San Francisco Craft Brewing

[Bay Bridge]

In celebration of National Homebrewers Day, clubs throughout California gathered at Stern Grove Park in San Francisco and I was fortunate to have been invited to join the Sonoma County Beerocrats there for a day of fun, food, and tasting.

A short ride away on Bay Area Rapid Transit lies Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse at 1920 Shattuck Ave., just north of the Berkeley BART station. From the dining area, the glass-enclosed brewery could be observed in operation. An extensive collection of beer memorabilia adorned the walls surrounding the wooden tables, chairs, and shuffleboard table. The food and drink was obviously popular with the university crowd, the only thing that seemed out of place was the cloud of toxic smoke lingering over some chain-smoking bar patrons.

The Pinnacle Ale was a light copper color with a coarse hoppy palate, a real "pale ale with a bite." The Red Rock Ale was a deeper amber color, clear, with a smooth and pleasant hop flavor. The Black Rock Porter was deep brown in color and had a good malt and hop balance. This one went down easily on a 50ºF day where the fog masked the season. Smoky Joe's was deceiving with its hazy gold color, the forceful flavor grabbed your palate and carried it off to the depths of a pleasant, smoky inferno.

With 30 taps pouring some of the top Northern California craft-brewed beers, Bierhaus on Broadway sits in an interesting part of San Francisco. To the south lies Chinatown with its crowded sidewalks, to the north the Italian neighborhoods of North Beach, bordering the two is Broadway, known for its glowing neon signs that advertise the adult entertainment establishments that have so far survived the puritan onslaughts. Inside a small gray bar features 10 three-tap brass towers, nearby a dozen wooden tables offer seating with padded chairs and booths along with a few pinball machines. Above the bar and around the rooms were colorful empty beer bottles and tap handles. Around the pooltable and CD jukebox were numerous beer plaques adorning the wood walls.

The attraction at this San Francisco landmark has shifted from Carol Doda and topless dancing to 18 taps of regional microbrews. The street-side location of The Condor at Broadway and Columbus offered the opportunity to both people-watch and drink flavorful beers while watching the 49'ers play. The medium-sized wooden bar stood below two loud TVs with sports blasting away. The layout was open and airy with large open windows along the street that offered quick exits for patrons and too convenient access for street beggars. A brick-walled back room contained pool tables surrounded by historical sports photos and beer signs, all under high ceiling fans. Upstairs is now quite a bit tamer since the puritan protests of the past provoked a change in the business' focus.

The Gordon Bierch Märzen appeared a clear dark amber color with light carbonation, clean dry malty flavor, and a short finish. During Sunday football the crowd was 80% male and beer prices ranged from $3 to $4. A bent spoon behind the bar, ready for Black & Tan requests, showed the attention to detail for serving beer connoisseurs.

[Jacks logo] Although tourists abound, Jacks Cannery Bar was worth enduring the crowds. 65 drafts were the main attraction, two ciders were available and a full liquor selection also was on hand. The interior design was one of carved wood walls and molded textured ceilings. Non-smoking from 9am to 7pm, the 'atmosphere' changed for the worse in the evening. The CD sound system didn't stand a chance against the ambient noise from the packed crowd.

The William Jones Wheat Beer was a clear straw color with a medium body. hoppy flavor balance, mildly sweet malty flavor, and crisp finish. The Red Seal Ale had a hoppy aroma, clear amber color, medium body, flavor starting malty then finishing with a nice hoppy character. The Anheuser Busch Munchner was a dark amber, medium-bodied, with a rich malty flavor and subtle hops. The Moyylans Celts Ale appeared a hazy gold, with a medium body, hoppy flavor, crisp mouthfeel, and overall estery character. The Moylans Barleywine was a hazy dark amber color, with an estery aroma, full body, very malty flavor, with subtle hops, and a malty/alcoholic aftertaste. The Hoppy Face Amber was a clear dark Amber color accompanied by a light hop aroma, sweet malty flavor balance, moderate hop presence, and light hoppy aftertaste. The Napa Wheat appeared a hazy light straw color with no apparent aroma, a mild wheat sweetness, and a flavor dominated by a distracting coarse/sour component. The Coast Range California Blueberry was a clear gold color with a fruity aroma, sweet fruity flavor, light body, and clean aftertaste. The Sierra Nevada Summerfest was a clear gold color with a medium body, malty sweet flavor and hoppy finish. The San Rafael Amber had a malty aroma, dark amber color, followed by a coarse and sour flavor. Their Golden was a clear light gold color, with a medium body, medicinal aroma, thin body, sweet flavor, and very little hop presence. The Rhino Chasers Peach Honey Wheat gave a hazy dark straw appearance accompanied by an intense peach aroma, tangy mouthfeel, strong but not tart peach flavor, and light wheat presence.

Just northwest of Union Square lies the . 30 taps pour regional micros as well as popular imports and low-end megas. The narrow building contains a long red wood bar, one pool table, one pinball machine, and little seating. The roughly 30' by 60' layout

The Moonlight Death & Taxes appeared opaque and offered a chocolaty aroma, medium body, dry chocolate flavor, and a clean sharp dry finish. The Spaten Franziskaner had a light clove aroma followed by a slightly sweet wheat flavor and great mouthfeel. The Lagunitas IPA was a hazy dark straw color with a hoppy aroma matched to a hoppy flavor.

Sample platters are available for $6 while pitchers were $12.75, pints $3.25, and bottles $2.75. The crowd on weekend nights was 90% male and business seemed steady from happy hour on. With September 15th, 1996 marking their second anniversary, Bierhaus on Broadway seemed like a neighborhood bar that was meeting its customers needs.

A few blocks away lies Bison Brewing at 2598 Telegraph. The current business is made up of two general partners and 17 investors with employee participation in the management. Every brew is a different recipe and often the result of steeped "tea" experiments and consultations with the nearby herb shops. The brewing equipment is visible from the street corner as well as from the first floor bar and tables. Upstairs provides more seating and there's live music on Thursday through Saturday. The dollar per pint happy hour on Fridays is often standing room only. Their Pixie's Pilsner was hazy, golden, and spiced with cardamom to produce an interesting aroma and flavor. The Nut Brown Ale was light brown and had a full head of tiny bubbles. The "secret" ingredients: maple syrup and oatmeal! Also on tap were a "light" an "amber" and a stout from Devil Mountain Brewery. The variety of flavors and the pleasant surroundings will certainly inspire future return visits.

A short walk from Anchor Brewing in San Francisco is 20 Tank Brewery at 316 11th Street. The neighborhood is undergoing a transformation from warehouses and old factories to cafés and clubs. The two-story building had a rugged looking interior with multi-level brewing equipment visible at the entrance and wooden seating throughout the first floor. From both the bar area and dining room, sacks of grain can be seen ringing the open second floor. The music, TVs, shuffleboard and friendly staff made for a pleasant setting.

Their Bowser's Brown Ale was a mahogany color, topped by a healthy head of foam. Appropriately malty and with a pleasant aftertaste, it weighed in at 4.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). The Poliwana Porter was reddish brown and well carbonated. It started with a noticeable malt aroma and finished on a dry/malty note. 20 Tank is an interesting operation and is certain to grow as its presence becomes more well known.

[Toronado logo] The Toranado Bar, at 547 Haight, should be part of any thirsty visitor's San Francisco experience although only about 30 feet by 50 feet in size, there's plenty of room to meet people at the bar, play the CD jukebox, or just people watch. There seemed as much Oldsmobile memorabilia as beer memorabilia. The bar offered some of the Bay Area's best in micro brews. The Lind's Drakes Ale, deep amber in color, had a forceful hops aroma and flavor. The Marin Brewing Old Dipsea Barleywine was a deep gold, very smooth, and had an assertive alcoholic presence and aftertaste. The Anderson Valley Poleeko Gold was a bright gold color with a hoppy palate and smooth body. No word on any secret ingredients used! The Sierra Nevada Pale Bock was a pale golden, well carbonated and surprisingly mild in aroma and taste. The Anderson Valley Boont Amber was a reddish gold with a nice malt over hop balance. The good draught selection and interesting surroundings make Toronado well worth the frustrating time spent looking for a parking place.

One block from the 12th Street BART station in Oakland is Pacific Coast Brewing at 906 Washington. Their urban location across the street from the busy Oakland Convention Center offers the visitor a thirst-quenching refuge with its outdoor patio and substantial pub fare menu. Inside are tables, a medium-sized bar and dartboards. Saturday nights feature live music and "happy hour" greets patrons Monday through Friday from 3 PM to 5 PM. The brewery is visible only from the basement hallway. The seven barrel system was producing two batches per week using extracts augmented by specialty grains. Behind the bar are three brass towers featuring four brews and one cider, produced on the premises, 12 regional micro brews, and three imports. The Gray Whale Ale, 1050 OG and 5% ABV, was copper-colored and had good body rounded off with a pleasant,. hoppy flavor and aftertaste. The Blue Whale Ale, 1070 OG and 7.2%, was a hazy, deep copper with a light body and sustaining head. An assertive hop palate was the result of six hop varieties and a dry hopping step. The Killer Stout, at 5%, was opaque and yielded a nice flavor combination or roasted malt and hops.

There was an excellent selection on tap from various micros. The North Coast Bock was a bright copper color, full flavored from both malt and hops, and it left an interesting, sweet aftertaste. The Lind Maibock was caramel colored, with a slightly malty aroma., light body, and a subtle, alcoholic aftertaste. The Butterfield Anniversary was a deep red color with a light, sweet flavor and smooth body. The Hubsch Brau Marzen was a light copper color without noticeable carbonation or hops. The Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine went down smooth but wielded quite a kick. The Fullers ESB was a deep gold color with a low-key malt presence. The Carlsberg Lager was a pale straw color, lightly hopped but well-carbonated and served cold. The San Andreas Woodruff was straw colored, spicy, with a fine white head and very refreshing. The Anderson Valley Centennial Ale appeared a dark amber, yielded little head, and tasted malty sweet. The Sierra Nevada Draft Ale was golden, extremely clear, produced a foamy head and seemed overall a mildly hoppy, medium-bodied ale. The Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout was opaque, with a creamy head and a striking, roasted aroma, which was followed by a smooth malty flavor and dry aftertaste.

The journey from the San Francisco Ferry Building to Larkspur takes a relaxing 30 minutes on the Larkspur Ferry. There is little temptation to buy a three dollar can of light beer knowing that mere minutes away lies Marin Brewing at 1809 Larkspur Landing. The pleasant interior surroundings featured pub-style furnishings, darts, a view of the brewery, and a good selection of fresh beer. The Mt. Tam Pale Ale was golden in color and offered a refreshing, hoppy flavor.

With the looks of a traditional Irish Inn, O'Reilly's Bar & Restaurant featured stone floors with a reddish wood and green upholstery motif. Large wooden beams supported the ceiling that held ornate ceiling fans. Around the dining room the walls showcased framed photos of Irish landscape. The menu offered traditional Irish dishes as well as a touch of fresh Pacific Northwest seafood such as salmon. A small back bar stood at the far end of the room on the way to the adjoining bar. The bar area had a narrow dark wood bar the contained five four-tap brass towers. Carved dark wood, stained glass, and mirrors were abundant but the most eye-catching was the mural on the far wall that contained life-sized impressions of Irish writers and poets.

The Mallarkey's Wild Irish from Portland Brewing offered an intense malty aroma, clear dark amber color, dry malty flavor, and short finish. Also on tap were Guinness Stout (2 taps w/N2), Harp Lager, Newcastle Brown, Bass Ale, Carlsberg Lager, Murphy's Stout, and numerous West Coast micros at $3.50 a pint. Happy hour runs from 4 to 6:22 pm and yields $2.50 pints, ciders included. The Sunday Brunch starts at 11 am each weekend.

50 miles to the north, two hours during commute traffic on Highway 101, is the Wild Hare Tavern in Santa Rosa. The dozen tap handles displayed a varied selection of imports and Northern California favorites. The New Moon Black Bear was opaque yet medium-bodied. The Welsh Ale was amber, smooth, 8% ABV, and left a pleasant, alcoholic aftertaste.

A busy weekend of experiencing the vast array of quality microbrewed beer in Northern California could cause one to easily grow accustomed to this level of quality and quantity. With my journey almost complete, reality shattered my illusions of beer blissfulness, while waiting for a departing flight from Oakland International Airport, the only palatable beer available was Dos Equis at $4.25 a bottle.


Triple Rock     Bison Brewing    20 Tank              Toronado		O'Reilly's Bar & Restaurant
1920 Shattuck   2598 Telegraph   316 11th St.         547 Haight	622 Green Street
Berkeley, CA    Berkeley, CA     San Francisco, CA    San Francisco, CA	San Francisco, CA
(510)843-7625   (510)841-7734    (415)255-9455        (415)863-2276	(415)989-6222

Pacific Coast          Marin Brewing            Bierhaus on Broadway
906 Washington         1809 Larkspur Ldg.	373 Broadway Street
Oakland, CA            Larkspur Landing, CA	San Francisco, CA
(510)836-2739          (415)461-4677		(415)772-0909

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - June, 1993 & Updated September, 1996


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