Brewed in San Francisco - rating the brewpubs and micros

Discussion in 'Pacific' started by Gilmango, Sep 28, 2012.

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  1. Gilmango

    Gilmango Initiate (196) Jul 17, 2007 California

    So the thread about beers brewed in LA got me thinking, how do folks rank the beers brewed in SF? I mean we have a great SF bay area beer scene, and lots of great beers to be had in SF at bars, bottle shops, etc. But for beers truly brewed in SF we seem to have 2 great or at least very good big micros (Anchor and Speakeasy), and then several brewpubs that get limited love (21st Amendment, Magnolia, Beach Chalet, Social, Thirsty Bear, Southern Pacific, Gordon Biersch). Other brewers with SF addresses do not brew here: Pizza Orgasmica brews in Marin, Hebrew in ?, 21st cans in MN, Almanac in SJ, Pacific Brew Labs brews in the east bay I think. Are Southpaw BBQ or Unicorn Pan Asian still brewing their own on premises in SF?

    So, I'd love to know what I'm missing, happy to hear of nanos too. Mostly wondering about which of the above - truly brewed in SF places - you beer geeks like? Seems like Anchor gets the most love for sure, great history and great beers (I personally love Liberty but never really fell for Steam). I like Speakeasy but rarely buy them to be honest (but I brew much of my own so I'm usually buying one-off releases). I've only been once or twice since the new brewer took over but gotta say I've really enjoyed Social amongst the brewpubs.

    Related question, is it just the super huge real estate and other start up / doing biz costs that keep us from having more truly great brewed in SF beer? We're certainly a great market for selling great beer.
  2. barleywinefiend

    barleywinefiend Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2007 Washington

    I've always thought Thirsty Bear was a killer one-two threat. Great food, good beer.
  3. afrokaze

    afrokaze Zealot (538) Jun 12, 2009 Arizona

    21st Amendment gets a fair amount of buzz these days, their distro is expanding and a lot of their seasonals are damned good. Monk's Blood was great, too bad it's on hiatus; Hop Crisis is out right now and it's freaking delicious. I haven't been to all the brewpubs in the city but I was impressed by Magnolia's bitters/milds and their food is good but a bit pricy. I've had samples from several others at events (Pac Brew Labs, Southern Pacific, Thirsty Bear, Social Kitchen) that have all been noteworthy too.
  4. MrFootstones

    MrFootstones Initiate (0) Aug 8, 2008 California

    I believe the only beer brewed in SF I really care for is Magnolia. I like that they do well made English beer, and the 5 beer engines are icing on the cake. They've got so many awesome bitters, a nice dark mild, and even know their way around some hops. Just went yesterday and had the only fresh hopped beer I've enjoyed this season (High Time Harvest with Simcoe) and the 2010 Heaven Hill barrel aged Old Thunderpussy. Their food is tasty too.

    They're a bit pricey, but they're a brewpub near Haight Ashbury that uses expensive, high quality ingredients and makes styles of beer that are hard to come across fresh. They get my vote.
  5. hophead247

    hophead247 Disciple (376) Jan 27, 2008 California

    Well since the majority of 21st Amendment's beers are brewed in Minnesota, I choose Magnolia.
  6. FunkyMacGroovin

    FunkyMacGroovin Initiate (0) Sep 22, 2009 California

    Ranked by order of "how much does FunkyMacGroovin enjoy this brewery's offerings on the whole?":

    21st Amendment (cans are from MN, draft is local)
    Thirsty Bear
    Gordon Biersch (do they actually brew at the restaurant, or is it all from SJ?)
    Beach Chalet

    I haven't tried anything from Pac Brew Labs or Southern Pacific yet.
  7. stupac2

    stupac2 Initiate (0) Feb 22, 2011 California

    I have completely written off 21st, Speakeasy, Thirsty Bear, and some of the others. I've yet to try a beer from them that was worth the calories, most are somewhere between "nothing special" and "actively offensive". I liked Magnolia fine, thought the food was excellent, but I didn't try a whole bunch of their stuff. I should head back there sometime.

    Honestly, the Oakland area brewers beat the SF ones hands down IMO. Linden St, Dying Vines, and Drake's are better than anything SF has.
  8. rmdownward

    rmdownward Initiate (144) Feb 10, 2007 California

    Gordon Biersch closed some months back. They did brew there when they were open.
  9. largadeer

    largadeer Poo-Bah (3,526) Sep 24, 2006 California

    Anchor and Magnolia are pretty much the only worthwhile SF breweries. I'll occasionally choke down something by Speakeasy or 21A, but I'd rather get raped by AIDS infected baboons than drink more Thirsty Bear beer.
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  10. DefenCorps

    DefenCorps Poo-Bah (3,779) Jan 18, 2007 Oregon

    Do they bottle? If so: ISO
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  11. colonelforbin

    colonelforbin Initiate (0) Aug 23, 2007 California

    Magnolia is always pretty solid. I've always enjoyed Social Kitchen's beers as well, but have not been there since they switched head brewers a few months back. Should be going there next week though.

    Anchor is also very good.
  12. DrAwkward82

    DrAwkward82 Initiate (0) Apr 16, 2005 California

    I love Magnolia. I don't think anybody on the West Coast does traditional English cask ales as well as they do, and their American styles ain't bad either.
  13. Offa

    Offa Poo-Bah (2,064) Feb 6, 2008 California

    I haven't been to Magnolia yet (I intend to go soon - it seems right up my alley with English-style cask beers), but I so far tend to prefer 21st Amendment and Anchor overall.

    Anchor's Steam Beer and Old Foghorn, and Liberty, are great early players on the scene and they still hold their own for solid, well-made, well-rounded character.

    21st Amendment's Hop Crisis is great as are some of their limited pub-only beers - a lot of character, well-rounded and complex. The place itself has a great ambiance in the converted old industrial building and it has very good food.

    Speakeasy's Prohibition and Big Daddy are great but most of the rest I've had did not impress at all.

    The only Thirsty Bear beer I've had was a schwarzbier a few years ago and it was very good, but not great.

    Beach Chalet is probably at the bottom. Beers are solid but not great, several are almost identical, some are very bland and sub-par. The place is nice, but the food is only so-so and overpriced for what it is.
  14. JohnQ

    JohnQ Initiate (0) Jul 7, 2012 California

    For some reason I thought Speakeasy and 21st were the same place.Much like I was confused about Port brewing and BP.Big Daddy IIRC was really good.

    But for history alone I would say Anchor.To me living large is going to a nice seafood place and having oysters on the half shell,sourdough and Anchor.MMMMMMM.Good.

    BTW.I like a nice Irish Whiskey over ice too.But has anyone tried the gin that Anchor makes.It's a more retro style called Junipero .Very good.
  15. Gilmango

    Gilmango Initiate (196) Jul 17, 2007 California

    Thanks for all the comments so far. Surprised no "nanos" mentioned like that little garage based place in Noe Valley or the one in the Richmond which won't even invite me over. I also have a soft spot for Magnolia's cask program and English influence but a love-tolerate relationship with their beers. Brewtruc is bringing some homebrewers/nanos to the public in an innovative way, as are the guys at

    Of the brewpubs that brew in SF I'd have to go Social, Magnolia, and 21st for good beers, GB would be next if they survived - never loved the beers but respected the lager commitment (there are far to lagers in the US craft movement in large part because it has prohibitive costs - refrigeration plus time both are huge cost centers). While Thirsty Bear has good food the beer has never been beyond good and often is terrible, Beach Chalet is all about the sunset views but the beers are OK at best.

    The best SF brewed beer I've had might be last year's Big Lebowski from Social (I had the prior year's as well but the 2011 was unreal), it haunts me, best coffee beer ever.
  16. Rzzzzz

    Rzzzzz Disciple (389) Nov 10, 2007 California

    (me post to wrong forum again)​
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  17. Mycues1982

    Mycues1982 Initiate (0) Oct 5, 2012

    Happy to have found this thread. Me and my lady friend are planning a trip out to the area from Pittsburgh. The plan is to travel up the coast making our way to San Francisco than Sonoma County, Yosemite than back to San Fran. Part of our time there will be spent touring brewpubs and vineyards so I've been gathering info on which ones are best to visit. Besides what you guys listed we plan on stopping at Lagunitas, possibly Russian River and Bear Republic staying in Healdsburg for a night or two. I'm a big fan of Anderson Valley's beer also so am considering adding them to the list. Any other suggestions of good places to stop along our journey?
  18. hophead247

    hophead247 Disciple (376) Jan 27, 2008 California

    If you end up going to Russian River, definitely stop by Flavor Bistro and enjoy the Moonlight beers they have to offer. It's just down the street from RR
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  19. Mycues1982

    Mycues1982 Initiate (0) Oct 5, 2012

    Thanks I just checked it out online, sounds like a nice place. Definitely plan on stopping by Russian River after doing a little research and plan on bringing back a few bottles with us. Still planning that part of the trip so I'm open to suggestions. It will be our first time out there. Any thoughts on Toronado Pub?
  20. Retsinis

    Retsinis Crusader (709) Sep 25, 2009 California

    Good thread, & great timing. Not wanting to start another thread, and since I've already done some research through Places already, just getting any last minute suggestions on this thread, also for those wanting to promote local breweries to a non local here.

    Going to San Francisco tomorrow, driving to RR, staying the night in Santa Rosa, then heading back into the city for a 49ers game. Curious of suggestion near candlestick park?

    Being it will likely take over an hour to get out of the parking lot after the game, and being a sunday, any recomendations? I know Speakeasy is closed Sundays. I've been to Drakes, but being they close @ 7, and being across the bay, don't think will make it in time to enjoy ourselves. I'm leaning to 21st Amendment at the moment, unless any local BA's want to steer me some where else? A bar is fine, preferabbly with food, or near food. We get good distro in SoCal for most of NorCal's offerings, so, a local brewpub is preferred, or a brewery/brewpub with tap only offerings. Been to triple rock before too, so wanting something new this time. We will have a car, but after tail gating before the game, looking to stay closer to the Stick to drive a bit less. Thanks
  21. rmdownward

    rmdownward Initiate (144) Feb 10, 2007 California

    Really nothing near Candlestick, I'm afraid. Be warned, this weekend is going to be car apocalypse in SF. Fleet Week, with the Blue Angels, Hardly, Strictly Bluegrass in Golden Gate Park. America's Cup boat races. Niners play at one then the Giants play at six. Traffic will, to put it lightly, suck.
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  22. ChanChan

    ChanChan Initiate (0) Dec 12, 2009 California

    Anchor steam beer, Our Special Ale, Porter, etc!!
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  23. rmdownward

    rmdownward Initiate (144) Feb 10, 2007 California

  24. rgco

    rgco Initiate (0) Apr 2, 2012 California

    Fried Chicken Thursday @ Magnolias with a Cask Proving Ground IPA is a winner for me for made in SF.
  25. Retsinis

    Retsinis Crusader (709) Sep 25, 2009 California

    Yeah I heard something about traffic hell. We just got finished with "Carmageddon II" down here in LA, so should be fun, sort of like Dante's Inferno for me this month, different levels of hell.

    Thanks for the Southern Brewing recomendation, hadn't noticed that one. Between that & 21st Amendment, we should be covered. Cheers.
  26. rmdownward

    rmdownward Initiate (144) Feb 10, 2007 California

  27. AptosBeerDrinker

    AptosBeerDrinker Initiate (0) Aug 9, 2011 California

    Getting out of Candlestick from the outside parking lots (non season ticket holder passes) on a normal Sunday is a true test of survival and man's will to live. This Sunday could be Donner Party level insanity. Be prepared. 21st Amendment, if you could get there, is also sure to be a mad house being so close to the Giants game. You may want to just think about bringing some bottles and extra food and posting up in the parking lot for a couple hours post game. Just throwing it out there.
  28. AptosBeerDrinker

    AptosBeerDrinker Initiate (0) Aug 9, 2011 California

    A couple thoughts...I don't know how much time you have but regarding adding Anderson Valley to the list...I say do it. I would also consider adding North Coast Brewing (Ft. Bragg) if time allows. Even if you don't stop at either brewery, the drive on Highway 1 North from SF to Ft. Bragg and 128 between the Coast and Highway 101 is a part of California I wish every visitor could see. Rugged coastline, redwoods, vineyards,'s truly beautiful. Yosemite is amazing but the Mendocino Coast/Anderson Valley are equally beautiful in their own way. I would head North on 101 from SF to Santa Rosa for RR. West on 12 to 116 along the Russian River. 1 North to Mendocino/Ft. Bragg. Then 128 East and back to 101. It's a fair bit of driving, but if you can swing it, I highly recommend it.

    As far as Toronado goes, some people love it (me) others hate it. I think anybody that loves beer has to at least experience it. Bring cash as they don't take card. The fact that you're from Pittsburgh...I think you'll appreciate it's no bullshit characteristics.

    Have a fun trip. When are you coming? Are you flying into SF?
  29. Retsinis

    Retsinis Crusader (709) Sep 25, 2009 California

    Yeah were filling two growlers at RR the day before, and picking up a few bottles as well. Will be getting food, snacks etc before hand as well for an early tailgate & a bit for post game. Since it looks like both 21st & SPB are open to midnight, my goal is to be at one of them by 7-8 p.m. Likely SPB, since it's closer to The stick. We don't fly out until 3 or so the following day, so will have some patience to get around. Partly will just be happy for the weather, it's been 90+ in the SFV down here for the last 2 months! Hoping for the best though, and thanks again.
  30. AptosBeerDrinker

    AptosBeerDrinker Initiate (0) Aug 9, 2011 California

    Cool. Patience is a virtue. Report back on Southern Pacific incidentally. I haven't been.

    Oh yeah...GO NINERS!!!
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  31. Retsinis

    Retsinis Crusader (709) Sep 25, 2009 California

    Worked out well. Tailigating at the Stick was a lot of fun, & the game 45 to 3, was a great blowout to witness in person as a Niners fan.

    As for the two breweries. Southern Pacific, huge space, long large warehouse, with ample seating on an outside patio, inside, and the upstairs loft. They also had two bars, 1st floor & 2nd. Didn't have any food, but it looked good from seeing other plates, and the pricing seemed pretty reasonable from the menu. The beers, sadly, mediorce, to average, imho. It's a new place, so perhaps they are still tweaking the recipes, I wish them well. Since it's a full bar, seems the brewing is not the main focus, but more another layer, since they focus on kitchen menu, cocktails, and beer, just my two cents.

    21st Amendment. Better, cleaner excuted beers, great food. Full of Giants fans too, didn't realize just how close it was, we could see the stadium & the lights.

    As for Traffic, better then I expected actually, guess we got lucky. Also seeing that Mustang, Hornet & Raptor fly over the stadium was very cool.
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  32. CommanderOfAwesome

    CommanderOfAwesome Devotee (413) Aug 30, 2012 California

    I don't think Speakeasy is anything special. I enjoyed their payback porter, but their IPA (Big Daddy) is down right bad IMO. 21st is solid, wasn't impressed with Social (work right next to it, if any BAs want to meet up for a drink one night) or Southern Pacific. I think Triple Rock and Jupiter in Berkeley brew better beers. I know isn't not that close but EJ Phair I think is better than anything listed so far as a Bay Area brew. They're supposed to be bottling soon.
  33. drgarage

    drgarage Initiate (0) Aug 19, 2008 California

    Yeah, I meant to warn you about the beer quality at SoPac. I love their space, and the food is decent, but the beers just aren't great. That said, I love their guest taps, of which there are many at reasonable prices. Got Bear Republic Tartare there the last time I was in and very pleased for it...
  34. MLucky

    MLucky Initiate (0) Jul 31, 2010 California

    There's not all that much in SF proper, that's true. But if you're willing to count the East Bay you can add Drakes, Trumer, and plenty of others, depending on how far east you wanna go. I mean, people consider Stone to be "in San Diego" even though Escondido is like 30 miles north.
  35. MLucky

    MLucky Initiate (0) Jul 31, 2010 California

    I'm curious about this: so you're saying they have a separate brewery in SF that produces beer that is kegged, and contract brew everything else in MN?
  36. jtmartino

    jtmartino Disciple (317) Dec 11, 2010 California

    Yep. Every can you see (including those in California) are from the midwest.
  37. theconductor

    theconductor Initiate (170) Nov 4, 2008 California

    The Minnesota Brewery is theirs. They share the space with another brewer but they brew their own beer there with their own brewers. Some draft beers are brewed there as well, but ALL canned beers are brewed there.
  38. MLucky

    MLucky Initiate (0) Jul 31, 2010 California

    I know the cans are from the midwest. But you're saying they also brew in SF? And only for draft/kegs?
  39. jtmartino

    jtmartino Disciple (317) Dec 11, 2010 California

  40. theCoder

    theCoder Aspirant (233) Oct 24, 2011 Minnesota

    I find it ironic that here in MN we just started selling 21st amendment maybe 2 years ago and the cans have been brewed/canned here for far longer. Finally the brewery that brews it came forward saying "Uh what? why can't we sell this here its made here for crying out loud?" (not a direct quote but that was basically what my bottle shop told me). They're brewed/canned at Cold Springs Brewery, who also does some fantastic beers. Their John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale is one of the reasons I got into homebrewing.

    Having lived in San Francisco for a few years I remember loving Thirsty Bear and in fact haven't been there in awhile, my next business trip back to the Bay Area may require a stop by there.
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