Going on a brewery tour is a bit like slipping backstage at your favorite band’s concert. It gives you a chance to see a rock star at their craft and get a first-hand feel of the passion they have for their art. Since San Francisco is at the epicenter of modern craft brewing, we have ready access to both established and new breweries. Much like touring wineries, you can book a package though an agency, put together your own group, or join another.
Here are some highlights of the back stage passes we have available:
Although Anchor hosts two free 45-minute tours each weekday, they're so popular that they're often booked weeks or months in advance. Fortunately, you can reserve a tour date for up to 10 people six months in advance, so put out the word and schedule an entertaining afternoon for you and your fellow Anchor beer lovers. After the tour, there's a free tasting – making your visit to Anchor the start of an epic evening.
Even without a brewery tour, the Lagunitas brewery is a worthy beer destination. The brewery/taproom is located in an industrial area of Petaluma and has loads of parking. They have a great indoor/outdoor space, – the weather in Petaluma is fabulous nearly year round – decent pub grub, and live music on the weekends. But in addition to being an awesome place to enjoy food, music, and freshly brewed beer, they offer tours with no reservation required. There are tasting tours during the week and BYO pint on the weekends. Basically you enjoy all the accouterments of their taproom and at an appointed hour, the guide alerts you that a tour is starting soon. Grab your beer and follow along.
Speakeasy’s tours are informal, informative, and free every Tuesday through Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Though, you can schedule a private tour if you prefer. They don’t offer samples, but you are welcome to bring your beer along. Plan your tour on a Friday when they’re hosting music, arrive around mid-afternoon for a pint or two before taking the tour, and hang around for the tunes. Their web site is currently under construction, but you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to make reservations and ask for additional information.
Note: Speakeasy's 17th Anniversary Celebration is Saturday, June 28. The party starts at 1:00 pm and features unlimited pours from the full Speakeasy lineup, including special releases and pilot batches of their latest endeavors. There’s also food from half a dozen local vendors and music from several bands. General admission tickets are $40.00 in advance. VIP and designated driver packages are also available here.
Pilsner is a perfect summer beer, and Trumer brews one of the best. The tour of the Berkeley facility is top notch, well organized, and free. If you’re a fan of pilsners, know that this will be the freshest and best tasting one you’ve ever had in this hemisphere. Tours are available weekdays at 3:30 p.m.
Although the brewery is a three-hour drive away in Chico, Sierra has one of the best tours in the country. Scratch that; they offer four tours:
- Brewhouse Tour: This free hands-on tour takes you through the entire beer-making process. You’ll handle their aromatic, whole-cone hops; check out the whirling mash tun; and sample sugary wort before it’s piped into the fermentation tanks. A tour of the bottling facility is included, and this tour ends with tastings of freshly-fermented Sierra Nevada beers.
- Sustainability Tour: This free tour of the grounds showcases Sierra’s alternative energy efforts and many of the initiatives based on their “reduce, reuse, recycle, rot” philosophy. You’ll check out California’s largest privately-owned solar installation, Sierra’s fuel cell technology and the remarkable HotRot composter, as well as the recycling and conservation program that helps the brewery divert 99.8 percent of their solid waste from landfills. The tour ends in Sierra’s eight-acre hop field and lush two-acre garden where you can nosh on freshly harvested produce and enjoy tastings of their brews.
- Beer Geek Tour: This intimate (six people max), ticketed three-hour tour dives into the depths of the brewery. There are also samples of fresh beer from the tank, plus swag. It’ll set you back $25.00.
- Self-guided Tour: Grab a pamphlet that includes a map and the history of the brewery and take a leisurely, self-guided walkabout.
The facility also has an excellent taproom and restaurant serving gourmet meals made with seasonal, sustainable ingredients grown in the Sierra Nevada Estate Garden. Their spent brewer’s grain is used to bake the bread served in the restaurant and is also used to feed the cattle that provides the restaurant’s beef.
If you want a chauffeured day of brewery tours, there are a few local outfits that provide a variety of options:
Vantago offers their four hour San Francisco Brew Tour in a classic Volkswagen Van. Starting at 21st Amendment, you’ll enjoy a tasting and lunch, then roll to Magnolia on Haight Street for more samples, and end the route at Speakeasy for a final round. The price includes lunch, all samples, including a few while on the road, and a brewery tour at one of the locations. They also offer craft brewery tours north and south of San Francisco.
These guys offer three all-inclusive tours: Friday’s tour visits three San Francisco breweries, Saturday’s three East Bay breweries and if you want to visit three in Marin, check out the Sunday tour.
Peek’s all-inclusive four hour tour is available Friday afternoons and includes samples at Thirsty Bear, Southern Pacific, and Speakeasy with a tour at one of the facilities.