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Mar 27, 2008 08:14 AM

Best Beer Bar/Store in S.F.?


I'm going to visit a friend in Berkeley in a few weeks and I want to find a beer bar where I can sample a lot of the great California beers that I can't get back east (D.C.). Also if anyone has any recommendations for a very well stocked beer store with a lot of interesting regional micros I'll be looking for that too. Does anyone have any recommendations for where to find either of those things in the Bay Area?

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    1. Definitely City Beer (in SF). Their selection is excellent and you can sample there. The owners are incredibly knowledgeable as well. Closer to Berkeley, Ledger's has a good selection of California beers to take home. Bar-wise, the Toronado is rightly famous for the number and variety of beers on tap (although they tend to focus a bit on the belgians). Closer to Berkeley is Barclay's, which has a good tap list with a focus on the West Coast-style IPAs. If you have an opportunity to leave the immediate Bay Area, go to Russian River Brewning Company in Santa Rosa - it is the area's best brewer (I say Bear Republic in Healdsburg comes second, but also worth a stop) and it is highly unlikely you will see RRBC stuff in DC.

      Ledger's Liquors
      1399 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

      City Beer Store
      1168 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

      Russian River Brewing Co.
      725 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

      Toronado Pub
      547 Haight St, San Francisco, CA

      Barclay's Restaurant & Pub
      5940 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

      Bear Republic Brewing Co
      345 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448

      1. Third on City Beer.

        For the best local stuff on tap, Lanesplitter in Berkeley. Not as many taps as Toronado, but more of a California focus, and a fairly rigorous selection of the best quality. There's also a branch in Oakland.

        Barclay's has a lot of taps but to me not a very interesting selection.

        Lanesplitter Berkeley
        2033 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

        Lanesplitter Temescal
        4799 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

        2 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          How many taps does the Berkeley branch have? I like Lanesplitter, but I find the selection at the Temescal branch rather small (so that there is typically only one beer I want--say a Moonlight--or I have to resort to a Racer 5, which is always good, but not as interesting), although I agree that they do select and store their beers well.

          Barclay's posts its daily beer list online (, which is a good way to know whether it is worth going over.

          1. re: The Dive

            I almost always stick to Lanesplitter's hand-pumped cask, so I'm not sure of the tap count.

        2. I second everything baron45 says.

          If you're in Berkeley, there is no need to go to SF for good beer places. Although you may want to go anyway.

          Barclays is a great pub, with better than average food. Cato's and Ben & Nicks, also in North Oakland, also have a number of taps. For a selection of Belgian beers, Luka's and The Trappist, both off of Broadway "downtown" are great. In between them is Pacific Coast, which also has a good selection of regional beers.

          Jupiter, in downtown Berkeley, has a number of taps, okay food, and a nice patio. Triple Rock, Jupiter's sister brewpub down the street, has some hit-and-miss beers, but is one of the original Northern Cal brewpubs.

          Further south, with easy BART access, is the Bistro in Hayward, with a good beer selection and good live music.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Bryan Gros

            Barclay's doesn't feel like a pub to me, especially on a clear afternoon with the sun streaming through the windows. Feels more a sports bar.

            I have not been impressed by Pacific Coast Brewing's own beers, and their small guest selection is mostly stuff that's easy to find at places with bigger selections.

            Jupiter's selection is very good.

            Triple Rock's upstairs patio is really nice on a warm day. It's easy to miss, you have to walk all the way to the back and up the stairs.

            Pacific Coast Brewing Co
            906 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607

            2181 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA

            Triple Rock Brewery
            1920 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA

            1. re: Bryan Gros

              While Jupiter has a nice atmosphere, I find they don't store the kegs well and/or keep the taps clean. The beer tends to taste off.

              1. re: The Dive

                Yeah, quality's not totally reliable at Jupiter. Common problem with places that have that many taps.

            2. Not sure when you are coming, but if you are in Berkeley on April 5, Triple Rock Brewery is going to be having their 5th Annual Firkin Gravity Fest. Looking at the website, all of the great NorCal Brewers will be there.
              I also would recommend the Toronado if you want a beer bar. They always have 3 to 4 Russian Rivers on tap, a nice selection of Moonlights, offshoots of Lagunitas like Hop Stoopid, Drakes cask conditioned ales, and an amazing bottle list.
              For picking up bottles, I find both Ledgers and City Beer Store to both have a great selection. I give the nod to Ledgers as it seems they don't clear out of the popular titles (i.e Collaboration, Not Litigation by Avery/Russian River and the Port/Lost Abbery beers) as quickly.
              As for true West Coast style bottle recommendations, stick with DIPA's such as Ballast Point Dorado, Green Flash's Imperial IPA, Port Brewing's Hop 15, Moylan's Moylander or Hopsickle, and Marin Brewing Company's White Knuckle.
              Also make sure you have at least one pint of Russian River's Pliny the Elder. It is the epitome of a truly hopped up West Coast beer.

              2 Replies
              1. re: pininex

                the pliny the elder is one of the one's i'm most fired up about. we get green flash (love their ipa), moylans, and bear republic on the east coast now but russian river is still nowhere to be found. I'm glad to hear that it seems to be easily obtainable in SF. thanks for the help.

                1. re: amdoyne

                  Pliny the Elder is my favorite beer. I find the most reliable sources for Pliny to be Barclay's, Ben-n-Nick's and the Toronado. RRBC is going to start bottling it as well, so perhaps by your visit you can pick up a few at City Beer. Or go up to Santa Rosa - you won't be disappointed in sampling the full selection of beers made by Russian River. You can even get a growler of Pliny!

                  Good to hear that Green Flash makes it out your way - they are doing a very good job down in San Diego and the brewer is doing some very interesting things. I recently had a La Freak - the brewer's rendition of a belgian version of a west coast IPA - fantastic!