: you can buy 50-cent dill pickles, kettle chips, Toblerone chocolate, and a savory dried sausage known as landjager. Bring a picnic if you anticipate needing something more substantial.

Sipping a beer while perched above stunning scenery, it’s hard to believe you’re chilling out with the birds only a mere 20 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge and its metropolis. The Tourist Club is a tranquil and easy escape in San Francisco’s backyard. Check their website before venturing out; they occasionally host events and parties that are members-only. Word to the wise: go easy on the booze — a few beers make the trek up a little more strenuous.

And who just happened to show up there after us? Why, the park ranger accompanied by the lovers. I suppose they found our destination more tempting than wherever they were headed.

Mount TamPhoto courtesy of A National Acrobat/Flickr

Tags: beer, hiking, marin, mill valley, Muir Woods, san francisco, Tourist Club, weekend escapes