Thirsty Bear Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Thirsty Bear Brewing CompanyThirsty Bear Brewing Company
BEER AVG
3.59/5
Based on:
21 Beers
317 Ratings
Place Score: 85
Ratings: 95
Reviews: 61
rAvg: 3.76
pDev: n/a
Taps: --
Bottles: --
Cask: N
Beer-to-Go: N
[ Brewery, Bar, Eatery ]

661 Howard Street
San Francisco, California, 94105
United States
phone: (415) 974-0905

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap 

Notes:
Place added by: BeerAdvocate

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Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 95 | Reviews: 61
Photo of woodychandler
3.94/5  rDev +4.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

A wide front with a recessed entryway. I was glad for its spaciousness. The m.d.s. was just inside the door and the bar, with its interesting silver and copper swirled acrylic pattern, was just beyond, on the left. Rows of high tables and chairs were right and center. The ambiance was Lynchian with the heavy curtains, the steps leading up to the lavs along with a separate bar, two pool tables, English dart boards, and the Flamenco Room, and the 1950's lounge type lamp covers. The only problem was that it too dang bright! Crap, I needed welder's goggles to sit at the bar! Ouch. My bartender was a rockabilly type with mutton-shop sideburns and a cool two-tone B & W shirt. Long line of seating aft. Brewhouse visible on left, aft of the bar.

Beers: Polar Bear Pilsner*; Golden Vanilla; Valencia Wheat; Brown Bear; Meyer ESB; Kozlou Stout; Howard St. IPA*; Bearly Legal Barley Wine; and Hibernator Doppelbock.

Photo of rossthefireman
4.3/5  rDev +14.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 5

This is going to be a combo review of both beer and food.
The Thirsty Bear is a very 'hip' SOMA establishment that caters to the clientele in the area which is business people, hipsters from the art college, and people who attend conferences nearby at the Moscone Center.
The establishment is very upscale in both looks and food type. A Spanish based menu with tapas and full meals are available.
REMEMBER- this is an 'organic' establishment. Every thing they serve is organic all the way down to the T Shirts for sale.
The food was excellent. I had the grilled chicken sandwich with murcia curado cheese, roasted pasilla pepper relish, orange-pimenton aioli & french fries. The sandwich was excellent and the fries were extremely crispy on the outside but perfectly cooked on the inside.
I also drank the Howard St IPA that I thought was excellent. A very citrusy IPA with a nice balance of citrus malt and hops. I asked the waitress what type of hops they used in the IPA and she said chinook and cascade. Very knowledgeable staff.
I did go there during lunch time so the place wasn't overly crowded. I could see how this place would get packed on a Friday night after work or during a Giants game as it is on the way to the park.
I recommend it and will definately be going back myself.

Photo of nickiversen
4.2/5  rDev +11.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

Traveled to San Francisco for work and researched the area for good beer bars and brew pubs.

Stumbled into Thirsty Bear after a lack luster one beer at Gordon Biersch and en route to the San Francisco Brewing Co.

They market themselves as brewing organic craft beers. The environment is trendy and enjoyable. Decor is crisp and clean. Dimly lit and long oak bar. The selection is typical of normal brewpubs (ie IPA, ESB, American Ale, etc.). Went straight for the IPA for the first beer and was satisfied. Even body beer with crisp hoppy finish. The after taste left my palate dry so I soaked that one up quickly. Moved on to the ESB, which is nitrogen poured, and stays bubbling for a while after the bartender pours it out. Enjoyed this beer one as well, malty taste that goes down smooth.

Didn't try the food; was there strictly for beer. The environment was fun. Loft upstairs with pool and darts. It was busy (Friday night) so the place was packed. Didn't think much of the bartender, poor service and attention but the place was pretty hectic. If I lived in San Fran this would be a frequent.

Photo of steelerguy
4/5  rDev +6.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Was in San Francisco for a few days and wanted to go to 21st Amendment. Checked website and they are open till 9:30, good enough. Walk there and they are closed for their anniversary...huh? A brew pub closing for their anniversary? That is a cause for a party there not to go to bed early...lame.

Anyway, saw Thirsty Bear while walking around the previous day. Headed that way and was pleasantly surprised to find a Spanish tapas place that was also a brew pub...awesome! Not only that but it was a Sunday night so they had live Flamenco dancing.

Tried 3 beers, the dubbel, the ESB, and the IPA. The dubbel was quite good, was actually surprised at how good it was. The ESB was good, not the best but a good example of the style. The IPA was also good, wish it has a little more citrus character but tasty none the less.

All in all, I was glad that 21st Amendment wussed out on the anniversary and closed down like some old folks...had a great time at the Thirsty Bear!

Photo of willjschmidt
4.05/5  rDev +7.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Brewpub located in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco. Slightly upscale decor. They have about 8 of their beers on tap. Mostly basic brewpub styles. I sampled the IPA and it was pretty good. The food is Spanish with a trend towards tapas. The food is decent and a bit pricey. A bit of a step-up from the standard brewpub food. None of the beers are what you would call outstanding but they are all decent. This is one of the better brewpubs in San Francisco. It's near downtown and Union Square, thus easily accessible for tourists.

Photo of ccrida
3.35/5  rDev -10.9%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3 | food: 2.5

Big open space, modern loft style, exposed brick, modern art (right next to the MOMA in fact), lots of light. Really not the vibe I like in a brew pub, looks more like an upscale lounge.

Friendly, cute waitresses knew the ABV of the seasonal, even though it's not listed on menu. Very knowledgeable on the food menu, all the Spanish pronunciations, but I was a little disappointed to see it as all tapas, paella and flat bread being the only other items of substance. I got an order of flat bread for $10, it was fine, but I'd need like 5 more to make a meal of it, and wasn't try to spending $100 at a brew pub, so I decided to go somewhere else for dinner. I had 2 of their beers, both seasonals. The trippel wasn't that great, the bourbon barrel stout was better. r They had 7 regular taps as well. I talked to a local at 21st Amendment (where I later walked to for a real meal) and he didn't speak to highly of their house beers. Too foo-foo for me overall, mostly suits and pointy loafer crowd. At least they were playing classic rock, I think it was Santana (which would make sense with their Spanish theme). The sliders, also $10, were ridiculous, you got 4, the patty couldn't have been bigger then a quarter, maybe a poker chip, but probably not even that. Brewpub food for bulimics.

Photo of JoshuaCain
4.1/5  rDev +9%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

my first time in Thirsty Bear was last night, Fat Tuesday, which was their cask night as well.
local, organically brewed, cask conditioned ale for $3 per imperial pint means this is going to be my tuesday spot from now on.
the atmosphere was okay, very loud, but not pretentious or beer snobby at all. some cool art on the walls is also a plus.
as I mentioned it was cask night, so I didn't try a wide variety of brews, but the cask conditioned IPA was really quite nice. a milder english style but with good bitterness and a great mouthfeel. I also tried the pils and was pleased with that brew as well.
service was fine, but nothing special from what I could tell.
selection was good, with house brews representing a wide variety of ale and lager styles.
didn't try any food, but what was being served looked good enough.
overall this place is worth stopping by, but I would recommend you try to make it for the unbeatable tuesday cask nights.

Photo of xhcadamx
4.45/5  rDev +18.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | food: 5

A - CLASSY joint to say the least. There was a huge focus on decorating this place. Nice downstairs with an impressive bar and great tables. Upstairs had FREE pool and darts with tons of room (I think it is used for private parties).

Q - The beer is tasty. Sure there is better but this is the best brewpub in SF.

S - A very knowledgeable waitstaff. Very prompt and pleasant - every time I have been there.

S - Couple of good selections. Nothing that you can't find anywhere else. Every once in a while they have a black lager which is always nice.

F - Not your typical brewpub.... This place offers Spanish cuisine! Nice Papas (small plates) of really tasty food. The potatoes and calamari are a must.

Best brewpub in SF IMHO.

Photo of argock
3.6/5  rDev -4.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4

The Thirsty Bear is an open-air brewpub which brews good but not great beers. The beers are developing, but they still require heavier malting overall. I tried their Polar Bear Pilsner and their Meyer's ESB (nitro-poured). Both beers suffered slightly from undermalting, and the pils was also underhopped. Their food is Americanized tapas, which is a good choice to pair with beers and probably provides them with a good profit margin although serving sizes were above-average for sharing among 5 people. The service was friendly but so-so on accuracy (in a group of 5 people our server made 3 mistakes in the beer orders alone). Their beer selection is quite good (8 different draft selections made on-site). The prices were also good -- $6 for 20oz draft, $4 for a 12oz draft, and the pours were full with proper head. The bill for 5 patrons with 5 tapas dishes and with some having 1 and some having 2 beers was about $125.
I liked Thirsty Bear but didn't love it.

Photo of hotglassmama
3.5/5  rDev -6.9%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3 | food: 4.5

On vacation in San Francisco and using my phone's navigator to find a brewpub nearby, we landed at the Thirsty Bear. The first very pleasant surprise- everything they brew is organic! I was inclined to try the sampler, having never heard of their brews before. After trying the seven regular beers and a double sample of the seasonal brew, I settled on a Kozlov Stout. It was very tasty and quite nitrogenized. I was not as impressed with the Meyer E.S.B., which was good as a sample but proved too bitter for my taste after the Kozlov. Running short on time, we vowed to return the next day for dinner. On this second trip I stuck to the Kozlov, since it stood alone at the top of my list (after all, the Golden Vanilla sample just really didn't do it for me!). I ordered the house smoked baby back ribs with brown bear ale BBQ sauce and was quite pleased. They were fall off the bone tender and very tasty. The portion was just right and I felt satisfied with the value. Will I go there again next trip? Maybe, but only after I check Beer Advocate first to see what else is out there, a tactic that hadn't occured to me previously (thanks to the friends who pointed this strategy out).

Photo of Murchmac
3.85/5  rDev +2.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

I keep thinking this place is chester cheetah cheesy, but I keep coming back and enjoying every time I go, so it can't be all that bad, right?

It's not. Had a wet hop beer, and also a multi grain pale ale with roasted oats and rye. Good glassware for those that care, decent prices, waitstaff cute and friendly. This place is just good enough to like.

The tapas food was good too. Tasty empenadas that look like hot pockets, ribs, fig salad, ceviche, all good and fairly well priced.

Pool tables upstairs, cask conditioned beer for 3 bucks... I'm going to start recommending this place, so go there. I like how they have a lot of different styles of beer, some are worse than others, but they have a few good ones.

Photo of koolchas
3.55/5  rDev -5.6%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3 | food: 3

the thirsty bear basically caters to a more professional/corporate crowd. when there most people were in suit/ties.

overall, a nice place, but nothing to jump hoops for. they happened to be out of their vanilla beer, but their other beers i'd put as middle of the road. not terrible, but not great.

the food is "ok" as the party i was with just ordered appetizers. the flat bread was stand out with the other choices being so-so and their cerviche was not good at all i.m.h.o.

overall, if short on time and need a brew pub that is close to the bay bridge and if you have to select one that you have not been to before, drive up the street a bit and head over to 21st amendment.

thirsty bear is still worth at least a "one time" visit, but with other better choices s.f. has to offer i'll doubt i'll return when in the city.

Photo of PeprSprYoFace
3.7/5  rDev -1.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

This place is located pretty much at the heart of the city and is right accross from a fire station.

The atmosphere was kinda cool with pool and other games to play up stairs and the people that go there seem pretty cool as well.

The beer was just ok to me with nothing really sticking out. I had the sampler and tasted them all and nothing i thought was amazing. Seemed like it was all about average.

I your in the area i would give it a go but it wasnt anything special. If i lived near by i would go there often but i probably wont go back since i live in so cal. Suposidly they have cask beers on certain days but i didnt get to try them.

Photo of phergy
4.75/5  rDev +26.3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | food: 5

I went to the Thirsty Bear for lunch on last Wednesday, May 14th. The staff was friendly and attentive. My first beer was the Howard Street IPA. It was dark amber with a creamy colored head. It left a fair amount of lacing on the glass. This is a bitter beer, but not really citrusy. The malt is definitely present at the finish. The beer has a great mouthfeel; lingering but pleasant. If time weren't so short I would definitely have another.

Next I had the Lamb Burger. It wasn't a huge sandwich, but it was filling, and very tasty. It was unlike any other sandwich I have had, with a seasoned lamb patty, red onions, feta cheese and tomato jam. I would have it again.

I finished with the beer sampler, which I would have started with if I had noticed it on the beer menu. The sampler included one of each of the beers they have on tap; currently 9 different beers. The cost of the sampler was $9. I enjoyed all of the beers, each being a good representation of its' particular style.

If I had one problem with the Thirsty Bear, it was that the lunch menu seemed a little limited, but it is better to do a few things really well than lots of things poorly. I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting San Francisco.

Photo of bobsy
4.18/5  rDev +11.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

I stopped by here with my wife shortly before new year's, and had an enjoyable experience. The bar is located very close to San Francisco's main shopping district which proved handy as my wife was trying to take advantage of the strong Canadian dollar.

My first impression on entering was that I had walked into a wine bar. Everywhere I could see lots of clean wood and exposed brick. The crowd seemed to be a well-dressed and richer than me. The trendy atmosphere worked for me, and we had a relaxed time. Very good, but expensive, Spanish food. The prices of the tapas on the menu may have required a call to my bank manager. We split a traditional paella, which was delicious. Service was courteous and efficient. Good beer selection of house brews, with maybe 12 on tap at time of visit. I opted for the winter seasonal, which was a kind of bock, while my wife opted for the ESB, which was solid, but not spectacular. I also grabbed a few samplers, and was impressed by the stout and IPA.

Photo of t0rin0
3.93/5  rDev +4.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

Stopped here with my brother and an old roomate. We couldnt have been here much more than 25 minutes. Thats not to say that we didn't enjoy the place, it was just that we had a lot of stops to make that day.

Pretty neat atmosphere. like all the places in SF. Its in a real narrow building thats 2 or 3 stories tall on the inside. You can see all the fermenters and the boiler behind the bar. It was also neat to read their menu about how they got the concept for their name and their beers. Something about a thirsty bear coming after a guy that had a beer in his hand.

The beers were interesting to say the least. I really enjoyed their framboise. They had clever names for their beers like Brown Bear Brown Ale or Polar Bear Pilsner. Anyway, it was an enjoyable experience even if it was short, and reasonably priced.

Photo of DaveDLD
4.83/5  rDev +28.5%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

of all the brewpubs i went to in san francisco this weekend, i'd have to say that thirsty bear was my favorite. it's located in the south of market area which is right near union square. i had the ipa, brown, and wheat (which was a white ale) and all were delicious. they have taster beers for only .75 cents which isn't too bad. i had never eaten spanish cuisine, which is what they serve, however, i was VERY pleasantly surprised. everything was delicious and the waitress was friendly and was able to explain certain things on the menu that i wasn't familiar with. if you're going to be in union square or at the SFMOMA i'd definitely go to thirsty bear.

Photo of bboven
3.65/5  rDev -2.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4.5

First place I went on my honeymoon and came back two more times. They have a pretty good variety of their own micro on tap and a really interesting concept of a menu focused on great tapas. They tap a new firkin of cask-conditioned ale on Tuesdays and serve it the right way. The second level of the building is more bar-like with a pool table and dartboards.

The food is fantastic though a bit pricey once you order enough for a meal. The micros are hit and miss; they seem to brew about half their beers to appeal to macro drinkers and the Stouts and IPA types are good but nothing outstanding. Definitely worth checking out especially on Tuesdays.

Photo of bjohnson
4.43/5  rDev +17.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 5

After a lot of walking around Fisherman's Wharf and other places in San Francisco during the morning and early afternoon, Emma and I stopped into the Thirsty Bear Brewing Company located on Howard St. near the MOMA and Yerba Buena Gardens. This is our first beer stop during our week long stay in California.
While walking up to the door, I was pleasantly surprised that is wasn't just pub grub and actually was a bit more interesting. Spanish cuisine. Thumbs Up Set in an old brick building, the brick walls give this place a nice ambiance, highlighted by the low soft lighting. High bar tables and benches line one side of the bar area, with a long bar on the other.
I counted 9 taps, but only indulged in a couple of their offerings. On tap included a brown, red, ipa, pilsner, lager, golden, wheat, and a stout and esb both served on nitro.
Howard St. IPA came with a clear amber color. Soft fruity hop twang in the aroma. A good backbone of malt with a strong citrus bitterness in the finish. Not a bad IPA, but nothing that was overly amazing. Kozlov Stout on nitro came to me as it's head was still forming. Jet black with a tan head. Roasty and dry with hints of dark fruit. Quite smooth and soft from the nitro. Finished with this one.
I also sampled Meyers ESB (3oz. pour) and a sip of the Golden Vanilla. ESB was very nice and bitter with a fluffy mouthfeel. Golden Vanilla was, I believe, their golden pale ale. Vanilla was a bit too prominent. First thing that came to mind as I sipped was the smell of Vanilla extract.
Food was excellent and exactly what I was looking for. Hanger steak sandwich with blue cheese aioli, red onions, and watercress on an herb roll. The garlic herb french fries that accompanied the sandwich were also excellent. Never had those type of flavored fries before. Emma had a spanish meatball sandwich with the lightest, crispiest, and perfectly seasoned onions rings I've ever had.
All in all, exactly what we were looking for as the food by Fisherman's wharf is for the tourists, birds, or sea lions...depending on who gets there first. Not overly expensive as our bill came to around $35, not including tip. We sat at the bar and watched some Spanish league soccer highlights.

Photo of francisweizen
3.35/5  rDev -10.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 3 | food: 4

This place is pretty good. The atmosphere is slick with a long bar and many tables downstairs with some ppol tables and more seating upstairs as well. The nice 2 level warehouse/loft style suits this place nicely, although the clientele does tend to sway a little too yuppy for my liking. The quality of the food and the beer here is pretty good, but the year rounds beers can be a little boring and bland to this weather BA. Never-the-less some of the heavier winter seasonals and experimental beers turn out pretty darn good. The selection is usually pretty boring though, and this place is quite pricey...I will say that the service is great on some occasions and bad on others, so all in all i'll give it a 3 for service...as for the little plates (tapas)...they are all very good, but again pricey...a popular place with beer-lovers and non-beer lovers alike...and certainly worth a trip when you are in the SoMa district of downtown SF.

Photo of PhiloPsych
4/5  rDev +6.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

I went to the Thirsty Bear restaurant with a group of 8 friends. This is a great place to go with a large group. We ordered three paellas and several tapas. All the food was good, but I was mostly interested in the beer. Apparently they keep seven "regular" beers on tap (though these apparently rotate from time to time, too) in addition to a couple seasonal offerings. Though I wasn't there on a Tuesday, I understand that every Tuesday night they have a beer on cask.

I tried all the beers. All the regular beers were good. They had a vanilla beer that was unique, interesting, and good. Their website advertised an amber ale on nitro; they didn't have it, but they did have an ESB on nitro and it was very nice. I hadn't ever heard of anything but a stout being nitrogenated, so I was very interested and definitely pleased. The IPA and the stout really stood out though. Both were excellent. I had a 20 oz glass of the stout. One friend (a homebrewer) had two rounds of the IPA and was very impressed. Another friend had the ESB and also really loved it.

If you are ever in the Union Square area and looking for a place to get good beer, I heartily recommend Thirsty Bear.

Photo of jreitman
3.4/5  rDev -9.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3 | service: 3 | selection: 4

Went to Thirsty Bear the first time for a conference despite living 2 blocks away at one point. The atmosphere is very tailored too the professionals that work in the area... a little upscale and modern. I found it to be totally comfortable with a group of 10 people near the bar. The upstairs has a couple pool tables and darts. The beer I had was an IPA, unfortunately I didn't analyze it enough for a proper review, but I found it very tasty. Service was a bit uneven. The waitress we had was friendly enough but wasn't very responsive a couple times over the course of a couple hours.

Overall I would definitely go back if I was downtown.

Photo of kdoc8
3.78/5  rDev +0.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3

This was my final brewery to visit in San Francisco. It's located very conveniently and close to the whole Powell and Market area if you're a tourist or just want a beer before hitting the SF MOMA. It's large - several stories, and modern with lots of seating. The upstairs is cool - lots of bar games and pool tables. I could see how it would get crowded on a weekend evening, but it wasn't too crowded at lunchtime on a weekday. They were mainly a tapas restaurant, but I didn't have the patience for tapas that day so I just ordered a sandwich. It wasn't spectacular, but it also wasn't their speciality. They had a large selection of their beers on tap. It was priced quite reasonably for that area of town.

Photo of blgianbeer
3.43/5  rDev -8.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3.5

The Thristy Bear is an interesting combination of brewpub and tapas restaurant. The tapas restaurants that I've visited in the past mainly focused on wine. The food was well done and reasonably priced. My wife and I shared four tapas courses and it was plenty of food. The manchego/crab brushetta was awesome.
We tried four beers. The Vanilla Ale was interesting. Aroma was good (I love vanilla) but the flavor was a bit off. I'd prefer vanilla flavoring from oak barrels as opposed to real vanilla. Both the Brown and Black Bear beers were superb. Very well balanced and drinkable. The IPA was also nice. This is a good stop for dinner with the spouse while visiting SF.

Photo of klewis
2.95/5  rDev -21.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 2 | selection: 3

We visited Thirsty Bear at about 4:00 on a weekday and sat at a table in the bar. After 10 minutes and no sign of someone to take care of us, I went to the bar and picked up our drinks. Five minutes later (15 min. after we've been seated by a hostess), our server finally shows up and warmly greets us, "Close your bar tab. This is my section." A hello might have been nice. Not appreciating her attitude, we decided to keep the bar tab open anyway, and I continued to get our drinks from the bartenders, who were much friendlier. Once the work rush came in around 5:00, the bar was a bit understaffed to handle the crowd, so expect to wait during peak hours. The beers were decent and were served in appropriate glassware. Besides for the service, it was a nice place to get a beer. Check it out if you're downtown, but don't make a special trip to go.

Thirsty Bear Brewing Company in San Francisco, CA
85 out of 100 based on 95 ratings.