I’ve been a beer snob forever. While my counterparts were doing keg stands of Coors Light in college, I assertively turned my nose up and said “pint of Sam Adams please.”
It didn’t have to do with the fact that I babysat the Sam Adams’ founder’s ex-wife’s kid to help pay my way through school (true story, nice guy that Jim Koch). Apparently, his ex-wife was annoyed that he spent so much time in the basement playing with yeast and hops instead of getting a real job. She served him divorce papers. He eventually served Sam Adams.
In San Francisco, it’s rare that I can find Sam Adams on draft… as elusive as spotting a resplendent quetzal in Guatemala. Fortunately, another thing we’re blessed with in this great city of ours, is a collection of stellar microbreweries. Here’s the scoop.
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Anchor Brewing Company (Potrero Hill) – Producing 10 unique beers, Anchor Brewing Company prides itself on handmade brews using an all-malt mash in their handcrafted copper brewhouse. Anchor Steam is its superstar, but other popular concoctions include the crisp and clean Liberty Ale, the light, refreshing Summer Beer, the highly-hopped and full-flavored Old Foghorn Ale (think barley wine), and the recently bottled Brekle’s Brown, a tip to German pioneer brewer Gottlieb Brekle, who purchased the old beer-and-billiards saloon in 1896 that would be rechristened Anchor 25 years later. A 45-minute public tour is offered twice daily each weekday by reservation only.
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Speakeasy Brewery (Bayview) – Almost all of Speakeasy’s beers are dry-hopped, a practice primarily used in the western states that really enhances the hoppy aroma of its beers. The brewery made a name for itself with its flagship Prohibition Ale, the balanced and malty sweet amber ale boasting citrus and caramel zests. In the past decade, Prohibition has won a couple of bronze medals at international beer competitions, as well as being awarded Best Beer in 2002 by the alt-weekly SF Guardian. Head to Speakeasy Brewery every Friday, when they open to the public from 4 – 9 p.m. They offer $3 pints and quick tours of the warehouse.
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21st Amendment Brewery and Restaurant (SOMA) – For those of you who got a D in history, the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment, which had mandated nationwide prohibition. 21st Amendment Brewery takes it a few steps further by celebrating “the right to brew, the freedom to innovate, and the obligation to have fun.” The results? Craft brews in cans (cans!) and a rotating line up of ingeniously-named beers. Had a rough day? Head over to the restaurant to try the 9.7% Hop Crisis, their super hoppy imperial IPA. Their Brew Free! Or Die IPA is the restaurant’s top seller and is also served on Virgin America flights (upping Virgin’s cool factor, yet again).
Photo courtesy of ThirstyBear
ThirstyBear Restaurant & Brewery (SOMA) – Did you hear the one about the escaped circus bear in Russia? He sauntered into a bar and tapped Viktor Kozlov on the back. Refusing to relinquish his beer to the animal, the bear bit Kozlov’s hand, guzzled the drink, and then took a nap in a nearby park. In 1991, the story made international headlines, one of which caught the eye of a young brew master. Thus, ThirstyBear was born. San Francisco’s first and only CCOF certified organic brewery, convivial ThirstyBear weds beer and Spanish tapas. Sample the easily drinkable Golden Vanilla (imbued with whole vanilla beans) or the dark Kozlov Stout, the brew immortalizing Viktor’s courageous sacrifice twenty years ago.
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Magnolia Pub and Brewery (Upper Haight) – Magnolia was mentioned this week as one of the “top 10 great places to get a craft beer” by USA Today travel. Out with the Old Ale, In With the New IPA, Blue Bell Bitter, and Kalifornia Kolsch are among Magnolia’s stand out styles produced in a seven-barrel brewery beneath the restaurant. Drafts are only $3 on Tuesdays and the food is also well-worth the visit; attempt a Stout of Circumstance with your Sunday brunch.
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Social Kitchen & Brewery (Inner Richmond) – A classic neighborhood meet up joint, Social Kitchen produces a few Belgian-style ales that pair perfectly with its yummy comfort food. The bold and boisterous Rapscallion golden ale couples well with the truffle oil mac ‘n cheese and the Brussels sprout chips; the fruity, slightly less bitter L’Enfant Terrible is a nice complement to the burgers or sausages. The commodious, wooden space feels casual and welcoming.
Beach Chalet (Ocean Beach) – Not only a prime spot to lounge outside, listen to music, catch a free flick, and watch the sunset, the Beach Chalet, Park Chalet and sister site Lake Chalet all brew their beers behind the bar. Try the California Kind if you fancy pale ale or the Rip Tide Red if you prefer a darker, caramel malt flavor. The Park Chalet hosts Friday movie nights and live music three days a week.
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