San Francisco’s beer scene dates back to the California gold rush when Anchor Brewery started in 1896 as America’s first craft brewery. The city hasn’t lost its beer cred in more recent years either, as craft breweries continue to open and local festivities — San Francisco Beer Week and the San Francisco International Beer Fest — give local beer lovers reason to celebrate. Add to that in-the-park concerts, holidays and only-in-San Francisco celebrations (ahem, Bay to Breakers), and visitors will be able to spot a cold one in someone’s hand on just about any given day. While the city of day drinking has hundreds of places for brew drinkers to get their party on, these five will guarantee a quality, hand-crafted pint — or four.
With a long-standing history in craft beers, Anchor Brewing continues to craft its beer from an all-malt mash in a traditional copper brewhouse. The brewers use fresh, whole-cone hops that mostly come from farms in the Pacific Northwest in each of their craft beer recipes — the oldest of which is the brewery’s signature Anchor Steam Beer. The beverage gets its name from the 19th century nickname for beer, "steam," which referred to beer brewed on the West Coast under primitive conditions without ice. The brewery offers two public tours every weekday, free of charge, but beer connoisseurs should make reservations in advance because spots fill up fast.
A traditional German beer garden exists in San Francisco’s popular Hayes Valley, where visitors can expect long communal picnic tables complemented by beer steins, sausages and pretzel snacks for the full Oktoberfest effect. Guests will sip traditional German beers, seated under the patio lights that provide a comfortable vibe reminiscent of a friend’s backyard. The garden is so cozy, in fact, that on colder evenings the bar will provide wool blankets for guests. Beer drinkers should come thirsty because the steins are large and ready to be filled.
Walking into Toronado is liking walking onto the set of Cheers. This is definitely a bar that local beer lovers call home, and it has the inviting split door to prove it. During San Francisco Beer Week, customers line up to get a taste of the Bay Area’s famous Pliny the Younger beer from Russian River Brewing Company — and the keg is usually tapped within a matter of hours. (The award-winning beer is only released during certain weeks of the year.) Other popular beers from all over the world make up the extensive menu hanging over the bar.
21st Amendment Brewery, located within blocks of the San Francisco Giants baseball park, is a full-service restaurant, brewery and bar that almost always has a line out the door on game days. Every day of the week, this brewpub features eight rotating taps of award-winning hand-crafted beers, making the what-to-drink decision difficult for restaurant goers. Customers often go with the top-selling Brew Free! Or Die IPA — a 21st Amendment staple that is also sold in cans year-round. Pair it with the brewmaster’s fish and chips, made with locally caught cod drenched in house beer batter, for a beer lover’s dream culinary experience.
The only brewery in San Francisco to brew organically certified beer, ThirstyBear marries together the ultimate social beverage, beer, with the ultimate social food, tapas. Beer lovers certainly like the concept, as the brewery produces and serves more barrels of beer in-house than any other brewpub in the city. The locally sourced food doesn’t disappoint either with menu highlights such as empanadas, patatas bravas and grilled artichoke. Cheese and beer pairings are also available for foodies looking to test their palates.