Self-serve beer and live music are on tap at new Ghirardelli Square brewery
On Saturday May 12th, SF Brewing Co. will inaugurate its outdoor beer garden with live music. (Michelle Min)

Self-serve beer and live music are on tap at new Ghirardelli Square brewery


Just in time for the beginning of SF's finest weather and before the summer fog and tourists roll in, San Francisco Brewing Co. is opening the doors to its new Ghirardelli Square brewery and restaurant.

The space represents two firsts for the city: as a licensed full-time outdoor music venue, and for its self-serve beer wall.

Taking over 12,000 square feet at the historic Ghirardelli Square complex, San Francisco Brewing Co. opens Wednesday, May 9th and will encompass a brewery, a full bar and kitchen, game areas, and an outdoor beer garden, all of which retains much of the location's iconic architecture. The massive beams and exposed brick are from original construction phases of Ghirardelli's Cocoa Building, from 1900 to 1911.

Beers brewed onsite will be poured from the brite tanks directly into your glass for absolute freshness.(Michelle Min)

BCV Architects, the team behind some little projects you may have heard of such as the Ferry Building Marketplace and Napa's Oxbow Public Market, complemented the early 20th Century industrial vibe of the upgraded space by incorporating iron and dark wood into the custom fabrication of the bar, seating, tables, and fixtures. The brewpub also includes modern tech touches such as free Wi-Fi and charging outlets under the bar.

The original San Francisco Brewing Co., located at the corner of Columbus and Pacific Avenues, was the city's oldest microbrewery and one of the first brewpubs in the United States. Founder Josh Leavy restarted the brand in 2012, and artwork from the original brewery is being added for display. Leavy, his wife Jennifer, and brother Aaron are all heavily involved in the brewpub, continuing a family tradition in brewing that stretches back to Josh and Aaron's great grandfather, Miguel Gonzalez, who formed the first industrial brewery, Mexicali Brewery, in Baja, California in 1923.

If you made it to last summer's beer garden and Oktoberfest events at Ghirardelli Square, you're already familiar with the outdoor space. Leavy noted, "Last summer's events were very popular. We had a small beer kiosk, music, no food, and the waitstaff had to wade through the crowds to deliver the beer. With the added indoor space, full staff, and kitchen, we're in a much better position to serve people."

The same band that played last summer's beer garden events, The Stu Tails, will be cranking their rock- and reggae-infused tunes at the inauguration of the music stage on Saturday May 12th.

But for all the infrastructure, it's the beer that's the big draw at the gastropub. We've been enjoying SF Brewing Co.'s beers for years, and while the regular favorites will be available at the brewery, Leavy notes that "Ninety percent of the beers we will serve here will be specialty beers, available only on-site."

A custom brewing system will help ensure not only the quality but the freshness of the beers. Unlike most brewpubs, SF Brewing's beers will be poured into your glass straight from the temperature-controlled brite tanks where the freshly brewed beer is finished. None of the onsite-brewed beers will come from bottles, cans, or kegs. Head brewmaster Justin Boehle, formerly of Gordon Biersch, is crafting the custom recipes. One of the new beers, an as-yet-unnamed black lager, includes cocoa nibs from Ghirardelli. We were lucky enough to taste it directly from the fermentation tank, and enjoyed a refreshing blend of roasted maltiness and crisp chocolate.

To use the new self-serve beer wall (WallTender from Table Tap), get a card from a waitstaff member who will associate it with a credit card. Use the iPad touch screens to review the beer choices available, slip the card into the beer wall slot associated with your preferred brew, and pour samples or a full pint. You'll be charged by the ounce, with the total ounces and associated costs displayed on the screen like some boozy fuel pump.

In addition to all the fresh beer, there are wines available and a full bar that stocks primarily local distilled spirits. "The cocktails will be straight up and simple," Leavy noted. "No muddling."

If you want a preview of the brewery, float like a ghostly drone on this virtual tour by BCV Architects.

// San Francisco Brewing Co., 3150 Polk St. (Ghirardelli Square),

A full kitchen promises plenty of family-friendly food.(Michelle Min)

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