Ah, beer. When you love it, you need to make sure your bar does too. And even if you’re not a connoisseur, it’s still fun to sample some adventurous brews. Here are the best places in the city to get your hoppy fix.
Let the neon sign guide you: this craft beer bar was once the Key Club, a late night joint back in the 1950s. So when you see the flashing sign for the Key Club, you’ve found the right place. Check your pretentiousness at the door. Here there are 31 beers on tap, mostly brewed here in California, and bartenders are happy to pour you plenty of samples and explain tasting notes before you finally decide on a pint. They’ve also got Dungeness crab tater tots and buttermilk fried chicken tenders for you to snack on so you’re winning all around.
Neighborhood: The Haight
Telephone: (415) 863-2276
If you’re new to beer, this is not the place to start. With 40 beers on tap, loud punk rock playing, and somewhat standoffish bartenders, you need to know what you’re ordering before you saddle up to the bar. It’s also cash only. But for the hardcore beer fanatics, this is heaven. Just take your pick and grab a seat with your buds. Hungry? Run next door for a German sausage from Rosamunde—don’t worry, you can bring it back inside the bar to finish your Belgian.
Telephone: (415) 865-9523
With a beer menu as thick as a book, it’s going to take you a while to land on a decision. Luckily, servers act like sommeliers and can point you in the right direction if you give them something as simple as “I’d like something sour.” Heads up: this spot is constantly packed. But you don’t technically need a seat if you’re just drinking beer. Let them know at the front and find a place to chill in the back near the chalkboards, which, yes, you can draw on. It’s also worth it to put your name in for a meal—their German pub fare is authentically delicious.
Address1402 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133-3304, USA
Neighborhood: North Beach
Telephone: (415) 963-1713
Tucked away on Grant Avenue—seriously, blink and you might miss it—this tiny beer bar has just a few brews on tap, scribbled across a chalkboard above the bar. But it’s great for a more intimate beer tasting sessions, whether that is a date or catching up with girlfriends—because not every beer drinking occasion needs to be in a loud, crowded place.
Telephone: (415) 341-0152
Just wrap up your rec league baseball game and want to grab a brew with the team? Or how about you want to go out to a bar for your birthday large enough to accommodate plenty of groups of friends? Look no further than Southern Pacific. This massive warehouse space is big enough for plenty of big groups and on nice days they even have the patio open to guests. They’ve got a few house brews that are always available, as well as a rotating tap of guest brews. And if someone in the group wants a cocktail, they’ve got those too. Food includes burgers, pizzas, and salads, in case you feel like countering your beer with something healthy.
Telephone: (415) 255-7505
Lighthearts beware: this bar can get real rowdy. But with over 40 beers on tap and a huge outdoor patio, you can drink all kinds of beer all day if you want (hence why it gets a little rowdy). Food is super simple: burgers and bratwurst. It’s got an almost backyard barbecue vibe.
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley
Nothing beat a pint of German beer and a sausage while cuddled under twinkling string lights and an extra blanket (because we’re still in San Francisco, people). Don’t be intimidated by the line—you need to order your beer up front before you can sit down. And definitely don’t be afraid to squeeze in with some strangers—the tables are communal.
This shop treats beer with the same revere and respect as you would a vintage bottle of wine, but without losing that fun and loose beer culture. Sip on a brew from their ever-changing menu and take a sixpack home of mixed variety, because the owners here don’t believe you need to commit six times over.
Neighborhood: Civic Center
Telephone: (415) 800-7416
San Francisco’s newest beer bar opened quietly this past year, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a beer-lovers locale. With a daily draft menu of 20 taps, you’ll find dark sours, honey blondes, and coffee browns. Warning: it is smack dab downtown in the new tech district, so happy hour will be an overwhelming experience.