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Looking for Best Craft Beer Bars in the Bay Area

I will be in town for a month and would like to visit all Craft/Better beer bars in the bay area. Please help. Thanks

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  1. Trappist in Oakland, City Beer in SF.

    1. Here's a start off the top of my head:

      San Francisco:
      Toronado (beer bar)
      City Beer (beer bar/store)
      21st Amendment (brewery/brewpub)
      La Trappe (beer bar/restaurant)
      Monk's Kettle (beer bar/restaurant)

      East Bay:
      Barclays (brewpub)
      Pacific Coast Brewery (brewery/brewpub/has guest beers)
      Trappist (beer bar)
      Beer Revolution (beer bar/store)
      Triple Rock (brewery/brewpub)

      Marin/Sonoma:
      Marin Brewing Company (brewery/brewpub)
      Moylans (brewery/brewpub)
      Russian River Brewing Company (brewery/brewpub)
      Bear Republic (brewery/brewpub)

      6 Replies
      1. re: The Dive

        Is the beer at 21st Amendment good these days? I've never been terribly impressed except on the occasional cask night.

        Pacific Coast is maybe OK as a fallback if Trappist is closed or too crowded.

        Barclays is not a brewpub, just a pub with a lot of taps.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          it's good but not great, though some of their special and seasonal beers are quite good. I like Monks Blood a lot

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            For SF, I'd skip 21st Amendment, second the recommendations for Toronado and City Beer, and add a recommendation for the Alembic, which is a bar that has a number of great unusual beers on tap and an excellent list by the bottle. Same owners as Magnolia but I like the food and ambiance better; some Magnolia beers show up at the Alembic, but they seem to be a limited set of Magnolia's better beers.

            Suppenkuche is _great_ for German beer. It's a zoo at dinner and during weekend Brunch, but I like to go between late afternoon and early evening when it isn't too crowded.

            1. re: SteveG

              good call, I should have mentioned Alembic. For me, the biggest draw of 21A is that it's near the ballpark. You can usually find a drinkable beer on the board, but I think Speakeasy makes better beer in general and has a party every Friday night that the OP should consider. $3 pints.

            2. re: Robert Lauriston

              I was feeling the same way for a while about 21st Amendment, but was impressed by their recent strong beer selections for SF Beer Week and their seasonal beers.

              I was using "brewpub" more as shorthand for places that have food and beer.

              I agree that Trappist is better than PCB, but a combined trip can work sometimes (esp. if you need food and there are some interesting guest beers on tap).

              Also, I have to say that Triple Rock is well-worth a stop these days -- the beers are just getting better and better with the new brewer.

              1. re: The Dive

                Pacific Coast does sometimes have interesting guest beers, but my beer capacity has never been adequate to run out of things I want to try at The Trappist.

          2. I've been tracking down beer all over the Bay Area for the past few months.
            Definitely you should plan to visit Anchor. You have to phone in advance for a tour but it's well worth the effort.

            Toronado in the lower Haight has the most taps in the Bay Area, a bit of an attitude
            Magnolia is a brewpub in the upper Haight
            Zeitgeist is worth a visit
            Lucky 13 on Market and in Alameda (I like the Market pub better)
            Monk's Kettle in the Mission
            Rosamunde Sausages on Mission
            Pi Bar
            City Beer (taps plus bottles)
            Rogue Ales Public House in North Beach
            Churchkey
            La Trappe
            21st Amendment
            Amsterdam Cafe
            Benders Bar and Grill
            Bistro Gambrinus
            Pig and Whistle
            Suppenkuche
            Thirsty Bear (mostly for the cask conditioned ale)

            for stores in addition to City Beer try Whole Foods on market and on potrero and Healthy Spirits on Castro

            Some good ones in the East Bay
            Bistro (Hayward)
            Barclays (Oak)
            Trappist
            Ben and Nicks (Oak)
            Beckett''s (Berk)
            Bobby G's Pizza
            the Englander (san leandro)
            Jupiter
            Pacific Coast
            Triple Rock
            Cafe Biere
            Luka's Taproom
            Manny's Taproom

            Peninsula
            Marks West
            Rose and Crown

            Breweries
            Valley (stockton)
            Russian River (santa rosa)
            Moylans
            Lagunitas
            Speakeasy (SF)

            there's probably more
            allbrews.blogspot.com has the entire list

            Prost!

            3 Replies
            1. re: chuckl

              I have some problems with Jupiter ... I kind of feel that they don't clean their taps enough.

              I wouldn't bother with Ben & Nick's with Barclays so close, unless you are pining for a Pliny and Barclays does not have it on their list that night.

              Forgot about Bistro and Cafe Biere - good picks.

              I've been loving the Valley stuff lately.

              1. re: chuckl

                Oh, and if you are looking for bottles, Ledger's in Berkeley is another good bet.

                1. re: The Dive

                  Ledger's has a good selection but it's a liquor store, not a bar.

              2. I would also add Pizza Orgasmica, which makes excellent beer, but pretty bad pizza

                1. I agree with the recs for SF and the East Bay. I would definitely focus my time in the North Bay, SF, and the East Bay. The Peninsula for the most part is a beer wasteland. There is one good beer bar, the Rose and Crown in Palo Alto, and one good beer store, K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City.

                  As I do most of my beer drinking in the North Bay, here are my recs. All of these places are focused on locally made beer.

                  Bear Republic Brewery (Healdsburg): They have a lot of brewery only beers. Racer X frequently is on tap.
                  Russian River Brewing (Santa Rosa): THE best brewery in the US.
                  Flavor (Santa Rosa): It is not a brewery, but they always have six beers on tap from Moonlight, a great local brewery.
                  Bottle Barn (Santa Rosa): Best bottle shop in the North Bay.
                  Lagunitas (Petaluma): They do a good tour and recently opened up a nice beer garden. Usually have a few brewery only beers on tap.
                  Taps (Petaluma): Great new beer bar in downtown Petaluma. Have roughly 30 taps.
                  Mondo (Sonoma): Laid back restaurant with really good taps.
                  Sonoma Springs Brewery (Sonoma): New brewery that makes some good German style beers. They also make a tasty Rye Pale Ale.
                  Moylans (Novato):Usually have around 15 of their beers on tap and usually have 2 solid cask offerings. Look for the Wet Hopsickle.
                  Marin Brewing (Larkspur): Good brewpub that puts out a great DIPA called White Knuckle. Their porter, stout, pale ale, and IPA are all very good.
                  Iron Springs (Fairfax): Another solid brewpub that makes some tasty ales. I like their stout, coffee porter, and DIPA.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: pininex

                    Sadly, your comment about the Peninsula is all too true, and the South Bay isn't much better. I was curious about Marks West in Redwood City. Have you been? The North Bay overall is the best beer producing area, though there are some contenders from the East Bay. And I couldn't agree more about Moonlight and Russian River. Pliny the Elder is a beer sacrament.

                    1. re: chuckl

                      I think you meant Martins West, which I have not visited. If the tap list from their website is any indication, I'm not missing much.

                      1. re: chuckl

                        Pickins on the peninsula are slim but not non-existent. The Refuge in San Carlos has a good bottle-oriented belgian list. City Pub in RC, Caffe Borrone in MP have fresh norcal IPAs, but with limited selection. BBC in MP has a wider variety, but less fresh taps. Rose and Crown probably has the best selection and freshest taps, but the atmosphere is windowless and depressing. Martin's West has a limited but not unappealing selection - girlfriend got a solid bottle of Draak there last weekend. Not worth a trip - but there's enough here and there. AFAIK, there is no Pliny the Elder.

                        And between San Carlos and South San Francisco - nothing. Or prove me wrong.

                        PS to chuckl - no beer list is complete without mention of Lanesplitter's two hand pump casks (one each location). Almost always something usual, too.

                        PS to OP - in a month you couldn't hit all the bars that have good fresh independant brewers, unless you singlemindedly persued the task as a mission hitting two sites a day.

                      2. re: pininex

                        Again, I can't stress enough that you have to go to Russian River Brewing -- it is a necessary prilgrimage for any beer lover visitng the Bay Area.

                        Used to live across the street from Moylans and the deal then was that they had the better beer and Marin Brewing had the better food. Now, I give the title on both fronts to Marin Brewing, but Moylans is still a worthwhile stop (still don't think the food is very good though).

                        I think Iron Springs' beer is getting better and better. Look for seasonal stuff.

                        1. re: The Dive

                          Absolute agreement on RRB. If you can't get up to the brewery, find one of the bars that has a lot of their taps. I think Toranado covers them quite well.

                          1. re: bbulkow

                            Toronado definitely. Whole Foods on 4th and City Beer have RR in bottles, including Pliny the Elder.

                      3. Lanesplitter San Pablo currently has a few beers by Iron Springs, which I had never heard of. The beer on cask was exceptional - a super hoppy west coast IPA with more body than usual creating an excellent balance to the hops. The low-carbonation style of the pump worked very well.

                        Apparently Iron Springs is in Fairfax. Anyone heard much about them? Looks like they have a nice brewpub.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: bbulkow

                          The Oakland / Telegraph Lanesplitter no longer seems to use their hand pump. Nothing on cask in months.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Sad. I'm glad my travels took me past San Pablo.

                            Is Lanesplitter Temescal serving this Iron Springs stuff?

                          2. re: bbulkow

                            Iron Springs is a pretty nice brewpub... Food is standard pub fare, nothing to special but their beers are good. One of the brewers there used to be the former brewer of Triple Rock in Berkeley, so if you like how the Triple Rock beers used to taste, you'll probably like Iron Springs.

                            1. re: whatwhat

                              Huh - the beer I had didn't taste much like what I expect from Triple Rock. Far hoppier than most of what TR does. It's also not on their usual list, so maybe it shows the hand of one of the other brewers - or did TR go through a phase like that which I missed? I think of TR as maltier and less hoppy.

                              I had a conversation just last night with some friends about how good TR beer is (compared to Jupiter) and how annoying that it's such a Cal hangout that us Townies feel uncomfortable there in the evenings. The discussion also pointed out how TR has more range than other breweries (like Pacific Coast) - it's all not just IPA hopshopshops.

                              On the other hand, I particularly love west coast IPAs.

                              TR is likely an unappreciated gem ....

                              1. re: bbulkow

                                When is the last time you went to Triple Rock? Rodger Davis has been brewing there for over a year now. I would say Rodger and Vinnie at Russian River make the hoppiest beers in the area. Rodger recently did a barleywine called Orion that used a massive amount of citra hops, the hops used in SN Torpedo. I would never describe his beers as being malty, or as I prefer to call them, East Coast style.

                                Iron Springs is doing some good stuff. They bottle 5 beers and usually have at least one beer on tap at the Toronado. Their pub is worth visiting and they usually put on a new cask every Thursday.

                                1. re: pininex

                                  I will admit to not drinking the beer at TR for a while - years. Recently it was on my berkeley lunch circuit for a while, but a working lunch is burger and an ice tea. Sounds like I should get my taste buds back there!

                              2. re: whatwhat

                                Iron Springs is located in the old Ross Valley Brewing spot (which had great food, but substandard beer -- I always wondered where the chef went). Barclays on College often has a few Iron Springs on their list.

                            2. Roger Davis at Triple Rock used to be the head brewer at Drakes, which continues to make excellent beer and I believe does some brewing for Triple Rock. Drakes IPA is one of my favorites and I also like Denoginizzer a lot. Drakes makes a pretty wide range of strong, tasty ales. Drakes was purchased last year by John Martin of Triple Rock and from what I hear he is planning a cask bar in Jack London. Drakes also resumed parties on the first Friday of the month in the form of benefits for local schools.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: chuckl

                                Triple Rock is great these days.

                              2. After a couple weeks of studying this board, our trip is less than 48 hours away. This thread has been quite helpful. If I could, I'd like to ask for a quick update about any interesting local seasonals? Something I'm unlikely to find here on the East Coast? Also, given the fact that Pliny is nearly impossible to find this close to the Atlantic - Where might I find it on tap? (Probably will not have a car, so a trip to Russian River is unlikely. If it matters, we're staying just north of Alamo Square).

                                Thanks!

                                20 Replies
                                1. re: MGZ

                                  As noted above Toronado but check for call them for an updated list.
                                  http://www.toronado.com/draft.htm

                                  1. re: MGZ

                                    Your first two stops should be tornado, which always has Pliny on tap, and city beer, which has the best assortment of bottles in the bay area and also good taps. Toronado will also have the best local brews. Look for moonlight brewing. Their boney fingers dark lager is making the rounds and their reality Czech and death and taxes are solid beers. Toronado can be a zoo at night, so go during the day. Prices are better then too. City beer is wonderful but small, and the owners are very helpful with advice.

                                    1. re: MGZ

                                      Regrettably, you'll be just a little too early for the Christmas beers - most of which get exported in bottles to the east coast anyway.

                                      The beer list on the Toranado page is nearly two years out of date. You'll just have to show up.

                                      You might consider a jaunt down to Pi Bar. Their web page is up-to-date, and Blind Pig is supposed to be an amazing beer. Pi has been known to stock the rarer pliny the younger, too. Some days I prefer a place like Pi that has a well curated smaller set of taps - fresher beer.

                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                        That list at Pi looks terrific. Seems like a great stop for beers, but my wife will kill me if she thinks we flew across the country to eat pizza.

                                        1. re: MGZ

                                          The pizza there is not worth getting, anyway

                                          1. re: vulber

                                            Some of us disagree with that, especially the plain cheese pie eaten in.

                                          2. re: MGZ

                                            So if your search is for good beer + good food, and not just for the beer, that opens up some other ideas.

                                            Some of the best beers I've had recently I've found at Outerlands. Hardly a beer-ish destination. But they have a short list of very well chosen beers that go really nicely with their excellent menu.

                                            Another place where I've found some new-to-me and really beautiful beers is Slanted Door. Again, not a place you'd go for the beer. But if you go there, check out their beer menu. Goes really well with their food too, IMO -- better than the Rieslings they are known for.

                                            -----
                                            Slanted Door
                                            Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                            1. re: BernalKC

                                              I'd put anchor and hope and alembic in the category of good food and unexpectedly good beer

                                              1. re: BernalKC

                                                I never order beer because of the great wine list, but À Côté in Oakland has a great selection: http://acoterestaurant.com/menus/spir... (beers are near the end of the page).

                                                -----
                                                A Cote
                                                5478 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                  walk about 2 blocks to Rosamunde on Mission and have some excellent sausages with great beer. I like Pi as well, though.

                                                  1. re: chuckl

                                                    Rosemunde, been there, done that.
                                                    "Toronado is a phenominal place. ... It was a great place to watch the Giants and the sausage place next door was an unexpected bonus."
                                                    MGZ on Oct 22, 2010 12:25P

                                              2. re: MGZ

                                                Seasonals- seek out Lagunitas' Little Sumpin' Sumpin' and Little Sumpin' Wild.

                                                Moonlight Homegrown is brewed with brewery-grown hops in mid/late September.

                                                Bear Republic's Racer X is not seasonal per se but is only released intermittently and has been around of late.

                                                  1. re: Pius Avocado III

                                                    So far, I have managed to taste each of the beers you mentioned. The Moonlight Homegrown is an incredible brew! In fact, Moonlight's beers have been one of the high points of the visit.

                                                    Toronado is a phenominal place. I got to (finally) have a pint of Pliney and enjoy a few other beers that will likely never find their way to my side of the country (the hand pumped offerings, in particular, were noteworthy). Thanks to all who mentioned it (then again, now that I've been there, I can see why some seem to consider it a no brainer). It was a great place to watch the Giants and the sausage place next door was an unexpected bonus.

                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                      Given that you will be in town for a month I would suggest that you head on over to downtown Oakland and hit Pacific Coast Brewing (have their own beers and lots of guest beers) and just a couple blocks away to The Trappist (for lots of Belgian and Belgian style beers).

                                                      Access via BART is simple, get off at the 12th street station and walk west to 10th, turn right then left on washington. Pacific Coast is the green awning. The Trappist is on 8th between Washington and Broadway.

                                                      1. re: skwid

                                                        Beer Revolution's another must in that neighborhood.

                                                        -----
                                                        The Trappist
                                                        460 8th Street, Oakland, CA

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

                                                        Beer Revolution
                                                        464 3rd St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                                    2. re: Pius Avocado III

                                                      Seconded on all of those. LLSW is excellent and a nicely priced alternative to RussianRiver's Sour line of offerings (altho it ain't quite Supplication).

                                                      Moonlight's offerings are worth an extra hike if need be. hand-crafted goodness.

                                                    3. re: MGZ

                                                      Any further news, post-Toranado?

                                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                                        Honestly, given the ubiquity of high caliber draft beer, I was happy practically everywhere we stopped. For example, a happy hour (actually, it was closer to 2) at Bar Crudo was certainly enhanced by the availability of the Moonlight Homegrown and a sweet Pils from a brewery in Davis. (Crudo is a pretty good spot. Mighty, tasty chowder. The oysters were the only disappointment as the lack of liquor suggested they took a very long time to travel to Divisidero Street from Point Reyes.) Hell, I don’t think I even saw a Coors Light tap all week.

                                                        The fact that corner grocery stores carry a pretty vast array of local, craft beers meant that meals made from our haul at the UN Farmers’ Market were properly lubricated as well. I tasted a few of the Lagountis beers as well as two from Bear republic. I made a dessert out of a Speakeasy Porter that was probably my “at home” highlight.

                                                        As eluded to upthread, however, the most impressive brews I experienced were the hand-pumped ones made by Iron Springs. Actually, they were two variations of the same Casey Jones IPA. One hopped with Ivanhoe and the other with Chinook. Frankly, getting to relax and taste such rarities was exactly the sort of thing a vacationing beer dork hopes for. (I had these at Toronado. While I was there, I couldn’t help but chuckle thinking about a comment made on another thread about “elbow patched tweed coated” beer snobs. How different, huh?)

                                                        Not being particularly in love with Belgian styles (gasp) and having a limited time to explore, we did not get to try some of the other interesting suggestions that were made. Thanks nonetheless. (Besides, I needed to get my fair share of Junipiero too!)

                                                        -----
                                                        Bar Crudo
                                                        655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117