Skip to content

A 2010 California Beer Adventure: San Francisco

September 17, 2010

Another Good Beer Trip has come and gone. It was a stellar trip, where we visited eleven breweries/brewpubs and several great bars in San Francisco and Northern California.   Once again, I failed to post as we went along, so now I have task of going through my notes and listening to my voice messages trying to remember what happened.  A lot of beer was had, so the details are fuzzy, but I’ll give it a shot.  I’ll break it down into two three parts to keep the reading light.

San Francisco
We had a magnificent time in San Francisco, as we always do. Although they only have a few breweries and brewpubs, it’s a fantastic place for a Good Beer Trip.  Especially if you are like the Urban Beer Hiker and prefer long treks to get your beer.

This was our fourth visit to “The City” so we didn’t plan to hit each and every brewery in town.  We were also looking forward to spending time with friends and family.

Our friends Sir Drink-A-Lot and Mr. T(eetotaler) had recently moved down and they were eager to show us around.  We had dinner with them on the first evening at B-Star in the Richmond district, which is a fabulous Burmese restaurant.  Since neither LushC or I had had Burmese before so we were very excited.  The restaurant lived up to the hype.   After dinner we went for drinks in the Mission.

The Golden Gate by LushC 2010Generously, Sir Drink-A-Lot set aside all of Labor Day for us.  We started the day with breakfast at the Bean Bag in the Alamo.  We then took their dogs to Crissy Field, a doggie paradise, to let them run around and swim.  After dropping off the dogs Sir Drink-A-Lot took us over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito for lunch and then to the viewpoints above the bridge.   When we returned to the city, we were ready to drink. First we hit The Sycamore in the Mission and met a nice local couple who suggested that we visit Muir Woods on our way out to Anderson Valley.  It is a very cool relaxed bar.  We also met the owners who are a brother and sister.  LushC compliment them on their wide variety of glassware and remarked that she was surprised people weren’t stealing it.  The owner said that they had only been open a few months and started to look concerned so we felt it was time to move on.  The next stop was The Blackbird which LushC loved.  It was decorated in grey washed wood with orange booths and had a decent beer selection not mention Speakeasy Blond for $2.   Mr. T(eetotaler) had to come pick us up since Sir Drink-A-Lot was no longer in a condition to drive.  We ended the evening with dinner at a Pakistani restaurant near our hotel (Hotel Adagio, which we’d recommend) and another nearby bar called Minx.  Minx had quirky fifties grandmother furniture, some strange taxidermy animals and were playing “Gremlins” on the TV, so naturally we enjoyed it.  LushC and I had a great time with both of them, and can’t wait to visit again.

On our final night we met up with my cousin West and his partner D-Man, for a great dinner in the Castro at a restaurant called Starbelly.  We made this a short evening because we were all a bit tired from the long weekend.

During our three and a half days we did manage to make it to three breweries and two great Beer Bars.

Thirsty Bear Brewing Co.
Within an hour or so after arriving at our Hotel we were sitting at the bar in the Thirsty Bear.  I’m not sure it’s on a lot of peoples radar, but it is one our favorite brewpubs in San Francisco, and we never miss it.

It has a great location, right around the corner form the SFMOMA and near Union Square.  The feel is more of a European Nightclub, than a brewpub, yet it is very comfortable.  They have excellent food with a Spanish theme.  To top it all off they have great beer.

Polar Bear (Pilsner) – crisp, clean and more malt flavor than the average pilsner
Golden Vanilla – light smooth cream ale with a nice vanilla overtone. Good for people that don’t like beer. This is the beer we always remember them for.
Valencia Wheat – Belgian inspired with orange peel and coriander.  Not bad, but not great.  Light bodied with a slight banana and spice flavor.
Meyer ESB (on Nitro) – smooth and malty with an unexpected (slightly) tart finish.
Locavour (Seasonal Ale) Golden Ale brewed with all local ingredients (within 100 miles).  – Oh! It’s really nice. Tastes like marijuana. (Very floral)
Rum Runner Dark ale brewed with molasses – Dark brown with a fizzy off white head. Molasses, roasted grain and chocolate aroma and taste with some coffee notes in the finish. Nice complexity and soda pop mouth feel.
Brown Bear – We love the brown ales, and this one does not disappoint. A robust, malty body and a slight hop presence in a medium bodied beer.
Koslov Stout (Nitro) – near perfect smooth dark roasted malt stout with coffee and chocolate overtones.
Howard Street IPA – A nice well-bittered IPA with aroma and finish of citrus hops.

LushC and DraughtE at the Thirsty Bear 2010

The Thirsty Bear taster - 2010

Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery


On our second day we made the five mile round trip walk to the Magnolia Brewpub in the Haight.  Another stop we never miss in this city.

The service was excellent on this visit and Carly, our very knowledgeable waitress filled us in on history of the location.  It started life as a corner pharmacy (The old pharmacy drawers still exist behind the bar) and was later the Magnolia Thunder Pussy Erotic Bakery. (Nice!)

The brewery lies in the basement below the cool old checkered tile floor. Tall ceilings and big windows on two sides make it feel bigger than it is.  Old dark wood trim and booths contrast against the rustic plaster walls.  The food is great and the focus is on British Style Ales.  It is a nice place for lunch because their beers are on the low side as far as ABU, which LushC appreciated, but have great flavor.

New Speedway Bitter – light, crisp, warm day beer. Not too malty and not too hoppy.
Ashbury Alt – interesting fruity apple front end with a bitter malt finish, refreshing.
Big Cypress Brown – Oh! The dark roasted malt aroma and flavor in a light crisp beer. Like it
Spud Boys IPA – mellow British style IPA.  Copper malt flavor with a mild bitter hop finish a nice California summer IPA
Blue Bell Bitter – nice crisp malty bitter with a hint of caramel and a British hop finish.

Random dude, who wanted his picture taken at Magnolia

LushC looking cute as ever with our Magnolia Beers

The board at Magnolia


We left Magnolia, headed to lower Haight, and entered the famous Toronado.   It was smaller than I thought it would be, maybe 14’x28’, with small room off the back.  It was packed with regulars and tourists.   They did have an excellent draught (about 50 taps) and bottle list, and an impressive tap handle selection on the wall.

We were dragging from the day of drinking before, and the three or so mile walk, so we just stayed for one beer each.  An Avery XVIII Black Lager (Dry hopped Schwarzbier) for LushC, and a Dogfish Head Palo Santo Maron (Wood aged dark ale) for me. Both selections you don’t find in your average bar.

The Sycamore
We were turned onto this new beer bar (it was their two month anniversary) by Richard form Elizabeth Street Brewery.  We were bummed we couldn’t make it to Elizabeth Street, but were glad we made it here.

They are a small bar located on the corner of Mission and Sycamore (between 17th and 18th).  They have a great patio in back some great wall art, including a space creature without a mouth holding a laser gun and a beer, and a Sycamore Tree.  They have seven taps, and all were good!  They turn over their taps quickly, so what you had on one visit may not be there the next.  In fact, they blew two kegs while we were there.  The menu is small, but the food (especially the sliders) looked amazing!

I remember I had a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, and another beer or two, but cannot remember what everyone else had.

Taps at the Sycamore

Sycamore Beer

Social Kitchen and Brewery

Social Kitchen and Brewery
The Social Kitchen almost eluded us.  We tried to go there on Labor Day, but they were closed.  On our last day in San Francisco, we caught the N MUNI train to go there for lunch, and found out they didn’t open until three. (It was Noon) I know, we should have looked at their hours when we were at the doors the day before, or checked their website.  Determined, we found an alternate lunch spot, and then proceeded to walk around until their doors opened at three.

For our perseverance we were rewarded with a great experience.  It started off with stunning service from the bartender Adam, then the great beer and snacks, followed by an appearance by their new chef, who was so excited about his new Carrot Cake that he had to share it with us, for FREE.  It was truly the best Carrot Cake I’ve ever had, more of a bread pudding type consistency with a great frosting and sauce (Sorry, I don’t remember the details) topped with in-house candied Ginger.  For the final piece of the experience Rich, the Brewmaster, invited us up to the brewery to take a peek at the equipment, and to sample (FREE) a couple of the beers off the fermentation tanks. Awesome! (When we received our bill, it appeared that we received a round of drinks for FREE)

A little more detail. Social is San Francisco’s newest brewery, having opened May 1st of this year.   It’s located in the former Eldo’s and then Wonderbrew brewpub location.   It is very clean and modern, with cool glass bottle lights and an impressive curved wood bar.  They have a small, but high quality liquor selection.  The menu looked great; to bad we were only hungry for snacks.  We had the Beer Lovers Salad, and the Beer-battered Sweet Potato Tempura, and both were delicious.

A taster of Social

Kolsch – Light and crisp just like a Kolsch should be.
Big Muddy Weizen Bock – large dark wheat beer with chocolate notes. Very Good.
Old Timer Alt – crisp, light brown ale, a little sour, but LushC liked it.
L’efant Terrible Belgian-style dark ale – mild and well balanced with a dark, malty flavor with hints of chocolate and Belgian Yeast. A medium bodied beer with only 4.5% ABV. I had to get a pint of this!
Easy IPA – Greeted with a fruity aroma and flavor, then left with a floral finish. Two thumbs up!
Rapscallion – a slight peppery hop finish and pretty darn good. That was lame so here is their description, “… a rambunctious, wily Belgian-style golden ale. Quick-witted and sharp-tongued, this punk rolls with peppery, gingery spice in one hand and an apricot tattoo on the other”

Draught taking a picture at Socia; with Brewer Kyle hard at work

Cool curved bar at Social

Hangin' Bottles at Social

Social Dining

We missed a few breweries this trip including 21st Amendment, Anchor, Elizabeth Street, and Speakeasy.  There’s always next time!

On our last morning in San Francisco, we picked up a rental car, checked out of our hotel, and headed north. We still had four days ahead of us and a lot of beer to drink. Oh yeah, and a Birthday to celebrate.

-To Be Continued –

Some Random Photos

Sculpture in Hayes Valley by LushC

So true!

The Embarcadero - we did see things other than bars

Coit Tower

FTC – If it doesn’t say FREE, it was paid for. Nothing was received for writing this.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: