Home Beer Beertown U.S.A.: San Francisco

Beertown U.S.A.: San Francisco

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CATEGORIES: Beer   Beertown   Travel  

Smokestack at Magnolia / Photo by Eric Wolfinger

Smokestack at Magnolia / Photo by Eric Wolfinger

San Francisco was already brimming with breweries and taprooms at the dawn of 2014, but the 13 that have opened since then have the city figuratively foaming over into San Francisco Bay. In the shadow of bigger stalwarts like Anchor, Speakeasy and 21st Amendment, the new spots have tapped into the city’s young, beer-literate, sustainability-minded residents. They’ll soon be packed with torrents of thirsty tourists arriving for SF Beer Week and Super Bowl 50.

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewery

Following a 17-year run as a venerable gastropub on Haight Street, Magnolia opened this second location in Dogpatch to quintuple its capacity of mostly sessionable, English-style beer. Smokestack is a Southern barbecue joint-meets-beer hall in a 10,000-square-foot former chocolate factory, where slow-smoked meats are served by the half-pound at wooden communal tables. 2505 3rd St., magnoliasmokestack.com

Barrel Head Brewhouse

At this airy brewpub, 30 beers flow from a replica Russian torpedo, including a handful of house favorites like the Next Hop Model Wet IPA. For dinner, try the savory Pulled Pork Stuffed Naan, and return on a weekend morning to dive into brisket hash, bottomless mimosas or a beer cocktail like Hookers & Blow, a white IPA blended with house corn whiskey and orange juice. 1785 Fulton St., barrelheadsf.com

Bartlett Hall

International tourists and downtown office workers cram into this 140-seat restaurant/saloon in a stately brick building near bustling Union Square. They come for tavern fare like the decadent Bartlett Burger made with locally sourced beef, piled with caramelized onion, horseradish aioli, house pickles and a choice of cheese (even ultrarich Brie) and add-ons like a sunny-side-up egg. A solid selection of guest taps rounds out five house taps highlighted by the clean, bready Bartlett Blonde. 242 O’Farrell St., bartletthall.com

Black Hammer Brewing

This edgy taproom in SoMa boasts a hammer-themed mural on one wall and cool, art throughout. You can BYO food (maybe a bowl of ramen from Lava Lounge across the street?) to pair with house beers like the black-as-oil Squid Ink IPA and the Munich-inspired Bock Party alongside Pacific Brewing Laboratory experimental brews and IPAs. In a nod to neighborhood techies, find outlets and USB ports beneath the bar and at every table. 544 Bryant St., blackhammerbrewing.com

Black Sands Brewery

Since morphing from a homebrew supply shop into a contemporary bar/restaurant last summer, Black Sands has lured Bay Area beer aficionados and foodies for delights like Fried Local Cod Tacos and SMaSH beers (six simultaneously on tap this winter)—plus neighborhood regulars for artisan coffee and cafe fare before dark. DIY types can also attend monthly homebrewing classes or just ask the bartenders, who happily hand out recipes for each week’s brews. 701 Haight St., blacksandsbeer.com

Harmonic Brewing

This brewery and taproom is the most recent of three, along with Smokestack and Triple Voodoo, that are walking distance apart in Dogpatch, the city’s newest hot neighborhood (easily accessible from downtown on the Muni T-line streetcar). The airy, contemporary space in a converted food packaging building shows off a 15-barrel system that produces 10 rotating tap brews, notably a nitro-smoothed Cold-Press Stout. True to its name, live music sometimes rocks the joint. 1050 26th St., harmonicbrewing.com

Hopwater Distribution

This handsome Lower Nob Hill beer bar always pours 31 rotating California beers (in homage to its status as the 31st state), including many hard-to-find brews from small Bay Area breweries like Faction and Fieldwork. Pub grub, like the can’t-miss Fried Chicken Sandwich with fresh mozzarella, is served at the long copper bar, too. Eye candy abounds: Vintage beer faucets, steins and openers protrude from frames—like masterpieces—from the 1922-constructed brick walls. 850 Bush St., hopwaterdistribution.com

Local Brewing Co.

If you’re heading to a Giants game, duck into this cheery, red-and-white brick establishment near AT&T Park for approachable brews like its award-winning, low-ABV Bluxome Black Lager that pairs perfectly with a Brewery Board: pretzels, mortadella, Gouda and salami. 69 Bluxome St., localbrewingco.com

Liquid Gold

There’s always something new at this small slip of a beer bar/bottle shop showcasing an eclectic 30-tap lineup with pours from Moonlight and Track 7; beers change out with dizzying speed and are updated daily on the website. For a modest corkage fee, you can also dive into more than 250 bottles and cans. Got a sweet tooth? Try a scoop of Humphry Slocombe’s Tahitian Vanilla ice cream for a beer float. 1040 Hyde St., liquidgoldsf.com

Old Bus Tavern / Photo by Karl Mollohan

Old Bus Tavern / Photo by Karl Mollohan

Old Bus Tavern

Three friends,  Jimmy Simpson, John Zirinsky, and Bennett Buchanan, opened this unassuming Bernal Heights tavern, and their shared spirit of adventure pervades the line-up of engaging brews: Poblano and habanero chili peppers flavor the house Texas Breakfast Chili Porter; Meyer lemons tart up the signature Lemon Basil Saison. The food’s no less daring with fare like pickled quail eggs and chicken liver mousse. 3193 Mission St., oldbustavern.com

Sunset Reservoir Brewing Co.

The rumor is Olympic athletes once trained in the spacious building that houses this brewery, restaurant and bar near Ocean Beach. Nowadays it’s known for medal-worthy beer, especially the Sour Wheat that uses sourdough starter from its sister business, Devil’s Teeth Bakery. (The brewery even uses muffin tins to serve $12 flights of six brews.) There’s a mix of traditional bar nosh (buffalo wings, a slider trio) and more composed dishes (seared sea bass, flat-iron steak), for lunch and dinner. 1735 Noriega St., sunsetbeersf.com

Triple Voodoo Brewery

Take a tour of the brewery, then hit up the taproom for both West Coast-style IPAs and Belgian-inspired beers using ingredients like Greek yogurt, lemon verbena and pink peppercorn; start with the flagship Inception Belgian Tripel. Order in from nearby Dogpatch restaurants, including favorite Long Bridge Pizza Co. 2245 3rd St., triplevoodoo.com

Fort Point Beer Co.

This taproom in the historic Ferry Building—the ginormously popular marketplace for sustainable produce and gourmet foods and beverages at the foot of Market Street—was the first craft brew tenant. Fort Point beers are on tap throughout the city, but the new taproom offers first tastes of its seasonals, which this winter include Treble Hook, a hopped-up rye pale ale. From communal tables, you’ll watch a river of humanity stroll and pedal past on the Embarcadero Promenade. One Ferry Building, fortpointbeer.com


Pick up a seasonal souvenir while you’re in town: Look for Headlands Brewing’s barrel-aged Lightship Sour Solera; Almanac’s Valley of the Heart’s Delight sour blonde ale with apricots; Social Kitchen’s Saison du Sauvignon, made with 100 pounds of sauvignon blanc grapes per barrel; 21st Amendment’s Sneak Attack, a cardamom-spiced saison; and ThirstyBear Organic Brewery’s The Dark Age, an imperial porter aged in bourbon barrels.

SF Beer Week / Photo by Marc Fiorito

SF Beer Week / Photo by Marc Fiorito


Super Bowl week (Feb. 1-7) will pack San Francisco’s craft beer spots, but so will SF Beer Week, which immediately precedes it (Jan. 22-31). Beer Week is the Super Bowl for craft beer fans, with nearly 800 events including tastings, homebrewing demonstrations, beer dinners, educational events and an opening gala hosted by 100-plus Northern California brewers and attended by an expected 3,000-plus beer lovers. More info: sfbeerweek.org




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