Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

AJ’s Sports Pub in Clayton, CA. moves toward good beer

By William Brand
Sunday, March 23rd, 2008 at 10:54 pm in Uncategorized.

AJ’s Sports Pub“Hi William, Just wanted to let you know that I like your articles so much that I’m starting to post them on my bulletin board. You’ve actually inspired me to try and educate my Concord customers to some of the finer brews made… and away from the Bud style beers. I’ve got people turned on to Arrogant Bastard and Brother David’s Double and Triple. They are moving slowly, but definitely picking up of late. And if worse comes to worse, I’ve got something good to drink for myself.” Andy Steinberg, Proprietor

With a note like this one, I had to visit. So late Saturday afternoon my daughter, who is 21, and I dropped in. It’s AJ’s Sports Pub & Grill, 4633 Clayton Road, Concord, CA 9521, 925-459-0574

I was hesitant for one reason: Before Andy Steinberg bought the place, it was an established called Mr. Pickwicks, one of those mock English pubs. It had moved here from a spot near I-680 in Pleasant Hill, where it was well-regarded. Well, the Fuller’s ESB on tap had turned. The hot dog was hmm. I left, and never returned.

The place has changed. The hot dog and garlic fries we ordered were first-rate. I asked for Fuller’s ESB. again and was told by the young woman wait staffer that they were “out of ESP. ” Except for Anchor Steam, the rest of the beer list was corporate: Bass, Bud Lite, Boddington’s, Harp, Guinness, Newcastle Brown, plus Lagunitas IPA and Fat Tire.

AJ’s Sports Pub Brother David’s TripleBut my daughter spotted a note that said: “Ask about our seasonal specials” Turned out it was Stone Arrogant Bastard, which was gone. But the young woman said, “There’s one more. Anderson something…” Turned out it was Anderson Valley Brother David’s Triple Abbey-Style Ale. Wow. I ordered small glass, my daughter ordered a pint. It’s 10 percent, I drove home.

Andy Steinberg was there, said he got tired of working for other people and took over the pub 16 months ago; he’s added a dart board – a customer built it for free beer. There’s a pool table in the back room and the local homebrew club – Diablo Order of Zymiracle Enthusiasts – DOZE – meets here monthly.

He has a karoke night, an acoustic music jam night on Wednesdays, live music with lcoal bands on the weekend.

Steinberg admits he’s a wine guy, originally from New York. So he’s getting into good beer cautiously. Bud Light and Bud are big sellers; so is Stella Artois, the Belgian lager from InBev, he said. He replaced Arrogant Bastard with Brother David. My advice: Put ‘em both on and four more, let’s see: Maybe Lagunitas Censored, Gordon Biersch Dunkelweizen or Marzen and the IPA from his neighbor EJ Phair Brewing. Dump the slowest moving corporate beers and go for it. The DOZE folks alone will spread the word that there’s good beer on Clayton Road (an official beer desert) and so will I.

One othe note. He got tired of trying to run a pub and a kitchen, so he leased the kitchen to a Peruvian family. They offer a full menu of interesting dishes. Going to go back again and try it.

PHOTOS: Top: The bar at AJ’s Sports Pub & Grill.

Above: Brother David’s translucent copper triple Damn, it’s good.

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  • Mike Callahan

    Bill,

    I haven’t been to AJ’s since it replaced Mr. Pickwicks. I will definitely give it a try. My experience at Mr. Pickwicks was similar to yours so I have avoided the place.

    There aren’t many places in the Concord/Clayton that offer a decent selection of real ales. For whatever reason, a number of the popular spots serve mainly the corporate stuff and even when a good one is available, it can be hit and miss depending on the turnover.

    I will continue to follow your articles in search of good pints, but as important good pubs.

  • William Brand

    Haven’t been in there in a while. If you go, let me know. In my opinion, the best place for good beer in Concord is EJ Phair’s, on Todos Santos Square downtown.

    2151 Salvio St., Concord, CA
    925-691-4253

    They have their own, very excellent beer, brewed at their brewery over on Detroit Ave. They also have a number of guest beers. Check ‘em out.