Discovering San Francisco Through Craft Beer Tourism
As a beer tourist - i.e., one who incorporates local beer and breweries in all vacation plans - I was amazed at the breadth and depth of the craft beer culture in San Francisco during a recent trip to the city. Here are some of the highlights:
Almanac Brewing is an exciting new gypsy brewer that works to honor a “Farm to Bottle” philosophy. Almanac ensures that every one of their beers includes an ingredient from the bounty of local California farms. Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan, the co-founders of Almanac, were home brewers who were active in the local food culture. They discovered that there was a huge disconnect between beer and food, and decided to start brewing beer that specifically addressed that. The core of their identity, according to Friedman, is ensuring that their beer pairs with California’s farm to table cuisine, both through the flavor profiles of the beer and their focus on local ingredients. Their extra pale ale uses local mandarins and their Dogpatch Flanders Red sour uses local cherries and sourdough yeast.
Dave McLean, founder and head brewer at the Magnolia brewpub on Haight Street is working hard to get his newest location in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood up and running. This barbeque brewpub will be where McLean brews on a larger scale, increasing capacity from 1,000 barrels to 7,000 per year. The larger space will also permit Magnolia to maintain a barrel aging program. Magnolia currently self-distributes its beer in the San Francisco area, because McLean believes it’s important for the client to have direct access to the brewer in order to make it a better experience for their customers.
Thirsty Bear Brewpub is the oldest brewpub in the city still in existence. They are an organic brewery that is very focused on beer and food pairing with their Spanish-style tapas menu and wide selection of local cheese. The head brewer, Brenden Dobel, has been working with founder and original brewer Ron Silberstein since 2002 (the brewery opened in 1996) and the brewpub offers a wide array of beers, from ESB to a blended sour stout aged in both chardonnay and bourbon barrels called Charbay Stave.
While the Toronado and Monk’s Kettle are always on my San Francisco “to-do” list (and I very much enjoyed my time at both during this most recent trip) the new beer bar in town is a serious contender to sate the needs of the pickiest beer enthusiast. The Mikkeller Bar, recently opened by the Mikkeller gypsy brewery, has a high-end range of unique and delicious beer, all served at the perfect temperature. Sours, Belgians, and local beer all co-mingle at this beer hall of tasteful Scandinavian wood, dim lighting, and gleaming taps.
Between the establishments and beers listed above and the ones I didn’t have space to discuss (21st Amendment, Anchor, Dogpatch Saloon) all beer lovers will have their glasses full of deliciousness throughout the city.