Top 7 places to grab a beer in San Francisco

August 04, 2017
Kristin O'Connell
beer garden patio in San Francisco

Shipping containers = a good spot for beer | Photo by Kristin O’Connell

A wise man once said, “Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer.” That wise man was Henry Lawson, a 19th-century Australian writer. And while we’re not sure if he ever had the privilege of visiting San Francisco, his sentiment is universal. So whether you’re looking for a nook to cosy up with a dark ale when Karl the Fog rolls in or a place to enjoy a cold one while catching some rays on a sunny afternoon, we’ve got you covered. Here is a list of seven of our favourite places to grab a brewski in one of our favourite cities.

Caskhouse | Noe Valley

Opened in 2013, Caskhouse features a rotating tap of well-selected beers and wines delivering what San Franciscans have come to expect: fresh, local and seasonal offerings. Like a warm fire on a stormy day, this neighbourhood pub provides a cosy refuge, inviting you in and urging you to slow down for a bit. Without TVs or loud background music, it’s easy and comfortable to have a conversation at the raw edge wooden bar, or at one of the 10 or so high tops. It’s busy, but not too busy, so you neither feel alone nor overcrowded, and the laid-back atmosphere makes it commonplace for locals to bring a deck of cards and linger awhile. Bonus: the gourmet gastropub fare served on metal plates will please even the pickiest of eaters. The warm soft pretzels with beer cheese sauce and the porter braised beef are longtime favourites.

Southern Pacific Brewing Co. | Mission

Relatively new on the scene, Southern Pacific Brewing Co. is housed in a renovated warehouse building with plenty of light and seating (both indoors and out), making it a popular place for groups to swing by post climbing at Mission Cliffs or after a design-inspired shopping trip at Heath Ceramics nearby. Southern Pacific has their own hoppy brews on tap, as well as a full bar and kitchen. (Get a local’s view of the Mission on our Flavors and Murals of the Mission tour.)

The Monk’s Kettle | Mission

With wooden booths, white marble table tops and a beer list that’s so long it has to be housed in a three-ring binder, The Monk’s Kettle is the place to go if you crave hard-to-find international beers in a cosy (read: seating is limited) locale. The bartenders are extremely knowledgeable about beer and are happy to provide recommendations (as the menu can be overwhelming!) based on your tastes.

Biergarten | Hayes Valley

Put a few shipping containers, wooden picnic tables and string lights in a parking lot, add beer and German food, and you’ve got the Biergarten, one of our go-to spots for grabbing a relaxed drink in the city. Based in the ever-charming Hayes Valley, Biergarten attracts quite a crowd on weekends, with a line out the fence on a sunny day. The long wooden picnic tables mean you are almost always sitting next to a stranger who gets less strange as the amount of beer in your 32oz glass mug of Fort Point’s Westphalia red ale lowers. Even if it’s one of San Francisco’s famously cold summer days, Biergarten provides wool blankets to wrap yourself up in so you can enjoy your beer outside any day of the year.

Zeitgeist | Mission

One of the original and longest standing beer gardens in San Francisco, Zeitgeist is famous for its divey, biker vibe and is a Mission staple when it comes to grabbing a beer with friends. Their logo, a skull with bunny ears, is about as warm and fuzzy as their service. However, grunge and attitude can have its charm and for Zeitgeist, it works. Just remember to stop at the ATM on your way over — Zeitgeist is a cash-only bar.

Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery | Haight

Located in the heart of the Haight, Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery is surrounded by hippie shops smelling of patchouli, Victorian houses with tie-dyed tapestries hanging from the windows and layered graffiti murals. But Magnolia’s brand is less counter-culture and more classic San Francisco. Tufted leather booths, brass accents and vintage wood tables decorate the restaurant and the food and drink menus offer elevated American fare. We love stopping by for a Kalifornia Kolsch, served in a 9oz glass so it stays cold for the duration of your drink, and a Magnolia Pub burger, with people-watching on the side.

Hopwater Distribution | Nob Hill

So. Many. Good. Beers. On. Draft. And small batch ones too! The list at Hopwater Distribution is always changing, but since there are so many to choose from, there will always be one that you like. Set in a rustic brick building with plenty of space to settle in with friends either at the high tops or bar on the first floor or the restaurant seating on the second floor overlooking the first.

North Beach Pub Tour

From Beatniks to Blues masters, drunken sailors, hardened fishermen, and karaoke kings, North Beach is full of colourful characters.