San Francisco has always attracted the creative, the driven, and the quirky. These same attributes have helped burnish San Francisco's credentials as one of the great beer cities of the world. Like the city itself, the beer here evolves to include both timeless classics and innovative originals.
We surveyed the boozy spectrum to compile this list of our favorite places in SF to enjoy a proper pint. It illustrates the breadth of what's available, but isn't comprehensive. Feel free to share your suggestions with us on Facebook!
San Francisco's Best Breweries and Brewpubs
Beer begins at a brewery, so it seems fitting that any beer guide to San Francisco would start there. The following is a list of a few of our most notable, but there are more than 30 breweries in SF—check out the San Francisco Brewers Guild for information on the rest.
Anchor Brewing Co.
Founded around 1896, Anchor is San Francisco's only remaining brewer from the 19th century. After years of struggling to stay solvent, Anchor was on the verge of bankruptcy when it was rescued in 1965 by Fritz Maytag, a recent Stanford grad and heir to the Maytag washing machine company. By the 1970s, while most brewers were pumping out homogenized lagers, Maytag brought back beer styles such as steam beer, porter, barley wine, Christmas ale, and, perhaps most importantly, a hoppy little brew called Liberty Ale, arguably the first American brewed IPA. Anchor bought the current brewery building in 1977 and offers the best brewery tour in the city. You can also check out Anchor's new brews at the Public Taps and Pilot Brewery across the street from the main brewery, where you can bring the dog and catch various pop-up events, yoga classes, live music, and more. // Main Brewery: 1705 Mariposa St. anchorbrewing.com; Public Taps: 495 De Haro St., (Potrero Hill), anchorbrewing.com/publictaps.
Barebottle Brewing Co.
Known as a go-to brewery for crisp hazy IPAs and fruited kettle sours, Barebottle also supports the local homebrewing community. After the co-founders at Barebottle realized that some of the best and most innovative beers in America were being developed by homebrewers they decided to host homebrew competitions and put the winning entries on tap. To help initiate next generation homebrewers, they also teach classes in their cavernous yet comfortable space. // 1525 Cortland Ave, (Bernal Heights), barebottle.com
Cellarmaker Brewing Co.
When Cellarmaker's brewery and cozy tap house opened in 2013, founders Connor Casey and Tim Sciascia set a high bar for themselves: no 'flagship' beers. "We find that constantly making new flavors is more exciting for us, and hopefully people will respond well to that." Their fans - both nearby and far-flung - have responded enthusiastically: RateBeer recognized them them in 2018 as the 49th best brewer in the world among the 36,000 breweries they track. One of Cellarmaker's current projects is a series of "decadent stouts," like their Pastry Program #3, a chewy stout stuffed with dark chocolate, coffee and marshmallow, vanilla and chilies. // 1150 Howard St., (SoMa), cellarmaker.com
Social Kitchen and Brewery
Brewmaster Kim Sturdavant has been all over the news recently for his innovative Brut IPA, a bone-dry beer style that melds the light mouthfeel of champagne with the floral hop aromas of an IPA. The stylish brewpub keeps a few of these obsessively well crafted experiments on tap as well as Social's other stable of beers, such as the beer-wine hybrid Cabernet Sauvignon Saison. The full kitchen serves up comfort food that pairs well with the beers, as well as a full cocktail menu. // 1326 9th Ave (Sunset), socialkitchenandbrewery.com
21st Amendment Brewery
21A's spacious San Francisco brewpub not only pours fresh versions of their year-round brews, like El Sully and Blah, Blah, Blah IPA, but also keeps chilled experimental beers, seasonal drafts and collaboration brews on tap. The kitchen cooks up superior pub grub and gut-busting brunches. East Bay residents can visit the huge San Leandro Brewery & Tap Room and outdoor beer garden. Check the Facebook events page for specials at both locations including beer dinners, live music and more. // brewpub: 563 2nd St (South Beach); taproom: 2010 Williams St, (San Leandro), 21st-amendment.com
San Francisco Bars and Restaurants for Beer Lovers
As of the last census, San Francisco had more restaurants per household than any other U.S. city, and we came in #8 for bars. If you're more into beer flights than wine pairings, check out some of these only-in-San-Francisco gastropubs, old school dives, and sports bars.
The Beer Hall
This snug, upscale Civic Center taproom has 20 rotating beers on draft, all Californians, and mostly from the Bay Area. Beer drinkers wanting more variety can select from 200+ bottled beers, which can either be consumed on-site or as takeout. Bonus: small bar bites are available. // 1 Polk St, (Civic Center) thebeerhall.com
Black Horse London Pub
More public hallway than public house, the Black Horse packs acres of fun into its 136 square feet of floor space. The bar boasts only nine stools; the food menu consists of a cheese plate; there is sometimes one cask beer; and the remaining bottled and canned stock is iced in a claw-foot bathtub behind the bar. What more could you want? Whether it's the pint-sized space or the winning choreography of James and Cassandra, who work the bar, the place fosters conviviality, conversation, and the inevitable 1-4-24 dice game. Other items to note before visiting: Cell phone use is forbidden, men are expected to give up their seats to women, and the bar is cash only. // 1514 Union St, (Cow Hollow) blackhorselondon.com
If you know your way around a beer menu and just feel like taking matters into your own hands, pop into the Brew Coop tap room. After the host checks your ID and associates a credit card to an RFID (radio frequency identification) card, head over to the wall of taps, slide the card into a slot and pour away. The PourMyBeer system charges you by the ounce, so you can sample or get full pours of any selection. There's seldom a wait at any of the 20+ taps pouring mostly west coast suds such as Harmonic Brewing's Home-Press Stout and Seven Stills Brewing's Rhuberry Ginsburg Sour. There's also a menu of bar bites available, like bacon-spiked Brussels sprout chips, adobo chicken wings and carne asada fries. // 819 Valencia St., (Mission), thebrewcoop.com
Dobbs Ferry Bar and Restaurant
Named after the New York hometown of owners Scott Broccoli and Danny Sterling, this bright and spacious area feels like a slice of Hudson Valley was dropped onto Hayes Valley. The tap menu enhances the east coast ambiance with cult favorites like Brooklyn Brewery's flagship lager and Magic Hat's No. 9 Pale Ale, and the food menu includes Manhattan clam chowder and some insanely addictive arancini. With a full bar, ample wine list, weekday happy hour, trivia, and half a dozen TVs showing sports, it's a great place to have a serious feed or knock back a few brews with friends. // (Bar) 406 Hayes St., (Restaurant) 409 Gough St., (Hayes Valley), dobbsferrysf.com
This modern but comfortable gastropub slips into this mid-Market Twitter-hood like a Kia into a Carmatrix. In addition to offering a rotating selection of 25 California beers on tap, the kitchen cranks out a wide selection of pickled veggies, deviled eggs, cheese and charcuterie plates, Impossible Burgers, and duck fat fries. // 1230 Market St (Civic Center), fermlabsf.com
Hopwater expertly matches creative high-end pub food (Dungeness Crab tater tots!) with the 31 west coast craft brews they have on tap that range from Drake's fluffy Hefeweizen to Green Flash's searing Palate Wrecker. Comfortable yet modern, efficient yet relaxed, Hopwater excels at everything. It's a perfect place to bring out-of-town beer fans who want to sample a variety of California brews. // 850 Bush St. (Nob Hill), hopwaterdistribution.com
The Kezar Pub
Hands down the best pub in the city for watching international sports, Kezar sometimes opens as early as 5:00 am on weekdays for important matches and records off-hours major European sporting events to show later during regular hours. This pub has an extensive beer selection and excellent wings. // 770 Stanyan St, (Cole Valley) kezar.pub
The acclaimed Danish brewer's sleek 80-seat beerhall serves a wide selection of their own innovative beers, like the Double Blush Imperial Berliner Weisse, and Big Sky Lullaby-- a hazy imperial IPA--as well as an astonishing collection of foreign and domestic brews. The 42 kegs are stored in perfectly chilled coolers and are dispensed precisely using the Flux Capacitor, which infuses each beer with the optimum level of either carbon dioxide or nitrogen. Mikkeller also stocks more than 100 bottled gems. The food menu is meat- and sausage-heavy, all selected to pair with the beers, and the kitchen serves food until 11pm. Sour fans should head downstairs and check out the Tivoli Sour Room. // 34 Mason St. (Union Square), mikkellerbar.com
The Monk's Kettle
Ranked as one of the Best Beer Bars in America, Monk's expertly-curated beer selection matches their savory cuisine and the knowledgeable staff can help you navigate both the extensive beer and food menus. Monk's tap list focuses on local favorites such as Russian River's Pliny the Elder and Moonlight's Death and Taxes. Seating at this gastropub is limited, so do yourself a favor: leave work early to arrive for the start of happy hour at 4:00. // 3141 16th St. (Mission), themonkskettle.com
This renowned Haight Street Mecca for craft beer has great prices, 47 beers on draft--including Pliny the Elder--four on cask, and is topped off by an insane bottle selection. Although the bartenders have a reputation for surliness, feel free to ask your neighbors for recommendations, as you can't swing an empty firkin without hitting a beer expert. There's no kitchen, but secure a beer and a seat, then go to Rosamunde next door to order an artisan sausage. The Toronado also hosts the small but infamous Barley Wine festival in November. // 547 Haight Street, (Lower Haight), toronado.com
Forty taps of West Coast craft beer, pitchers, a full bar, classic pub grub, and a sunny backyard with communal tables and bike racks make this cash-only Mission dive one of the best day drinking venues in the City. Note that the bouncers will readily 86 patrons who do something stupid, illegal, or annoying, which is all the more reason to hang out there. // 99 Valencia St (Mission), facebook.com/zeitgeistsf
San Francisco's Go-To Beer Stores
Sure, you can buy beer pretty much anywhere. But these stores not only have an extensive selection of craft brews, but equally important, they also employ passionate, knowledgeable, and patient staff who listen to what you want and help steer you appropriately.
City Beer Store
It's nearly impossible to imagine a more extensive craft beer selection than what's on the shelves in this well-laid-out store. In addition, you can pull up a stool at the tasting bar and select from more than twenty rotating taps offering an eclectic selection of domestic craft beers and a few wines. Anything in the store can also be purchased for drinking onsite. The full kitchen kicks out dishes such as Tomato & Black Truffle Bisque, Chicory Caesar, and Winter Squash Gnocchi. City Beer is also San Francisco's most sought after venue for craft brewers to showcase new beers, so sign up for their newsletter to stay current on what's coming soon to a glass near you. // 1148 Mission St, (SoMa), citybeerstore.com
Finely curated selections of craft beer are available at all four stores in the City. Store personnel are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Healthy Spirits also has a beer of the month club that selects rare and limited release beers such as Brooklyn Brewery's Blue Apron Ale—specially brewed for Thomas Keller's restaurants (e.g.The French Laundry)—as well as the East Coast brewer's popular Bel Air Sour. Club members also receive a 10 percent discount on all purchases and priority access to cellar sales and special offerings. The stores also stock a stellar whiskey and agave spirit collection. // 2299 15th St. (Duboce Triangle), 1042 Clement St. (Richmond District), 249 Cortland Ave. (Bernal Heights), 300 Valencia St. (Mission), healthyspiritssf.com
The Jug Shop
The Jug Shop, family-owned since 1965, stocks a warehouse-sized selection of domestic and international craft brews. The shop frequently runs specials and hosts occasional tasting events. Use the helpful website to order party-sized quantities for delivery. The shop also has dedicated catering/event staff headed by a Certified Sommelier and includes a Certified Cicerone© and a WSET Advanced©/Cordon Bleu trained chef. // 1590 Pacific Ave., (Nob Hill), thejugshop.com
When you want a chilled keg of Drake's IPA for a picnic, you aren't likely to find it in your Polk Gulch bodega, but you can pop online and order one from the closest BevMo. With three locations in San Francisco you may not find any cicerones working the floor, but you will find good selections at great prices. // 201 Bayshore Blvd. (Bayview); 3455 Geary Blvd. (Lone Mountain); 1301 Van Ness Ave. (Pacific Heights), bevmo.com
Great Beer Festivals in San Francisco
We love to celebrate here in SF—street fairs, LGBTQ Pride, food festivals, concerts, regular holidays, and all kinds of made-up events like the Saint Stupid's Day Parade, Hunky Jesus Contest, and Santacon. As with everything else, we put our own spin on beer fests, too.
SF Beer Week, Opening Gala
While there are hundreds of posted events during San Francisco's Beer Week, the opening gala is the pinnacle beer event of the festival and the year. Spring for the VIP tickets to get in an hour before the main crowd. The party features 80 breweries from Northern California serving some of the most creative and compelling beers in the region. // Early February, Pier 35, (Embarcadero), sfbeerweek.org
Brews on the Bay
Mid-October is the perfect time of year to be in San Francisco, most tourists are back home and the weather is usually sunny and warm. This also makes it a great time for this unique beer fest aboard the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, an historic ship from the World War II Merchant Marine era. Enjoy unlimited eight ounce pours of more than 80 mostly local brews, live music, food for purchase, and spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and San Francisco. // mid-October, Pier 45, (Embarcadero), brewsonthebay.org
SF International Beer Festival
All too often, the only useful life lesson a child receives from a beer drinking adult is how to play Liar's Dice. Thankfully, since 1984, we San Franciscans have been able to do more for children's education by attending the San Francisco International Beer Festival. This event, which raises money for the Telegraph Hill Cooperative Nursery School, boasts beers from more than 100 breweries, complimentary food, live music, and games. // April 20, Fort Mason Center (Marina), sfbeerfest.com
Schroeder's, the oldest and largest German restaurant on the West Coast, cranks the Bavarian up to 11 with a Friday block party followed by several weekends worth of traditional Hofbräu hilarity, including fresh Spaten, stein holding contests, polka bands, and chicken dances. Classic Oktoberfest food specialties are featured, including wiener schnitzel, bratwurst, and spätzle. // Mid-September, 240 Front St. (FiDi), schroederssf.com
Although most attendees think of Outside Lands as a music festival with beer; others flip the script and consider this a beer festival with music. Every year there's a curated selection limited to about 30 of Northern California's finest breweries, accompanied by dozens of world class food vendors serving everything from truffled brie grilled cheeses to bacon samplers. There's also wine, cocktails and, you know, music. // August 9-11, 2019 Golden Gate Park, outsidelands.com