How did you go from selling beer to making it?
Just a matter of a lot of luck and running into the right people. My father-in-law had invested in a number of restaurants, and one day he took me to meet this guy he had invested with. We talked for a bit on becoming partners in a brewpub: I could be on the beer side and he could be on the food side.
But he couldn’t actually be on the license, but he had a son my age and that was Craig Tasley who I co-opened Marin Brewing with. With the help of my father-in-law, his father and another partner, we were able to get a limited partnership together. We raised some capital, borrowed and begged for the rest, and I think we opened for about $650,000. I wish I could have opened the next two restaurants that cheap!
Moylans opened in 1995. Then I opened Noonan’s, which is the most fantastic bar in the whole wide world, with an amazing selection of booze. I’ve taken a real liking to tequila and whiskey—I love beer, of course, but there’s nothing like a shot and beer. It goes back to my San Francisco roots. San Francisco’s a shot and a beer town: that’s what my dad always told me. It’s a good old town.
What makes Noonan’s the best bar in the world?
All my bars are long bars. This segment is “Pull Up a Stool,” and I am sitting on a stool at Moylan’s right now. I’m one of those guys, I go to a bar I want to sit at the bar, so I wanted a nice decent bar in each place. At Marin Brewing we’ve got a 42-foot bar, a nice healthy bar. When we opened Moylan’s, we put in a 56-foot bar. And there are still days when I walk in and all the darned stools are filled up. Now that’s a good thing, and I’m not complaining, but when we opened Noonan’s, I put in an 80 foot bar, probably the largest bar in the county. It’s like a bar you’d find in the financial district in a big city.
We have a huge selection: over 300 vodkas, over 300 whiskies, over 450 tequilas, over 120 rums. It’s unheard of.
How do your bartenders guide people?
Well, they curse me every now and then. A lot of times people will ask for recommendations, especially when we have 100 tequilas on the shelf—just the añejos. If it’s not 100% agave, it’s not worth drinking. It’s just like drinking crappy beer: it’s just not worth it.
I love tequila. So many fantastic ones, I’m having so much fun. Chinaco, Chinaco Blanco, the super añejos. Oro de Jalisco has a great 8 year-old añejo. Don Julio 1942, which you can find in a lot of bars, is a great tequila. So is the Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia series.
Of your beers, which is the friendliest to tequila?
I’ve been drinking a lot of Golden Ale lately, but that’s because I have an ulcer. I have to lay low on the hops. I’m steadfast in my belief that, with beer and tequila, I’ll get over the hump. I just don’t know when it will be.
Christmas beers go really nice with a silver tequila. The Christmas beers from both breweries are spiced beers, different, but on the spicy side, so they pair nicely with silver tequilas that has a spicy character to them.
With a nice añejo, something a little richer and maltier, like our Kiltlifter Scotch Ale is a great, great beer. A Chinaco Blanco and a Kiltlifter: you can’t go wrong.