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Thirsty Bear Brewing Company

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

82 Ratings
Ratings: 82
Reviews: 60
rAvg: 3.77
pDev: 14.85%
Active Beers: 21
Beer Ratings: 271
Beer Avg: 3.62
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: 82 | Reviews: 60 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of francisweizen
3.35/5  rDev -11.1%

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.

francisweizen, May 18, 2007
Photo of PhiloPsych
4/5  rDev +6.1%

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.

PhiloPsych, Apr 10, 2007
Photo of jreitman
3.4/5  rDev -9.8%

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.

jreitman, Apr 01, 2007
Photo of kdoc8
3.78/5  rDev +0.3%

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.

kdoc8, Mar 13, 2007
Photo of blgianbeer
3.43/5  rDev -9%

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.

blgianbeer, Aug 08, 2006
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
Photo of Redrover
3.85/5  rDev +2.1%

I hosted a small business diner here. Some of co-workers were initially skeptical, but this place quickly won them over.

As described by others, this is a fairly narrow but long bar/dinning area. The upstairs contained the bathrooms, pool tables and some place for entertaining.

I was there on a Sunday evening which happens to be flamingo night! Some nice guitar playing and dancing entertained us. It really added a unique vibe and I wonder if this weekly event draws a different crowd.

For dinner, we went with a bunch of tapas dishes and some yummy seafood paella. Some of the best food I have ever had at a brewpub. Great combinations of flavors and very fresh ingredients!

The beer was fine, but it didn't blow me away. Still, very solid representatives of the styles. I had a seasonal Mai Bock and the IPA. The brewing equipment is on display behind the bar. I wish I had another chance to sample a few more.

The service was a bit slow, but very friendly. The food did come pretty quickly after we ordered..

I'm very glad I had a chance to stop by.

Redrover, May 26, 2005
Photo of Troyone
4/5  rDev +6.1%

The atmosphere is business like and somewhat yuppy-ish. There is spacious dining areas downstairs and it looks as though the upstairs is mainly for entertainment with two pool tables and a dart board. They have an area in the middle of the restaurant next to the bar for live flamenco music on Sunday nights.

There are wooden tables and chairs; the bar is hard to figure out, looks like some thick transparent enamel over a type of art work. The restroom was clean. Kitchen is in the open and viewable from the southside dining area as is the brewing equipment behind the bar..

Kind of yuppy-ish but prompt.

A decent selection, no guest beers, and a good concept of cask beer (handpump) however only on certain nights. Their IPA and seasonal Viena Waltz are notables also their possible notables are the Valencia Wheat (similar to a hef) and seasonal Imperial Red (8.5%). The beers seem to be served a little on the cold side but are alright.

Have eaten there in the past, I recall the proportion did not add up to the price but was good. There appears to be some healthy options on the menu. The kitchen is wide open and viewable from the South dining area.

Food is pricey.

Troyone, Apr 30, 2005
Photo of drewbage
3.75/5  rDev -0.5%

Last visit was during a foolish attempt to drink all 9 beers of the San Francisco Strong Beer Month in one night. (I did 8 of them for the record.)

The Thirsty Bear's concept has always been one of my favorites, but the execution has always left a little to be desired to me.

The menu concept is tapas (which gets translated by some as "yuppie chow") which to me is about as close to perfect for eating with groups over drinks. This is exactly why the Spanish invented this cuisine. Menu varies and has always been good.

The beer on the other hand has always varied. On this particular visit I had the Bearly Legal barleywine and the Winterbock. The winterbock was phenolic and the barleywine was fine, but still relatively lackluster.

The crowd here is my other problem here as the posing yuppies really do invade this place by nightfall. Hey, I like yuppie cusine, not yuppies.

Still a very nice place though.

drewbage, Mar 02, 2004
Photo of boussh
4.1/5  rDev +8.8%

On our second trip to Thirst Bear, we were much more impressed with everything. Our first trip was so-so ( the bartender ignored us and the beers were nothing special), but this time we stopped in to complete our stong beer card put on by 21st Amendment, Thirsty Bear and Magnolia. The idea to drink 9 stong beers of various styles and keep a cool glass.
So on this trip we tasted the Bearly Legal Barley wine which was well balanced between hops, malt and alcohol( about 10%), not too sweet and great with the blue cheese on my salad. The Winterbock wasn't as impressive, but still a good showing. A little more astringent then I like in a beer, but with the fried almonds and paprika it was not bad.
Our server was attentive and our food can rather quickly at lunch. After this experience, we might stop in again and give thier other beers a try.

boussh, Feb 20, 2004
Photo of Clembo1957
3.25/5  rDev -13.8%

I arrived at The Thirsy Bear to be greeted by a deafening clattering noise, unfortunately i'd arrived on the Bars regular Flamenco night! fortunately the Flamenco was fairly brief and i could enjoy my beer again in relative peace. I sampled a couple of beers on my visit, Howard St IPA and Polar Bear, both of which were enjoyable.

The bar seemed to be largely food orientated and while the food wasn't bad the servers seemed to be in a hurry to serve us, clear the plates again and free the table for the next customer so my eating experience felt somewhat rushed. The beer wasn't bad but next time i think i'll avoid the Flamenco Dancers...

Clembo1957, Feb 09, 2004
Photo of andyj
4.63/5  rDev +22.8%

Seldom is it the case that brewpubs have more than the blah-blah ales and blah-blah lagers. This place had two wheat beers (Belgian and Bavarian respectively), a surprisingly good Vanilla Ale, an wonderful stout with a hefty additional of roasted barley, mmm roasted barley. There were several other beers, I think I counted eight and it was a nice well-rounded variety with some extraordinary stuff. And they have food, good food. It is Spanish Tapas style -- Spanish pub fare. The dishes were very good, but I should say they are larger than your average tapas dishes. My wife and I each ordered three thinking they would be small, but they turned out to be heftier portions than I had ever imagined. This place also has pool tables and stuff like that upstairs and is in walking distance to the museum and 21st Ammendment brewpub. Of 3 brewpubs I went to in SF (21st Ammendment & SF Brewing) this was the best.

andyj, Oct 02, 2003
Photo of UncleJimbo
4.05/5  rDev +7.4%

This is a very good brewpub very close to the Muscone convention center. There is a decent selection of good brews, with about half a dozen on tap at any given time. I recall the stout as being very decent. I think they have a cask one night of the week. They also serve home made sangria. As for the food, it has a Spanish theme. The tapas (appetizers) are exellent, and go very well with the beers. Try the cod cheeks!

This is a comfortable place, though a bit more of a restaurant and bar than a typical brewpub.

UncleJimbo, Dec 29, 2002
Thirsty Bear Brewing Company in San Francisco, CA
86 out of 100 based on 82 ratings.