Church Key

Not Rated.
Church KeyChurch Key
BA SCORE
91
outstanding

26 Ratings
Ratings: 26
Reviews: 17
rAvg: 4.07
pDev: n/a
Taps: 10
Bottles: 75
Cask: N
Beer-to-Go: N
[ Bar, Eatery ]

1402 Grant Ave
San Francisco, California, 94133-3304
United States
phone: (415) 963-1713

view map and get directionsMap @churchkeysf

Notes:
None, yet.

(Place added by: funkmaster229 on 12-11-2008)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 26 | Reviews: 17 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of MOVERTON1284
3.14/5  rDev -22.9%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 3 | selection: 3.5

This place is very hard to find, no signage just a key. The crowd was not what I had in mind, and the place was very empty. They did not have much on draft, mostly bottles that were overpriced IMO. There are much cooler places to visit in San Francisco IMO.

Photo of DocJitsu
3.44/5  rDev -15.5%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4

A small, easily missed spot just far enough away from the touristy part of San Francisco that you aren't overwhelmed with tourists, but aren't getting disapproving stares from regulars either. Dark, but very intimate surroundings. The downstairs, bar portion almost forces social interaction because of how proximal everyone is to each other--including the bar keep. Speaking of the bar keep, he is most likely on some type of speed. I won't venture to guess whether it's cocaine or meth, but he probably does indulge in one or both. While he is not necessarily off-putting, he does wait on you with a contempt and condescension that is usual in places that specialize in artisan beers. His beer knowledge is not nearly as vast as he would have you believe, which causes more educated patrons to look over some of his narcissistic features. The beer menu is decent. It is categorized by style, which is helpful. The upstairs is less intimate, but you almost get the sense that you're doing something wrong by being up there. Decent place to visit for two or three beers, but I find myself wanting to leave pretty soon after arriving.

Photo of dcloeren
3.5/5  rDev -14%

Photo of nickd717
3.7/5  rDev -9.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

This place is decent. Pretty nice ambiance and a fairly good beer selection, albeit extremely predictable. They've got some Allagash (White/Curieux), Dogfish Head (90 Min/Midas Touch/Palo Santo Marron), Delirium Tremens, some De Ranke, Nogne, Duchesse de Bourgog....(yawn)...zzz. Ok, maybe I've become too much of a beer snob for my own good. But really, nearby La Trappe dominates this place, and that's not even considering La Trappe's awesome moules frites. Church Key prices are also pretty high, although not unexpected for a high-end North Beach beer bar.

One interesting feature on the menu is the $2 "mystery beer."
***SPOILER ALERT!***
It's something crappy, almost definitely some variety of bland American macro adjunct lager. If you're lucky, it'll be PBR. If you're unlucky, well, let's just say I hope you have lots of Advil and easy toilet access the next day.

Still though, it's another place to get a good beer in the city, and is worth it if you just want to mix it up a bit.

Photo of mjl21
3.71/5  rDev -8.8%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Church Key is a new beer bar/lounge located in North Beach. For those going, parking around the area is extremely tough. If you are going out later than 6, take public transportation or be prepared to spend $20 to park. They serve only beer and wine and don't do food, but the table next to me had brought in pizza.

It is a fairly tiny space. There are two levels, but I only stayed on the ground floor where the bar is located. There is not a ton of seating room. They have a booth, a few hightops, and some seats at the bar.

They have a few taps that they continually rotate. When you come in they give you a clipboard with their draught offerings as well as their bottle offerings. When I went they had Curieux, Maharaja, Buffalo Belgian Stout, Duchesse, and a few others that I don't recall. The bottle list seemed fairly large, but I did not even take a look at it.

My biggest gripe was that it was a little too loungy for me. Think lots of Eurotrash and crummy Radiohead knockoff bands playing on the stereo.

The prices were in line with what most Belgian beer bars seem to charge (not very cheap). Draught offerings went from $7-$10. I think my Maharaja was $8. The bartender was friendly and quick at getting my beer.

This is by no means a bad place. If you are waiting to eat at Tony's pizza down the street it is a great place to go and have a drink. I prefer La Trappe and Rogue because of their atmospheres.

Photo of jp11801
3.8/5  rDev -6.6%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.75 | selection: 3.75

Great new beer place in North Beach. I went there last Sunday for a pre-concert round of beers. First off the service was great and the women bartender was excellent (sorry forgot your name). She had a good handle on the beer and was very nice.

Great beer selection started off with a draft and then jumped to the beer menu and much to my surprise they had the Mickeller IPA. Price as all hell but a great beer and kudos to Church Key for stocking it.

I likely be back to see how the place evolves over time

Photo of 100floods
3.8/5  rDev -6.6%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3

I finally went to this place on a first date after my friend told me about it, several times. I don't usually go to North Beach, but I'll hunt our a good beer bar any day.

Initially the place was a little hard to find, no sign other than an actual key logo hanging over the door, which I thought was cool. I walked in and they were playing Mission of Burma or Sonic Youth (both were played that night), HUGE points for me. I go to the bar, the guy behind the counter was really friendly and picked up on the fact that I was on a first date and was really helpful.

I was stoked to see that they had Aventinus' Eisbock on tap, but was not too stoked at the price. Cheaper beer was around $6 and that was for Moylan's irish red and Anchor Steam's OSA. Their bottle selection was very good as well, again, pricey. They had a few bottles of Mikkeller black, which I thought was gone forever. The beer selection overall was good, little pricey, and most of the stuff is readily available Bevmo or other craft beer stores around town. The fact that they had a few of them on tap that I hadn't had before was cool.

The overall vibe was pretty hip but laid back. I felt like I was kind of in a upscale bar/lounge, but the people created kind of a neighborhood bar atmosphere, conflicting images, but I didn't mind.

If you got a few extra bucks, check this place out more for the experience than the beer itself. It's probably one of the better bars in the area, if your not into the upscale shwanky stuff North Beach mostly has to offer.

Photo of d0ggnate
3.86/5  rDev -5.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

A nice low key spot in North Beach. Made a quick stop in last night for a couple rounds. Their draft list was pretty good, and it was nice to see decently priced bottles there as well. Started the night with a Telegraph California Ale and ended it with an oatmeal stout from Ninkasi. The crowd was a mix of personalities, most of which seemed to appreciate better beer. The bar had a mixed vibe, that of part beer bar and part scene-like. I would definitely like to make another trip here and become more familiar with what they offer from time to time.

Photo of dirtylou
3.99/5  rDev -2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.75

This was my 2nd attempt (a few years in between) and stopping by the Church Key while in the charming North Beach region of SF. This time the place was actually open and in existence (not sure what happened that previous night...)

Cool place - small, split level bar that is high on cozyness no matter where you are. Tap selection was small - maybe only 8 or so beers, though it looked like the number was usually a little higher (empty spots on the board). Still, there were good choices to be had and my ruination hit the spot.

Pretty cool neighborhood spot - not one to got out of the way for, but if dining down in North Beach and in need of a pint (and dont feel like going to la trappe or rogue), here is another good option.

Photo of briang01
4/5  rDev -1.7%

Photo of portia99
4/5  rDev -1.7%

Photo of little_star
4/5  rDev -1.7%

Photo of t0rin0
4/5  rDev -1.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4

Visited 4/24/2011, on a Sunday night.

This is a small unassuming place marked only by a key hanging above the door, or at least thats all I noticed while walking up the sidewalk. Inside is a bar, a handful of tables, and a stair case leading to the loft where there are more tables. Didnt go upstairs, just ordered a sausage and a bottle of Hanssens Gueuze (wasnt excited about the $22 price tag on a 375ml bottle though) and sat in front of the window next to the entrance.

There was some music playing that I didnt pay much attention to. Over all the place was pretty dark but aside from reading the beer menu it wasnt an issue. My food came on a wooden board complete with a small loaf of bread and some sauerkraut.

I only saw one employee in the whole place and she was working behind the bar. She was really nice and helpful. She accidentally charged too little for our food and drinks but when I corrected her she still gave me a break.

Had a small glass of the Uinta Kolsch along with my bottle of Hanssens. Nice place, would stop in again if in the immediate area but in the end it's not a huge beer destination.

Photo of baycat
4.14/5  rDev +1.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

Church Key is marked by an illuminated key by the doorway in the heart of North Beach. Once inside the interior is dark and inviting with a few stools surrounding the small bar. There is plenty of space in the upstairs lounge and by the windows but there was no table service when we visited. Tap and bottle list is impressive with plenty of locals and harder to find beers from out of the region. Bartender was very knowledgeable and was happy to give out samples before we purchased a pint. A much smaller selection than institutions like Toronado but much friendlier atmosphere. Certain nights there is food and a dj.

Photo of nataku00
4.16/5  rDev +2.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Nondescript sign with a church key is the only thing that adorns the outside of this bar. The only thing the keys you in that this is a bar is if music is playing and there is a bit of crowd noise coming from inside. Pretty small space that I remember used to be an antique record store years ago, narrow, with the bar downstairs and a lounge like area upstairs. Decor seems to be cobbled together from some modern furniture without much of a theme.

Usually one person working the bar by themselves and another person helping bus the empty glasses back to be washed. Pours drinks quickly though, but I went on a weekday night and it wasn't too busy. Decent 10 tap selection with mainly US craft beer options for a reasonable price, surprising given Church Key is located in North Beach where almost everything is pricey now.

Photo of Bouleboubier
4.17/5  rDev +2.5%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

long walk through Chinatown from the downtown hostel to North Beach... entered into one of the smaller, more cozy spots I hit in town - seemingly devoid of lighting, chill feel - sat at the back near the end of the bar....

Tony, the barkeep that night - quite friendly/outgoing, good guy, enthusiastic - talked up the local food scene, gave a good overview, the best this the best that - conducted the room well

had a bottle of Petrus Oud Bruin, then a bottle of Velvet Merlin, then sampled some drafts.... the bottles range from reasonable to expensive, decent selection of those and drafts, locals don't make up a significant percentage of the bottles - decent-sized list, a lot of stuff I've had before, stuff I didn't care to try...

can't remember if they had a kitchen (don't think so)...hey, if I was a lil more local, I'd probably be semi-regs

Photo of HookerBrews
4.25/5  rDev +4.4%

Photo of Newmerator
4.25/5  rDev +4.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Church Key -

In my honest opinion. La Trappe has this place beat, so far. When I went there, they were serving some appetizers, and the beer selection (book) was pretty extensive. I had a Grand Cru and Saison. But they have a different 2$ tasty libation every night, from Mickeys to Highlife. I thought the bar tenders at La trappe knew a bit more and offered a bit better service. But this place started by one of the owners of another bar in Haight is just what he wanted. They had some rock music playing (i think avenged sevenfold or something to the same melody) and it had the exact environment that I'm certain the owner had in mind. While I do appreciate the menu so much and the food (buffalo something or other was delicious), I might only go here with friends every so often. I highly recommend going here to see if it fits your attitude and beer palate.

This was from 2 weekends ago. I just love seeing more places with good beer. Keep it up!.

Photo of thewimperoo
4.25/5  rDev +4.4%

Photo of JMS1512
4.25/5  rDev +4.4%

Photo of mactrail
4.3/5  rDev +5.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

A great small place in North Beach not far from the Rogue Ales taproom. Very knowledgeable bartender, friendly, full of information, happy to provide samples. Poured both of us samples of Ovila from bottle opened to try. Number of taps varies from 7-10 but there are lots or interesting bottles which many people were trying. Taps included Green Flash IPA, Nogne, Stone 15th, Firestone Double Barrel, Alaska Summer, a German Hefe, and Ephemere Cassis.

Interesting changing music selection from the Mac laptop. Friendly folks. One lady brought in a couple of Surly Furious cans as a gift to the bartender. Not crowded early on a Saturday evening, jammed on Friday.

Makes a good stop if you're hiking up to Coit Tower. Easy to get here from downtown or Fisherman's Wharf on frequent 30 trolley coach line or the big 6X bus, or the 41 and 45, all running every few minutes.

Photo of anteater
4.35/5  rDev +6.9%

Photo of Gavage
4.46/5  rDev +9.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

Church Key is a tiny little bar in an area that has plenty of eateries and small shops. No name on the place, only a key sign hangs over the entrance. The bar is is the back and can only seat about 6-8 comfortably. A staircase heads upstairs, but I didn't check it out. There is a few tables so I can see this place getting packed quickly. Luckily when I visited there were only about 10 folks there. Overall the place is a bit dark with only a large window overlooking the street.

There were 10 beers on draft during my visit, with some notables like Deschutes Stoic, Orange Kush, Black Xantus, and DFH Palo Santo Marron. The beer seems to move quick here as it looks like all patrons were very beer knowledgable along with the bartender.

I would call this a must stop for any BA on a trip to San Francisco as they seem to offer some unique beers from the typical bars in the area.

Photo of funkmaster229
4.58/5  rDev +12.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

This place is great! It is one of the only places to drink better beer in North Beach- and without the crowds.

They don't serve food yet, but along with the developing decor, storefront, and evolving beer menu, I've been assured that it's all only going to get bigger and better. They have only been open a few weekends and I've been in three times.

Unibroue bottles and drafts are all reasonably priced and Aventinus is on tap! Other usual suspects include: Delerium Tremens, xxBitter, Allagash White, Bluebird bitter, Dogfish head 90min, and NC Scrimshaw pils. There's also Hercule stout, DesRocs grand cru, and O winter and saison- some pricier and more rare offerings.

There's enough decent glassware to go around and a push for labeled/brewer intended glasses is underway.

There's a small, chill lounge upstairs perfect for hiding from the world or PDA.

If you like Lucky13 and wouldn't mind toning down the punkrock vibe, check it out. If you love Toronado, but find the smelly crowds to be a deterent, definitely check it out.

Oh, yeah...high life cans $2!!!ha!!

Photo of elNopalero
4.64/5  rDev +14%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

Coming here I felt like I had discovered a Hobbit-hole of beer geekery. The vibe of the place—from the nondescript symbol of a sign, to the ‘regulars’ vibe, to the barkeeper himself—felt more like I had stumbled into a man cave of craft beer. A real hole in the wall, they still managed to have 10 tap handles pouring and all sorts of proper glassware. The bottle list runs for pages and pages and makes for great reading. Prices are about what I’d expect for the beers. If this place was easier for me to visit I’d make it regular haunt. Hope I can drop in again sometime.

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Church Key in San Francisco, CA
91 out of 100 based on 26 ratings.