This year's SF Beer Week saw 2600 people and almost 70 locally crafted beer companies pack SoMa's Concourse Exhibition Center. New beer gardens are popping up from Hayes Valley (Biergarten) to the Mission (Southern Pacific Brewing Company), and there are fancy beer restaurants like Monk's Kettle spinoff Abbot's Cellar en route. Artisan beer is the new cupcake. But it's worth noting a handful of San Francisco restaurants have been giving beer its due dilligence for quite some time. While places like Suppenkuche, Thirsty Bear and Magnolia Brewery have always had a reputation for great beer, there are notable restaurant beer programs out there that have largely flown under the radar. Keep this list in your arsenal for moments when you want to go beyond the omnipresent Corona and Miller Lite without arm-wrestling your way through a crowd of trend watchers.
1) Bar Crudo (655 Divisadero St.): Most people are drawn to this Nopa neighborhood charmer for chef-owner Mike Selvera's amazing seafood chowder and inspired takes on raw fish. But his twin brother, co-owner Tim Selvera has curated a serious beer list that draws aficionados on the DL. Selvera changes the list often to reflect the seasons and his latest obsessions, dividing up some sixty options into helpful categories like "floral, fruity, spice" or "rich, malt, dark."
2) Txoko (504 Broadway): Bar manager Jason Brown stocks a tightly edited list that's heavy on West Coast American and Belgian brews. Take a look at his 750 mL bottles on offer, including a rare appearance of Barcelona's Estrella Inedit, a wonderfully smooth, complex companion to almost anything on chef Ian Begg's menu.
3) Fat Angel (1740 O'Farrel St.): This place is ostensibly a "wine bar," but owner Jason Kirmse is a serious beer geek. The well-educated wait staff can help you navigate through the list. We've tried amazingly uncloying pumpkin beers in fall and light, refreshing Belgian brews when it's warm outside. A menu of beer-friendly cheeses, meats, flatbreads and salads keeps you fortified through several rounds.
4) Delarosa (2175 Chestnut St.): Beretta gets a lot of attention for cocktails, and its Marina sister restaurant Delarosa deserves just as much praise for its artisan beers. One of our city's most respected certified beer sommeliers, Rich Higgins, curates the 13 beers on draft. He's also wrangled an interesting bottle list that's light on hoppier options. Paired with the restaurant's refined, bubbly Roman pies, an all-American slice and a beer reaches new heights.
5) Anchor and Hope (83 Minna St.): For $13 you can taste through a sampler of seven different beers: the best way to learn what differentiates a Tripel from a Stout from an Ale. The beer list—16 on draft and some 65 bottles—has fun descriptors, suggested food pairings and a bit of history, so you'll leave with a bit of knowledge and a buzz.
Know of another restaurant hiding some great beers? Tell us about it in the comments.