On the Real Ale* Trail in San Francisco

*it’s called ‘craft beer’ here.

As the real ale revival back home in the UK continues, over here in the US there has been an explosion in craft beer. Microbreweries, beer associations and craft beer tasting taverns are in every Neighborhood in San Francisco.

Many of the microbreweries and craft beer bars serve tasting flights, meaning you can actually try 3 small beers while only consuming a pint. That means you stay within a (reasonably**) safe drinking limit of 3 pints and still get to try 9 different beers.

**disclaimer, the average strength of the beer here seems to be much higher than at home. In the region of 6-7% is pretty standard.

Here are my favorite spots for real ale so far:

Smokestack at Dogpatch
Smokestack @ Magnolia Brewery in Dogpatch
Cellarmaker Brewing Company in SOMA
The list of beers currently on tap at Cellarmaker Brewing Company in SOMA
Cellarmaker Brewing in SOMA
Beer tasting at Cellarmaker Brewing in SOMA
Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon, Oakland
Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, Oakland

If you are keen to explore the the microbreweries in San Francisco, there is a free shuttle bus around a different neighborhood every third Wednesday of the month organized by the San Francisco Brewers Guild. Click here to visit their website.

This is great in theory, until you get stuck behind a group of 12 people that fill the minibus at every venue! My tip would be to consider getting a group of 4 together to complete the recommended routes using Lyft or Uber. Yes it will cost you a few dollars, but between 4 people it really won’t be much and you will also benefit from the bars being far less crowded.

Drink Beer Sf Shuttle
Drink Beer SF Shuttle

I went on the Haight / Sunset line in October. We actually only made it to 3 of the 5 venues on the route, as we got carried away with the tasting flights in Magnolia and ran out of time!

Here are my tasting notes from Magnolia (which may be unintelligible given they were written in the last bar we visited):

Magnolia tasting notes
Magnolia tasting flights – drunken notes (a team effort on the comments/ratings)

Again (just to reassure you I’m not a complete boozehound), this was two flights of 6 beers, split between 4 people. So despite trying 12 beers, we actually only consumed a pint each!

My favorite bay area brews so far are:

  • 3 Flowers IPA (Marin Brewing Co.)
  • African Skies IPA (Cellarmaker Brewing Co.)
  • Proving Ground IPA (Magnolia Pub & Brewery)

Yes they all IPAs, but you really can’t go wrong with a decent American IPA in my opinion. There are plenty of other types of ale on all of the menus – the beer really is amazing here with so much variety. However, consumption needs to be cut back otherwise it will be easy to develop a pot belly and I need to save some calories for Thanksgiving next month!


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