If you didn’t know by now that art galleries are a good place to score booze, you haven’t been living. To be fair, it’s mostly Two-Buck Chuck or PBR, but if you aren’t picky, then you're in luck—now you can pregame and get your culture fix at the same time. Just try to keep it together (you’re in public), and please note that “donation-based” doesn’t mean “be rude.” Let's keep it classy, people.
We know from personal experience that there is wine at SFAI. Sometimes snacks, too. You can always expect to see something weird, and the view from the roof is not to be missed. Be careful of the undergrads who look, as a friend claimed, “like extras from Waterworld.”
800 Chestnut St.
This one’s pretty small, so you’ll have to fight the crowd to find beer. The artwork caters to people who love illustration, so you'll find it's more lighthearted. Plus, they host a Wes Anderson-themed show every Halloween, which means you can chug a Tecate and bum a cigarette outside from any of the Margots present.
816 Sutter St.
Wander in here before dinner and you may be pleasantly surprised by a homemade platter of duck pate—such was our experience. The wine was comparably good, and the elegant crowd of ladies of a certain age will generally leave you to your own devices.
1345 Grant Ave.
Squeeze through a narrow hallway behind a dry cleaning shop and down a slightly terrifying staircase into this literally underground gallery. Some form of booze (whiskey makes an appearance) is available, and the artworks are always interesting. Note that this gallery is frequently filled with hipsters, but they're the nice ones.
620 Kearny St.
Very new and also usually filled with hipsters but not necessarily nice ones, you can drink red wine from red cups and hit on pretty, moody women. Ever Gold is also down the block, with a similar crowd but sometimes a little less forthcoming with the beer.
449 O'Farrell St.
Any blue-chip (read: $$$) gallery like the above, John Berggruen, or Altman Siegel, will have free, nice-ish wine at an opening. Be prepared to dress up, mingle, and comport yourself with dignity. If you can't or won't participate in these tasks, do not go.
248 Utah St.