From March 23 – 26, San Francisco becomes Craft Beer Mecca as it plays host to the 2011 Craft Brewers Conference. Take a sneak peak at just a few of the pubs, restaurants and bars that make San Fran such a great craft beer city. Article originally published January 2011.
San Francisco is a city of delights—especially culinary delights. Fantastic fresh foodstuffs, craft breweries, and brewpubs make the city’s beer scene vibrant.
“Craft beer has hit a new critical mass in the food community, and it is reflected in increased sales and attention to craft beer in what seems like every great restaurant in town,” says David McLean, brewer and owner of Magnolia Gastropub and The Alembic. “This is obviously not just a local phenomenon, and is especially welcomed here and now. In the not too distant past, craft beer has sometimes felt a little overshadowed by the amazing wine scene that surrounds us.”
Beer mapping among San Francisco restaurants yields dozens of recommendations, but here are a few of the top picks, starting with an exceptional gastropub at the ball park, where you can nosh for as little as $10.
The Public House | 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107
The Public House, inside the Willie Mays Park, finally perfected the gastropub formula; upscale pub food, 24 well chosen taps, and dozens of bottles, says Chuck Lenatti, editor of allbrews, a Bay Area based beer blog.
Rosamunde Sausage Grill | 545 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
Beer loves sausage and vice versa. But you can also enjoy beer with breakfast sausage, according to Owner and Grillmeister of Rosamunde Sausage Grill, Josh Margolis. “Personally, I’m of the mind that craft beer is more versatile with food, so we offer the fabulous Old Rasputin, North Coast Brewing Company’s Imperial Stout which tastes like espresso. It pairs really well with the grilled sausage and egg breakfast sandwich, with arugula, grilled onions and Cheddar cheese.”
The Alembic | 1725 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
For just $25, you can put together an amazing progression of tastings at The Alembic, Dave McLean’s small plate restaurant in The Haight. McLean says, “Because of my brewing background and love for beer, Alembic is one of those places where the craft beer selection is much wider than its wine selection, but less so than its spirits, which is Alembic’s main focus.” The menu is inventive, with combinations such as fresh sea urchin and roasted corn chowder, roasted bone marrow with capers and hot peppers, and bittersweet chocolate dessert with salted coconut.
The Monk’s Kettle | 3141 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
The Monk’s Kettle often hosts The San Francisco Brewers Guild’s monthly “meet the brewer” gathering. Co-founder Christian Albertson says, “We’ve also started a vintage list, with fifteen rotating choices. In planning our beer dinners, we begin with a discussion about what beers we’ll be using, then create dishes to highlight their flavor profile. This is an interesting way to go about it, since you start with the beer first, then develop the food course to complement it.” Beyond beer dinners, expect solid pub fare, such as burgers and salads, prepared with organic, fresh, free-range ingredients from top-quality purveyors, and a rotating selection of American craft beer on tap.
You can enjoy fresh seafood with a range of American craft beers at Bar Crudo for right around $30. Make sure to try one of my favorite pairings, the West Coast oysters with East Coast’s Allagash Brewing Company White. Bar Crudo takes the beer dinner to the next level. At a recent “Land Meets Sea” dinner, Moonlight Brewing Co. offered five courses paired with six beers for $85. The menu included creations such as King Mackerel Crudo, atop a salad of water cress, endive, sliced pear, duck prosciutto, almond dust, and tossed in a creamy pear dressing, paired with brewer Brian Hunt’s Sour Mash Wheat Ale.
Across the town, fine restaurants feature American craft beer on their menus. According to San Francisco’s Beer-Chef, Bruce Paton, “The San Francisco Brewers Guild has helped raise the profile of craft beer within the culinary community. Since its founding, The Guild has taken part in several high profile food events that had been previously dominated by wine and distilled spirits.”
Members of the San Francisco Brewers Guild include:
21st Amendment Brewery | 563 2nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
Partners Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan offer unique, hand crafted beers, great food, and provide a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere that invites conversation, interaction, and a sense of community.
Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant | 1000 Great Hwy, San Francisco, CA 94121
Housed in 1930s era Golden Gate Park Visitors Center, guests enjoy modern American cuisine and hand crafted ales amidst the beauty of restored Works Progress Administration frescoes and a breathtaking ocean view.
Gordon Biersch Brewery & Restaurant | 2 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
Gordon Biersch serves authentic German style beer, and the menu consists of appetizers and entrees influenced by a variety of cuisines. All their offerings are designed to complement Dan Gordon’s signature lager beer.
Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery | 1398 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
The Magnolia honors traditional brewing styles and methods while adding something modern and fresh to the conversation. The kitchen uses the bounty of California-produced ingredients to create a menu inspired by the great cooking traditions of pubs and beer halls.
Social Kitchen & Brewery | 1326 9th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94122
Cuisine à la bière is the idea that beer plays a role in the kitchen and deserves a place at the table. The Social Kitchen & Brewery is modeled after this idea, and produces accessible beers that are food-friendly and full of flavor.
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers | 1195 Evans Avenue # A, San Francisco, CA 94124
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, in beautiful Bayview, is producing Prohibition era ales and lagers in small batches.
ThirstyBear Brewing Co. | 661 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
ThirstyBear is known for the Spanish influences found on the menu, such as crispy calamari bites with piquillo peppers and a dusting of grated Manchego cheese.
For reviews of more beer-centric restaurants throughout the Bay Area, including Oakland and Berkeley, visit Chuck Lenatti’s blog, allbrews. Cheers!
Lucy Saunders is the author of The Best of American Beer & Food, and explores craft beer and cuisine from her home in Milwaukee, WI.
Last Updated: December 20, 2010