The Eight Greatest Craft Beer Openings Since Last Summer
If it seems like there’s a new neighborhood taproom, brewpub, or tasting room opening every month or two, you’ve been paying attention. And with Smokestack – Magnolia’s long awaited restaurant and bar – opening in Dogpatch soon, this seems like an opportune time to catch our collective breath and provide an update on a few of the craft beer places that have opened in the last year or so.
Since opening in NOPA last month, Barrel Head has been honing their service and kitchen operations while its customers are prepping their palettes for the first in-house brews. Until Barrel Head brews are kegged, feel free to enjoy the 30 craft beers on tap, and the well-stocked selection of liquor. Although the owners don’t refer to Barrel Head as a pub, between the beer, cocktails, open space, and communal tables you’ll likely make a few new friends.
Last summer’s welcome addition to the SoMA, Blueprint has 20 California-centric-craft beers on tap as well as bottled beers and a substantial selection of wines. The focus continues to be comfort food for lunch and early dinners, beer flights, and happy hour specials.
While Speakeasy Ales and Lagers in Bayview has been hosting kickass weekend events in their brewery and parking lot for several years, it wasn’t until last summer’s addition of the Prohibition-era inspired taproom that we finally got space to chill out and savor their beers. Local DIY guru Kelly Malone designed the comfortable bar and it’s the perfect place to savor a flight of Speakeasy’s brews. As with many brewpubs, you can often get beers here that are not available elsewhere and can buy a bomber or growler of something if you are so inspired. And though they don’t have a kitchen of their own, they frequently have a food truck on the weekends and you are welcome to bring in food from elsewhere. Speakeasy also boasts the most parking of any San Francisco brewpub making it a convenient location to pack your car trunk with fresh brewed supplies like a proper moonshine runner.
SOMA’s Cellarmaker set a high bar for itself with a continual rotation of unique brews, which includes the twin staples of any west coast brewpub: an IPA or two and a Belgian-style saison. Cellarmaker tapped one new beer last week and will be doing three more this week: Mandarina Blonde, a hoppy blond ale brewed with Mandarina Bavaria, a new German hop; Dank Statement, a triple IPA featuring intense pine and citrus flavors; Admiration, an IPA that uses New Zealand hops to focus on aromas and flavors you might expect from a bright floral and citrusy white wine; and Quiet Echo, a pale ale billed as “English malt meets American hops.” You can get a growler of any of the in-house drafts until they are down to a two-week supply. At that point the beer will only be on tap in the tasting room until they run out.
CellarMaker also has an ambitious barrel program. The currently have four bourbon barrels filled with their Vastness of Space Imperial Stout and another 13 wine barrels filled with various saisons. They all have several months to age before the first releases are available in bottles and on draft in the tasting room.
The plan for this lower Nob Hill tap room is a rotating selection of California craft beers. Genius, right? Their Beer-Chef, Bruce Paton, is a fourth generation San Franciscan with a lot of experience pairing beer and with local and seasonal food. Given the range of California beer available, Paton will continue to have his hands full.
San Francisco’s Mikkeller Bar was the first US version of the Copenhagen original. In addition to pouring their own craft beers, a few particular to their Union Square location, Mikkeller also partners with other craft brewers for one-of-a-kind collaboration beers. Considered by many to be the best beer bar in the city, Mikkeller’s has 40 taps pouring beer from what they advertise as “the best breweries in the world.” They have two coolers, so beers can be served at their exact and appropriate temperature and each keg is controlled by beer's version of the Flux Capacitor, which holds each beer at its optimum level of nitrogen or carbon dioxide until it's delivered perfectly to your discerning palate.
The bar regularly hosts tap takeovers and other themed events with excellent dining options for carnivores, particular noteworthy are the charcuterie plates which include homemade sausages. It’s best to visit during the off hours. And although they don’t take reservations, except for special dinners, if you show up and the place is full, you can leave a cell phone number and get a text when your table is ready.
If you live or work in the mid-Market area The Beer Hall needs to be on your short list of places to enjoy after work refreshments. Aside from having an excellent collection of draft and bottled beer, they also have a convenient online ordering system so you can spend less time in front of beer coolers and more time enjoying what's in them. They’ve expanded their hours since opening so you can now visit seven days a week.
This Berkeley brewery has become a Mecca for sour beer enthusiasts. The tasting room is tucked into the warehouse collection of barrels. Sour heads can, when there are openings, purchase an annual membership in The Rare Barrel's Founders Club which gets members ten specially blended bottles, a 10% discount on purchases and dibs on new releases either at the tasting room or online. Note that the tasting room is only open on Fridays from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.