The Beer-y Best: San Francisco Craft Breweries & Gastropubs
This story is brought to you by the great people over at San Francisco To Do. SF To Do shares brutally honest reviews of the best ways to plan an amazing trip to San Francisco – from Alcatraz to Twin Peaks. Photo of Mikkeller Bar beer sampler.
San Francisco is something of a lush for mixing quality ingredients and technical mastery with imagination and passion to distill unforgettable, delectable experiences. This applies as much to its beer as it does to its food. In fact, the city is in the middle of a beer renaissance. Microbreweries and gastropubs operate throughout San Francisco, each one bringing its own unique contribution to the city's beer scene. Be safe and consider a taxi or ride service if you are out on the town. Here are five of our favorites:
Mikkeller Bar (34 Mason Street, Union Square)
An energetic babble of voices greets you as you pass through this bar's nondescript entrance, and after a few minutes inside, you can see what all the hubbub is about. Tap after gleaming tap stretches across and through the massive bar area – 42 in all. Most drafts come straight from the Mikkeller Brewery, some of which are made specifically for where you sit, the Copenhagen-based brewery's only outpost outside of Denmark. No matter their origin and no matter their type – from traditional amber or wheat to exotic bourbon barrel chipotle porter – all are guaranteed to be served with exactly the right amount of foamy chill thanks to Mikkeller's high tech dispensary system. You won't be the only one toasting your decision to visit.
Southpaw BBQ (2170 Mission Street, The Mission)
Customers hurrying in from busy Mission Street find themselves enveloped in relaxing Southern hospitality as soon as they enter Southpaw BBQ. The lazy drawl of country music drifts through the airy space, while ceiling fans whirl and lights in jug-shaped casings dangle overhead. Silver brew tanks sit in a far corner, adding an easy immediacy to the house-brewed drafts on tap. Pair a pint with some Southern specialty cooking from the kitchen. Many of the sides, like the black pepper brie macaroni and cheese, have a gourmet twist.
21st Amendment Brewery (563 2nd Street, SoMa)
Smart, witty, and welcoming, if 21st Amendment were a person, it would be the life of the party. Patrons flock to its open and airy location for a seat at the large horseshoe bar at the front or a full meal under the exposed warm wood beams of its steel-accented, concrete-walled dining area. Named for the amendment to the Constitution repealing prohibition, the wit trickles down to their beers, from summer favorite watermelon wheat “Hell or High Watermelon” to perpetual winner “Brew Free! or Die IPA.” Fun wordplay aside, they are serious about their beer, especially in February when they host Strong Beer Month with cross-town buddy Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery.
ThirstyBear Brewing Company (661 Howard Street, Yerba Buena)
ThirstyBear's philosophy is rooted in three S's: Social. Sustainable. Spanish. The microbrewery doubles as a Spanish restaurant, thus pairing the ultimate social beverage with tapas, the ultimate social food. Friends converse in the industrial loft space over pints specifically brewed to encourage people to linger over more than one. The Polar Bear Pilsner and Golden Vanilla are particularly popular, as are the beer and cheese pairings. San Francisco's only organic brewery, it is also the only one that is green certified, thus adding a whole new level to the concept of enjoying responsibly.
SpeakEasy Ales & Lagers (1195 Evans Avenue, Bayview)
A far cry from their shifty-eyed logo peering from bars and bottles across the city, SpeakEasy is friendly and welcoming, especially on Friday nights when gregarious brewers, live music, and food trucks greet visitors to the Brewhouse Bar in their warehouse production facility. Those wanting a more educational experience are invited to participate in free afternoon tours Tuesdays through Saturdays. While tastings are not included, guests are encouraged to purchase a pint at the start from the Speakeasy Tap Room and bring it with them. Advance booking is recommended.
Meredith Narrowe is a San Francisco-based contributor to San Francisco to Do who loves exploring, discovering, and sharing all that her city has to offer.