Thirsty Bear Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Thirsty Bear Brewing CompanyThirsty Bear Brewing Company
BEER AVG
3.61/5
Based on:
21 Beers
279 Ratings
Place Score: 85
Ratings: 87
Reviews: 61
rAvg: 3.75
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:
None, yet.

(Place added by: BeerAdvocate)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 87 | Reviews: 61 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of slander
4.25/5  rDev +13.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

The alleged California, I see. Okay, I have to admit, it’s seemingly real. Everybody out here says it is, anyway. Did the pre-check in at the hotel and set out for beer. This, an easy walk and found in a strip of store and eats on 3rd. Made direct eye contact with the host station people and silently passed them by; I’s got a bar to be at...

It’s a large, cavernous space, surprising for the strip it’s in. Off to the left, a copper-like colored with silvery swirls of wet lookingness topped bar beneath laminate, and a stainless steel drain trim running its perimeter. Wood base & piping foot rail, the stretch broken by a service piece. Seating for nearly a dozen and a half on the straight piece on brown leather chairs, and seating for another 4 up front on the wrap around. A trio of upright bar towers of 3 each clustered at both ends of the bar and a sole handpump further along.

The barback is a ½ wall of glass with 2 long shelves running its length holding boozables, and offering views of fermenter tippy tops from the sunken basement brew room behind it. Below it sits a long counter with stacked glassware of all sizes and shapes, and a pair of tap towers holding 4 each on the barback pouring organic wines. Cooler space & shelved booze down underneath the bar, and growlers in a fridge at the far end. Vintaged horizontal sign pieces for each house beer and ‘certified organic’ signage running along the overhang above. I beams and pieced phat wood beam uprights along the bar, holding beer boards listing selections, OG’s, IBU’s, and ABV’s on the posts at both ends, and mounted flatscreens above.

The far wall is brick, and the other areas are painted in shades of green, beige, orange, yellow & red. Concrete floorings, a black painted ceiling with panels with spots, and a high squared skylight piece on center. Glass lampshades tracing the bar, and elongated versions of the same up front. Some cool horizontal art pieces on the big brick, curtainings, and plants in, well, planters.

2 dozen raised roundies in a row adjacent to the bar and along the far wall, some effectively sharing boothing benchings, and a few around the front bend. More seating to the rear, tiered to one side overlooking the open kitchen sunken below the stairs, and a few tucked forward the kitchen in a nook. Some 2 dozen+ tables in all back there, some of which are piecemeal plankings of color and coolness. And a secret front section curtained off (but I will not, cannot be kept out), holding a single table in the large front windows over 3rd, and a ½ dozen tables against the far wall.

Upstairs, a wraparound space with a single pool table and a pair of dartboards. A small “L” shaped bar around the bend shuttered just now with a few hightops adjacent, and a smallish event room to the rear with a dozen tables and another pool table. Cool views over the down below from uppathere.

Took in a sampler ‘cause ‘cause. 7 full time beers (Polar Bear Bohemian Pilsner, crisp, pleasant enough; Golden Vanilla, an American blonde and the nose knows first what comes, much vanilla not goodness there, no; Valencia Wheat, a Belgian wit, coriander, check, orange peel, check, it was okay; Brown Bear, an English style Brown with big maltiness, very good; Meyer ESB, caramel sweetness with nice hoppiness; Kozlov Stout, a dry irish stout on nitro, roasty, chocolatey, mmmm, quite nice; Howard Street IPA, in at 7%, nice bitterness), and a single seasonal (Winter Stave, a Golden Ale in French oak from white wine with cranberries & Brett, 6.3%, and has some, you know, nice sourness going on), guest tap (San Francisco Strong Ale, a brewer’s guild collaboration, 8.5%, has some alcohol to it, uh huh), and cask offering (21st Amendment Lord & Master, an 8.3% English Strong Ale). The Brown Bear, Meyer ESB, Kozlov Stout, Howard Street IPA, and Winter Stave were the best of ‘em. Took in shortys of the Brown Bear & Kozlov Stout on the heels of the sampler. And the aforementioned organic wines on tap, currently 3 red & 3 white, as well as a dozen bottled wine selections, mostly California & Spanish.

Today’s lunch special ($8) is a Spanish cured meat bocadillo with roasted piquillo peppers, lettuce, and aioli. It was a good sandwich, served with house pickled vegetables picked at, as I had no idea what they were beyond beige, reddish & kind of yellowlike vinegarings. I was happy to have gotten my snack on.

Oh, this is the tapas place Ben was talking about. Seems that every item on the menu has at least one word that I don’t know. Friendly people on both sides of the bar (Joetender saw some Brooklynburg things just recently). Caught a nice snack and some good beer here.

Photo of woodychandler
3.94/5  rDev +5.1%
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 NeroFiddled
4.33/5  rDev +15.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

I thoroughly enjoyed the Thirsty Bear!

It's nice to find a bartender who knows his beer; will listen to what you want; and then make suggestions based on that (and not what they're interested in or know about). Additionally, I really appreciate a bartender or server who'll steer you right as far as the menu offerings go (as in "perhaps the 'blah blah' might be a better choice").

I had a "Rum Runner". It was a kind of barleywine-style ale served in a smaller glass. It was a deep chestnut brown with an off-white head, and exhibited caramelized brown sugar and some spiciness. Quite nice. Well done.

It's a good looking place (exposed brick, wood floors) with some interesting quirks, i.e. the odd orange and silver bar top. It's open and spacious and comfortable.

They offer 7 regular beers, 2 seasonals, and a cask offering.

The food is good and the service follows.

Well done all around. Worth a visit!

Photo of Gavage
4.05/5  rDev +8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

This place is located close to the convention center which makes it easy to hit for lunch or a quick pint after sessions. The place has more of an upscale modern restaurant feel with very high ceilings, plenty of wood tones, lots of brick, and nicely separated areas for the bar and dining. The bar can seat about 20 or so and overlooks a few tanks behind the bar. Several hitops and some circular booths are also just off the bar.

There were 8 beers on tap during my visit - most seem to be the normal house beers except for a 15th anniversary beer that was an imperial red ale. The beers I had during my few stops here were of good quality and OK versions of the styles - and the crowd seemed to be drinking quite a variety of styles.

The food was focused on tapas, and several of the dishes were quite good like the octopus, albondingas, and empanadas. The paella was also good hearty portion. The tapas format worked well here for having beers and food with a bunch of people.

Overall this is a good place to hit for the whole food and beer experience, but don't expect any over the top beers here - they brew to fit the clientele, which I am sure focuses on local business men and women, and of course conventioneers.

Photo of sholland119
3.25/5  rDev -13.3%

Photo of yemenmocha
3.6/5  rDev -4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 3 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

Near 21st Amendment, so good for a two-fer. I like environments like this with the spacious layouts and high ceilings, as this reminds me of the way many brewpubs were in the 90's when craft breweries were called micros. Server was very nice, knowledgeable, and professional overall.

Selections on tap were more numerous than I expected but nothing spectacular in the way of styles. They were brewing that day I was there so there was a glorious aroma in the air. Didn't order food, so can't comment on that. Near the stadium if that's where you're headed. Prices seemed high but not too bad for San Francisco.

Photo of Bierman9
4.08/5  rDev +8.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

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.

Prosit!!

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

114

Photo of Redrover
3.85/5  rDev +2.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4.5

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.

Photo of aoampm
3.75/5  rDev 0%

Photo of francisweizen
3.35/5  rDev -10.7%
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 UncleJimbo
4.05/5  rDev +8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

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.

Photo of DaPeculierDane
3.1/5  rDev -17.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 2.5 | service: 3 | selection: 3.5

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.

Photo of FightingEntropy
3.93/5  rDev +4.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4.5

6/27/13

Nearly a decade ago, I stopped at the Thirsty Bear on a walking tour of pubs in San Francisco. However, it was near the end of a long day and I doubted my conclusions. On our first night in The City before heading north for a tree and beer tour, we got in late but our hotel was so conveniently close to the Thirsty Bear that it was an obvious choice for an after flight dinner.

With the kitchen closing shortly after our arrival a bit before 10 pm and thanks to a fast bartender giving advice as we sat at the end of the bar, we ordered a sampler tray and food immediately to make sure we got both. The samples were improved since my last visit but in the general ballpark of my memory. Grizzly Bear Red Ale, Meyer ESB and Koslov Stout were my favorite of the standards taps. On cask was a stock ale dry hopped with fuggles that did not appeal to me at all.

Our favorite draft of the stop was the Charbay Stave, listed as a black ale. From the bartender, it's the Kozlov stout aged for a year in Charbay barrels of Charbay Distillery & Winery and mixed with stock ale to smooth. The draft has a clingy tan lace from a full head over a jet black ale. Strong dark malt, molasses, hot alcohol and chewy barrel is apparent in the nose, char on the tongue with strong whiskey that's sharp and fun. House special was to pair the beer with a snifter of Charbay whiskey: the beer nicely cut the raw taste of the whiskey and made a delightful comparison. Dark cherry comes out when the beer warms up, but the overall effect degrades.

As a tapas bar, we shared two small plates to compliment my Caesar salad. Delightfully presented, the salad stacked high on a small plate. I tried but didn't enjoy the Organic Sugar Snap Peas as much as my wife, but the Patatas Bravas (fried kennebec potatoes, garlic, spicy brava sauce, and aioli) were spectacular. We quite enjoyed the food. mixing in the remaining samples and the Charbay Stave draft. To date, it's the best organic brewery that I've been to, though, overall, the samples fall a bit short of a standard brewery. But, the combination of food and atmosphere more than compliment the well brewed beer.

Our bartender was friendly and full of beery knowledge for San Francisco at the beginning of our trip; one recommendation we followed (avoided a brewery in fact), led to what I believe was a much better night at Cerveceria de MateVeza. The similarity of my conclusions for the two visits increases my confidence in drinking knowledge a decade ago; a nice test to validate my memory. While not a destination brewery, the Thirsty Bear is a solid pub that fits well in the SOMA (south of Market) neighborhood, and I would happily visit again if I found myself nearby.

Pictures at http://pintsizedrevelations.blogspot.com/2013/07/thirsty-bear-brewing-san-francisco-ca.html

Photo of ThreeWiseMen
3.88/5  rDev +3.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4

Stopped in here for dinner the other night with my family and good friend, Zach.

Thirsty Bear has an atmosphere that seems to accommodate all ages. The interior is open and comfortable with modern decor. The restaurant and bar occupy the deep and narrow bottom floor, while the upstairs is (apparently) reserved for private parties - there are a few billiards tables, dart boards, and a small bar area.

Zach and I each ordered the "all beers" sampler, which included eleven different 4oz. samples. Nearly all of the beers were above average (Golden Vanilla being one exception), though none of them were special. The best of the bunch were Brown Bear, Meyer E.S.B., and Howard St. I.P.A. (Polar Bear Pilsner also deserves mention).

Our group ordered several rounds of tapas, capped off by a shared plate of steak and broccoli paella. While the tapas ranged from mediocre the good, the paella was great! On top of that, the tapas-style dining left all of us feeling satisfied, not overly full, at the end of the night.

Our waitress was very friendly and attentive, and even gave us free beer coupons at the end of the night (I think because I presented my AHA card). Even though the food and drinks weren't much to write home about, we really enjoyed our experience.

Photo of bradybeer
4.5/5  rDev +20%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

Last stop on the brewpub tour of SF.

Walking in the bar is to the left with seating to the right and upstairs where there are pool tables and darts. We ordered a sampler set which had a Golden Ale, Vanilla Ale, Wheat, IPA, Brown, Stout, Winter Warmer, and Dopplebock. I think I missed one. Beers were organic and OK the stand out was the Dopplebock which if I weren't driving would have had a pint.

We ordered the Chicharonnes (made in house) which were very good as well as the sliders which were good as well.

Service was good and the prices reasonable. I would come back for the food alone but the beer is very very solid and is the reason I think this is one of the best breweries in the bay area.

Photo of italianstallion
3.71/5  rDev -1.1%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3.75 | food: 3.5

Photo of mattmarka1
1.5/5  rDev -60%

Photo of benito
3.85/5  rDev +2.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

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.

Photo of DrMindbender
4/5  rDev +6.7%

Photo of DrJay
3.94/5  rDev +5.1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

I stopped in here for beer while attending a conference at the Moscone Center. The place was very clean with decent atmosphere, lots of earthy reds and browns in the decor. Staff were friendly as I walked in the door and the bartender was quick and attentive. I sat at the long bar with a view of the brewhouse behind it. There were 8 house beers on tap (pils, vanilla, wit, brown, ESB, stout) and a cask IPA that was in great condition. Out of the four beers that I tried, the cask IPA stood out, but the quality overall was decent across them all. Prices were reasonable at $4 for a 12oz, $6 for a 20oz, and $16 for growlers to go. The menu was mostly tapas and looked good, but I didn't partake. Definitely worth a stop if you're in the area.

Photo of atpca
3.5/5  rDev -6.7%

Photo of drewbage
3.75/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

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.

Photo of jophish17
3.03/5  rDev -19.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 2.5 | service: 3 | selection: 3 | food: 4.25

Been here twice now. The first time was in September 2008, when the financial markets were on the verge of collapse. Fortunately, the world was in a better position as I visited this past February.

The location is prime for visitors - both beer nerds (a few blocks from 21st Amendment), business people (near the convention center) and tourists visiting the nearby Union Square. So I am surprised to see it with half of the reviews of 21st Amendment. The building is spacious - not really my thing - but the decor is a lot of brick and metals, which I do like. It almost seemed too big, though I can still remember the place being rather busy for Oracle OpenWorld in 08.

To start with, let's get one thing settled: those of use reviewing here are Beer Advocates, so we tend to really appreciate really good beer. That is not something you will get at Thirsty Bear. The beer here is uninteresting, and wholly below the local standards. Nothing on my sampler was good enough to order a pint of. However, it should be noted that none of the beers were offensive either - just very forgettable.

The food, on the other hand, we really enjoyed. This was a sort of in between brunch and lunch stop for us, so we spilt a couple of tapas plates which we enjoyed. I'd say the food menu was a bit off the beaten path from the standard brewpub menu of sandwiches and pizzas, so that was refreshing, even if the food wasn't breathtaking. Still, things like that keep girlfriends happy as you drag them from brewery to brewery.

This is not a spectacular brewery. It is not a charming bar. It is also not the best tapas bar in the world. However, all put together, I somehow left this place for a second time now thinking that I'll come back again next time I'm in SF. I always recommend this place as an outside-the-box destination for visitors to SF, and I'm not really sure why...

Photo of timlyon
4/5  rDev +6.7%

Photo of t0rin0
3.93/5  rDev +4.8%
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.

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Thirsty Bear Brewing Company in San Francisco, CA
85 out of 100 based on 87 ratings.