Beer, Beer, Beer

Photo by Steve LoweryThe brainiacs at UC Irvine can't find the Anthill Pub even though it's on the third floor of their Student Center.

“There is no third floor,” said Christian, one of our interns. Ah, Christian, maybe the third floor escaped your notice during your seven years on campus, but it's just across from the big parking structure next to the Irvine Barclay Theatre. It took me all of one minute to walk up the Student Center stairs, go outside, turn right and walk up the next flight of stairs located DIRECTLY NEXT TO THE GIANT NEON “ANTHILL PUB” SIGN to find the place, but then, what do I know? I went to a Cal State.

Anyway, the Anthill Pub. It has been run by graduate students for the past 10 years, and that's no misprint. Grad students? Money-making venture? What gives? Relax—it turns out the guys who run the Anthill, Mark Sellick and Scott Winterstein, mainly just like to drink a lot, and the money they make is either given to UCI's Grad Student Association to fund Me-So-Smart-Look-At-Me symposiums or plowed back into buying more beer. And they buy a buttload of beer. They buy stouts and ales, pales and darks, apricot this and wheat that. Everything from your Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye to your Lost Coast Downtown Brown to your Brasserie Huyghe-Melle Delirium Tremens, which I believe is illegal, to your North Coast Pranqster 2X Belgian, which I knowis illegal.

Mark and Scott gave us a bunch of beers to try. We started with Sudwerk Hefe-Weissen, which Mark said was “good stuff, not so chunky, lighter, really great during the hot months.” That's why they've started carrying it again. They change the beer menu about every two weeks, adding and subtracting, always with about 30 brews available. We tasted Lost Coast's Apricot Wheat, which I really liked, very fruity, light, flavorful—though it seemed a little less so when Mark said it's favored by women who normally drink ciders.

I more than made up for my lapse when I dug my lips into a dense little confection called Alesmith Speedway Stout, which is brewed with coffee and is 12 percent alcohol, which I thought was a lot, but my drinking companion, Anthony Pignataro, glumly noted, “Twelve percent alcohol? That means 88 percent is not!”

Mark busied himself talking about its sweet, chocolate flavor, which made me think this guy's personal stash must include stuff he tapped off the space shuttle. To be honest, I drank the stuff like, two hours ago, and then like a dozen after it, so I'm not very . . . I'm still a bit . . . a bit . . . well, I can't think of the word, okay? Is that okay, Mr. Hitler?

Anyway, it's a nice place, the Anthill Pub, and they've got six pool tables and video games and four TVs and one big-screen and live entertainment on Thursdays and just about every beer except stuff called Bud or Miller or Coors.

“None of that,” says Mark, whose beer credentials are impeccable, as he's a Canadian who grew up in Alaska helping out at his father's saloon. Dad's joint, the Moosehead Saloon, sold a lot of Moosehead. It wasn't until Mark was doing his undergraduate work at Berkeley that he was introduced to microbreweries and discovered that “fresh beer is better beer.”

Asked what they would do if someone demanded Coors or Miller, Mark said he favors the “You suck!” school, while Scott identifies more with the “Get the hell out of here!” outlook. Actually, the pair say they are even willing to work with people tied to supermarket brands.

“If someone came in asking for Newcastle, I'd let them try the Downtown Brown,” Scott said. “If they drank Heineken, I'd suggest the Pilsner Urquell. Most of the time, people really like them. They're just better.”

About the food. Yeah, there's food. There's a little hutch where you can order a Philly cheesesteak that's pretty good, a spicy chicken sandwich that's not, and a bowl of olives for a buck because, apparently, the kids can't get enough olives.

Anyway, go to the Anthill Pub and drink beer. We did, and the whole way back to the office, Anthony and I talked about nothing but the good beer we'd had and guys who jog with their arms at their sides and Green Acres and majestic legs and something about Winnie the Pooh mauling Christopher Robin.

Man, that was some good beer.

Anthill Pub, located on the third floor (Christian) of the UC Irvine Student Center, Campus and Periera, Irvine, is open Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. (949) 824-3050. Beer. Lunch for two, $15, beer only. Cash.

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