Thirsty Bear Brewing Company

Thirsty Bear Brewing CompanyThirsty Bear Brewing Company

Type: Brewery, Bar, Eatery

661 Howard Street
San Francisco, California, 94105
United States

(415) 974-0905 | map

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Reviews: 61 | Ratings: 104
Photo of dgilks
3.5/5  rDev -7.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5

I tried out Thirsty Bear because I needed a place to waste a couple of hours before heading out for dinner. The interior is nice enough but a bit dark and loud for my preferences while the service was fairly good but nothing special. While all the beers were house made and their was a substantial range to choose from, I found many of them to be a bit similar and the quality was a tad disappointing. Overall though, prices were decent and the experience was okay. Good if you are in the area but I wouldn't search it out.

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Photo of Gavage
4.05/5  rDev +6.9%
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.

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Photo of searsclone
4.58/5  rDev +20.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

We stopped here on our last day in SF so that we could check out at least one brewery. We tried to go to Magnolia, but it was unsuccessful. We got there right as they opened on a Monday morning, so it was very low key and we got great attention. Our bartender impressed us with his knowledge of the beers and his knowledge of the the local beer scene. We had the flight of 9 beers, and all were very good. We had a small appetizer that was also very good. We didn't spend much time here, but if I ever find myself back in the area, I will definitely try to go back. Overall it was a very good experience.

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Photo of yemenmocha
3.6/5  rDev -5%
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.

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Photo of NorCalgrowler
3.95/5  rDev +4.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

Thirsty Bear is a great place to have a beer. They have about 7-10 of their regular and seasonal selections on tap at all times. Service was prompt. The space is spotless inside - you could eat off of the floor. Its atmosphere is brewhouse but a little more upper end I think. Warehouse feel also with exposed kitchen and brew kettles. Everything on tap is very reasonably priced. I had the Brown Bear the last time I was there. And I think it definitely fits the bill for a lot of age groups. Not sure if kids are allowed, but it seems like the ind of place they would like to be in also (obviously not for beer!)

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Photo of RedBeerchetta
3.93/5  rDev +3.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

Great place for a beer, especially if you're staying at the W hotel accross the street.

Large space with music not too loud. Couple of TVs with sports but just a couple. 9 beers available, all on tap (one cask), all their own. Wood and steel beams, brick, amber lampshades. Nice atmosphere. Kitchen closed before I got here so couldn't try the Spanish food.

Had the Brown Bear brown ale. 27 IBUs, 6.3%. More amber in color than brown despite the low light in the room. Not as rich and toasty as I like but I lean towards big Belgians. Still a tasty beer and worth the stop.

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Photo of bradybeer
4.5/5  rDev +18.7%
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.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.33/5  rDev +14.2%
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!

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Photo of ThreeWiseMen
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
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.

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Photo of DrJay
3.94/5  rDev +4%
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.

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Photo of woodychandler
3.94/5  rDev +4%
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.

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Photo of rossthefireman
4.3/5  rDev +13.5%
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.

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Photo of nickiversen
4.2/5  rDev +10.8%
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.

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Photo of steelerguy
4/5  rDev +5.5%
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!

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Photo of willjschmidt
4.05/5  rDev +6.9%
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.

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Photo of ccrida
3.35/5  rDev -11.6%
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.

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Photo of JoshuaCain
4.1/5  rDev +8.2%
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.

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Photo of xhcadamx
4.45/5  rDev +17.4%
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.

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Photo of argock
3.6/5  rDev -5%
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.

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Photo of hotglassmama
3.5/5  rDev -7.7%
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).

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Photo of Murchmac
3.85/5  rDev +1.6%
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.

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Photo of koolchas
3.55/5  rDev -6.3%
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.

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Photo of PeprSprYoFace
3.7/5  rDev -2.4%
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.

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Photo of phergy
4.75/5  rDev +25.3%
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.

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Photo of bobsy
4.18/5  rDev +10.3%
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.

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Thirsty Bear Brewing Company in San Francisco, CA
3.64 out of 5 based on 335 ratings.
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