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Thirsty Bear Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Thirsty Bear Brewing CompanyThirsty Bear Brewing Company
very good

78 Ratings
Ratings: 78
Reviews: 60
rAvg: 3.77
pDev: 14.85%
Active Beers: 20
Beer Ratings: 243
Beer Avg: 3.64
Taps: 0
Bottles: 0
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 

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(Place added by: BeerAdvocate)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 78 | Reviews: 60 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of klewis
2.95/5  rDev -21.8%

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.

klewis, Jun 16, 2006
Photo of benito
3.85/5  rDev +2.1%

Thirsty Bear is a classy brewpub in the heart of SoMa. Turning the busy corner from 3rd Ave onto Howard, leaving SFMoma behind, Thirsty Bear's storefront jumps out with its fun design (a bear chugging!) and rich colors. Inside, the dining room is flanked by a long bar and exposed brick on the other walls.

They had nine of their own brews on tap as well as bottles of Chimay, Orval, and Lindeman's. I tried five of the nine, enjoying immensely the Black Bear (WBC winning Schwarzbier) and the very refreshing Organic Golden Vanilla. The ESB was a cut below, but still tasty, and the wit and maibock were average at best.

It's the food that makes this place special though. Not necessarily the quality of the food, but rather the type of cuisine they're serving. I never fault brewpubs for serving pub fare or pizza (bottom line--they go well with beer), but I often long for something different to break up to monotony. Maybe I need to visit fewer brewpubs, or maybe I need to visit more brewpubs like Thirsty Bear which does Spanish tapas and antojitos. (They also have flamenco shows every Sunday night.) As soon as I tasted the food and beer together here, the idea of pairing Spanish (not Latin American, but true Spanish, as in the Iberian Peninsula, Europe, Ferdinand and Isabella) food and craftbeer was both novel and logical. Spanish cuisine's two main ingredients--salt and oil--meet great partners in crime with some of Thirsty Bear's craftbrews. Spanish food may never replace pub grub or pizza as the staple fare of US brewpubs, but Thirsty Bear makes a good case as to why it should.

Overall, an inviting, friendly and inventive brewpub in downtown San Francisco. Recommended.

benito, Jun 13, 2006
Photo of DaPeculierDane
3.1/5  rDev -17.8%

I found a bit more class at the thirsty bear than I’m used to finding in the average brew pub. The stereo pumped Cole Porter era jazz, the tables were filled with well dressed businessmen in work attire, and the very idea of a Tapas Brew Pub seemed a touch upscale. Atmo was pleasing: high ceilings, good conversation space, large patio, multilevel, well separated bar/dining rooms, bright but well placed and uplifting lighting, etc… The food looked great but I didn’t try any. Service wasn’t very good. My bartender seemed to know the beer and answered my questions directly but didn’t offer any suggestions or elaborate much. He also seemed a bit annoyed that I was bothering him at all. He provided me with a couple of free samples (which should have been .$50 based on the menu) but did so as if it were a pother to him. Selection was mediocre. Aside from 10 or so house beers, the bar offered 3 Belgians in the bottle (Chimay and Lindeman’s). Quality was low. The Vaencia Wheat was a cloying disaster. The ESB was thick, heavy, and utterly unhopped. The only beer that I found at all pleasing was the Kozlov Stout on Nitro and that was just average. This place is low on my list of spots in the area but if you’re walking to 21st Amendment from the BART it’s right on the way so you might as well stop in and check it out. Maybe if you try some food you’ll like it more than I did.

DaPeculierDane, May 12, 2006
Photo of objectivemonkey
4/5  rDev +6.1%

Definitely a downtown feel to it, more of a swank bar feel than brewpub feel, the design of this place was very well thought through. Very clean and sophisticated use of materials, artwork on the walls, and an interesting and effective floor plan makes this architect a happy customer. Essentially a very long tall space, circulation is through the middle, with a tucked away dining area at front next to entry. Then, to the immediate left is another small bar table area, with the kettle room beyond, stretching the remaining length of the bar, encased with glass. In the middle is a very long and clean bar, with a thin dining area to the right. Also, there was an upstairs area, but was pretty much empty, even on such a busy night. We were there on St Patties Day, so it was quite crowded. As such, service was a little slow, but still dedicated, and she was willing and able to talk about the beers. We didn't get to too many beers, but the ones we had (the stout and golden vanilla) were definitely good. Its too bad I didn't get to more, cause there were several. Anywho, nice place, good beers, great downtown location, woudl definitely go back.

objectivemonkey, Mar 30, 2006
Photo of bultrey
4.05/5  rDev +7.4%

I have a feeling that this is the type of place where your experience depends on what time of day you go. I went twice on a recent business trip for lunch, and really enjoyed myself, though I understand that this place is suppose to turn kind of "clubby" in the evenings, which I really dislike. Anyhow, it's got a very classy, slightly modern, and cleanly decorated interior -- lost of wood, iron work, nice curtains, etc. It's quite spacious... several tables in a front section by the windows, a long bar (12-15 seats?) along the left, but the room is wide enough to accomodate several more tables on the right side of the room adjacent to the bar area. There is also a staircase on the right that leads to another spacious mezzanine, and the downstairs continues on beyond the bar to yet another spacious seating area. So all in all, it's big.
Brews rangs from average to very good, with the Polar Bear Pilsner, Meyer ESB, Winterbock, and Bearly Legal Barleywine being particular standouts. They have about 5 or 6 regular beers on draft to choose from, plus usually one or two seasonals. They also have a cask-conditioned ale on all day Tuesdays, similar to the "kill-the-cask" Tuesday's that seem to be popular in several other area establishments. Service was impeccable, very attentive and friendly. I actually asked if I could meet the brewer, Brendan (sp?) -- I had wanted to ask about one of the beers, and he came out and had a long conversation with me, very passionate about his beers, but at the same time, seemingly having fun with it all. He gave me a couple of free samples (bock and barleywine), even though I was trying to avoid those because I was technically working. Really friendly guy. The food was a particular highlight -- I had some sort of sliced steak sandwich with caramlized onions, etc., on one occaison, which was very good, and a crab and cheese dip on another, which was fantastic (and a perfect match to the pilsner). I put "reasonable" for pricing, because it does seem like an upscale establishment, and I am from NYC, so the prices don't shock me. But it might be bumped up to "a little pricey."
All in all, if you find yourself stuck at the Moscone Convention Center, I would make a bee-line here for lunch every time, and might even come back for dinner one night.
Overall, a place that I think frames craft brew with a nice, sophisticated tapas bar kind of feel.

bultrey, Feb 14, 2006
Photo of axisjones
3.7/5  rDev -1.9%

Thirst Bear is the "other" SOMA brewpub, 21st Amendment being its counterpart (I am not counting Gordon Biersch). This seems like the trendier and more upscale of the two.

Dim almost club like interior, really tall ceilings, very hip. A really long bar flanks an open dining room with a second floor coming up in the back. Worst placement of bathrooms ever, about 30 stairs up and around. The decor and vibe screamed yuppie, which i don't vibe as well with, it almost bordered on pretentious. The semi-exposed brewery was a site though, with the equipment coming up from below from behind the bar.

The service was okay, it was too crowded to even matter, tried to squeeze it at the bar, my friend had to stand for a while nearby.

I ordered the sampler (7 beers), all average to mediocre. Nothing really stood out and some choices were just weird. They seemed overly fond of using nitro taps on beer that was already somewhat weak. On the plus side, there were a lot of guest and house brews.

The food prices were more than I was willing to pay, so it was chevy's next door. I would go back if someone else was driving, otherwise this would be one of my last choices in the city.

axisjones, Dec 19, 2005
Photo of baiser
3.83/5  rDev +1.6%

Quite a trendy place for a brewpub on Howard St between 2nd and 3rd. Wasn't expecting the type of food they served, which was spanish cuisine. I didn't think it went well with their beers, but nonetheless, I enjoyed a few of their hot tapas, which were priced $10 or less. Their main dishes were just under $20.

In terms of beer, they offered quite alot of their own brews. Many different styles and a range of tastes. I enjoyed their IPA and stout the most. They had 2 seasonals - a fruity beer called Hallucination and also a Dunkel weizen which was so-so. Every Tuesday, they offer cask pints for $3. Also, they offer 3 oz tasters of their beers for $0.50 which turns out to be cheaper than their pints.

Service was a bit slow, but it was also a busy night. It took a while for a waitress to come, and the drinks took even longer. But she was very friendly and appeared to know about their beers.

There is an upstairs with pool tables.

Overall, I was quite happy with this place and will probably go back for their stout. I can pass on the food though.

baiser, Jul 24, 2005
Photo of brewandbbq
4.14/5  rDev +9.8%

Second visit to the "other Bear".
Long bar and some tables lit with reddish tones.
Kind of an odd combination for a brewpub, upscalish with a DJ pumping up the "jam". Hmmm, better than 21st Amendment anyways.
They had a good selection of beers going, although when I ordered the Dunkleweizen, it was out. 7 on tap me thinks.
We both got the White beers which was as good as I remember.
Big glasses too. Like yum yum,- wish I had some now -yum.
Didn't eat or look at the menu, Pam was fading fast.
Brewhouse is behind glass in back of the bar, and there looked like there might have been an upstairs, not sure.
Service was very good, the barkeep gave us a verbal rundown of the beers and served 'em up quick and neat.

brewandbbq, Jun 12, 2005
Photo of Bierman9
4.08/5  rDev +8.2%

Came here about 930PM on the Sunday night of Memorial Day weekend. Another long front-to-back place. Flamenco music playing on this eve. Long bar lines the left side of the room, with brew kettles visible behind glass behind the bar. Right side lined in brick, with numerous tables scattered about, booths along the wall, and with a small stage near the middle right for musical entertainment. Somewhat dimly lit, and rather sparsely populated on this night. Besides bier they have lots of liquor here...anything you might want. Does have a yuppy-ish vibe, as earlier noted; tries to be more of an upscale place. OK, overall. Had 8x biers on tap during this visit, and I enjoyed a couple of pints of their seasonal Maibock ($5.00), served in a great German, stange-type glass. Bartender was quite pleasant, an English chap. He was a few minutes late pouring me my second Maibock, and I wasn't bothered by it, but he comped it for me. Cool. Decent place in general, though I'd hit Toronado or Zeitgeist first, personally.


overall: 4.08
atmosphere: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: n/a | $$


Bierman9, Jun 09, 2005
Photo of Mark
4.21/5  rDev +11.7%

This pub has a more upscale feel to it than most of my favorite places. Tanks are very hidden behind an exceptionally long bar. There is a thin eating area fronting the bar. There is also an upstairs area as well. A wide selection was available on tap, at least 6 offerings. These included an IPA, Pils, Stout, Porter, and an ESB, I believe the 6th was a wheat beer. Food is Spanish style, Tapas being the specialty. Looked good but also a bit expensive and I wish I knew how big the portions are. A decent pub in the south of Market area, while I prefer 21st Amendment, I thought this place had a wider selection of brew. One other thing we enjoyed was a good converstation with our bar man who was English. We conversed about the U.K. and cask ale. Nice guy. Worth going to by all means.

Mark, Jun 05, 2005
Thirsty Bear Brewing Company in San Francisco, CA
86 out of 100 based on 78 ratings.