Before a courthouse was erected to represent the new law of the land, or banks built to store the gold of the Argonauts, barrooms were the finest buildings in California. San Francisco itself had a noteworthy lack of erected buildings by 1849, but a weary traveler could easily find a place to grab a drink in a beautifully decorated and well stocked barroom. Typical shipments from the port would see barrels of brandy, gin, and whiskey. As early as the 1830s, wineries from Los Angeles and a bourgeoning viticulture in Northern California by the 1840s left the drinking public awash with Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Sauvignons, or stronger fortified wines. Jean Louis Vignes opened his legendary winery in the City of Angels in 1837; it produced some of the finest wines seen in America, and gave the namesake for one of Los Angeles’s famous streets. The small populace of California had an incredible number of barrooms to order a whiskey, wine or beer at; San Francisco alone had over 350 drinking establishments, one for every hundred people in the city. In all cases, an early Californian could douse themselves with whatever beverage they preferred fairly easily; yet alcohol consumption outpaced production. Beer was available to many Californians in the first years of statehood, but a dedicated brewing industry would take many years to ferment.
Eric Ortega, “The Golden State of Brewing; California’s Economic and Cultural Influence in the American Brewing Industry” (Master’s thesis, California State University, Fullerton, 2015), 17-18.