It happens to the best of us: we move just a little bit further from the big city in our region, and we stop going there as often. It had been some time since I’d tried any new drinking spots in SF, and it had also been a while since I’d run into Gail and Steve of BeerByBart.com. So we saved a date for me to meet them on their side of the tunnel and check out some new (to me) spots.
I was out for drinks, not blog research per se, so these are first impressions of places I’ve been to once. For more details, I’ll link to Beer by Bart. I mean, duh.
Stop #1: Fort Point’s brand-spanking-new Ferry Building bar
I didn’t even know this place had opened yet. I’m a fan of Fort Point beers and I’d actually long wondered why the Ferry Building didn’t have a notable beer option amid all its other tasty offerings. This is a small spot on the outside of the building that will delight tourists (you can borrow a growler with a deposit!) and also pleased me. It’s a convenient, central location to have a beer while planning the rest of your day. They even had a beer I hadn’t tried yet, the rye-packed Treble Hook.
Dig that wall of cans!
Details: Fort Point Beer Company
Stop #2: Local Brewing’s long-awaited bricks and mortar
Back in 2011, I met these cool women, Regan and Sarah. They were trying to open a brewery, and in the meantime were participating in homebrew/nanobrew-type events and pro-am’ing with Thirsty Bear. I seem to remember they had a nice porter.
Last year, they pulled it off. Local Brewing Company is open in SOMA not far from the ballpark and 21st Amendment. They had 16 of their own beers pouring on my visit, with half pours and sample sizes available, thank goodness. I really appreciated the variety of styles available because I’m the type of dork who exclaims “OH MY GOD THEY HAVE A BROWN ALE NOBODY MAKES A BROWN ALE ANYMORE” loudly in public. The black lager was even better. Yep. I like this place. Worth the wait.
Regan may co-own the place but she’s not too good to bartend a busy Saturday!
Details: Local Brewing Company
Stop #3: Black Hammer and Pacific Brewing Laboratory’s artsy taproom
I remember Pac Brew Labs from back when they were called Clara Street Brewing and gave away their beer in a garage. (I promise this entire post won’t be dedicated to making myself feel old.) I don’t remember the whole story of how and why they teamed up with the Black Hammer folks, but Burning Man was involved. Isn’t it always, in San Francisco? 😉 I thought I might not be cool enough for the room, but it was a very comfortable spot. Special attention was paid to the sound system and decor, but they didn’t slouch on the beer, either. I tasted a Black Hammer berlinerweisse and a couple of dark beers from Pacific Brewing Laboratory (was Squid Ink always this good?) Thumbs up. And the sign on the door instructs you “just pull on the hammer and everything will be okay,” which is awfully deep after a few beers.
Pretty lights, good beer
Details: Black Hammer/Pacific Brewing Laboratory
Stop 4: Hogwash, the latest upscale beer and sausage place
We were attacking the snack bowls at Black Hammer with enough vigor that I suggested our next stop have a square meal at it. Gail and Steve recommended Hogwash even though they’re vegetarians. So I figured this place ought to be good, and it was 30 taps good!
Hogwash is exactly the type of place you want to know is there when you’ve got an old friend staying in the city center for business, or family visiting who want to do San Francisco-y things downtown. It’s right near Union Square. Remember when the only decent beer option downtown was Gordon Biersch? Now you’ve got what I can only describe as Hog’s Apothecary West (with more housemade sausage and without the big mains). Good beer, good hog, and even a couple of veggie options. The beet appetizer was fantastic, btw. Go ahead and avoid the 54-ounce goblets of beer and the (perhaps facetious) suggestion of keg stands with a tableside keg of Cuvee des Trolls.
This is the new San Francisco normal
Stop #5: Bartlett Hall to see what Wynn is doing
Bartlett Hall is the type of big fancy whatever that I would normally avoid, especially on a night it’s full of TVs and people yelling. Thing is, they’re upping their beer game, and hired one of the area’s most promising young brewers to do it. Wynn Whisenhunt’s homebrew was better than plenty of commercial beer when he was barely legal to drink any of it, so I’m excited to see him driving the beer at Bartlett Hall, or anywhere. There were five house beers on the menu: a hoppy session beer, the obligatory brewpub blonde, an IPA, a barleywine (they were out, sob sob) and a chocolate/coffee/vanilla/milk porter. Whoa! All were well done but the IPA disappeared most quickly from both couples’ samplers. I’m starting to see a future where all the big fancy whatevers have quality housemade beer. A girl can dream…
Whoooooo! Go sports!
Details: Bartlett Hall
Stop #6: Dirty Water, the beer place in the Twitter building?
Four people who’ve never even called an Uber walk into a bar in the Twitter building…and half of them tweet about it…the new San Francisco contains multitudes. In this case, it contains a multitude of beer. Yep, this gets expensive, but whoever chose the taplist is not fucking around. And, as much as you want to make fun of a nice restaurant in the Twitter building (or make fun of yourself for drinking at the bar there), the staff was wonderful and we had a good time. Everyone there seemed to be having a good time even if most of them, I’d guess, hadn’t already been to five bars that day. Thank goodness for half-pints.
Since I was already doing a fish-out-of-water routine, I didn’t even punch Steve when he uttered the immortal words, “Let’s take a selfie.” Moral of the story: going outside your comfort zone can be fun, especially if the area outside your comfort zone has dozens of taps.
Actually pretty great group selfie stolen, appropriately enough, from Beer By Bart’s Twitter feed
Details: Dirty Water
Stop #7 are you kidding me, OK one more, so let’s go to a bar in a movie theater I guess
There were a few more options for the rest of the night, and the one I leaned most strongly towards was “go home and sleep for 12 hours.” In the end I chose to nightcap at the bar in the new Alamo Drafthouse. If we’ve got a ton of beer options in sausage halls, good beer brewed on premises in touristy restaurants, 52 beers on tap downstairs from a ton of techies’ offices, and a quality brewery setting up its taproom in the Ferry Building, it would seem that the theme for SF right now is BEER EVERYWHERE. So why not a movie theater?
It’s not the first moviehouse in the area to offer good beer, but it is the latest. Yeah, they can definitely stop putting glasses in the fridge, but that cold glass of Faction Pale tasted real nice to my fatigued palate anyway. When I lived in Germany, my favorite movie theater offered only Becks, and that was GERMANY. It’s a brave new world.
Is this some stock market reference or what?
Details: Alamo Drafthouse
On most days, I’d rather drink in a dive or a neighborhood pub than a slick downtown spot or a movie theater or even the Ferry Building — but how fabulous is it that good beer lists are everywhere now? Or, as I tipsy Tweeted from BART shortly before a stranger threw up on my shoes:
The future of SF beer: not every place is my people, but all people will have great beer.
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