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Great beer bar in SF?

We will be in SF tomorrow evening. In search of a great beer bar, preferably a place that may have some sour beers on top. We will be staying near union square, but are willing to venture anywhere within the city. Thanks!

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  1. We loved Toronado, and it is in fact the first place I ever tried sours so I have an extra soft spot for it. The 'tender was very nice to me, a non-beer-o-phile and I was trepidatious as I gather they are not always so easy going there. He gave me several tastes before each round to help me select my beers. Happy hour goes on seemingly all day -- they were practically paying us to drink. YMMV as we were there in the afternoon to enjoy the burgers from next door at Rosamunde's on a Wednesday.

    1. in Addition to Toronado
      Zeitgeist has a great beer garden and a good selection of beers. http://zeitgeistsf.com/
      Restaurants that focus on beer:
      Monks Kettle http://monkskettle.com/
      Schmidt's http://schmidts-sf.com/menus/ (Food is meh but good beer list
      )Suppenkuche http://www.suppenkuche.com/

      1. P.S. For a really great beer bar take BART to Oakland
        The Trappist http://thetrappist.com/
        Beer Revolution http://beer-revolution.com/

        1 Reply
        1. re: chefj

          Since the OP is looking specifically for sours, I thought I might mention City Beer as well -- they had a couple on tap when we were there during our April visit, though again we were there in the afternoon so not sure what the ambiance would be like of an evening. The bar itself is absolutely gorgeous however.

          This seems like a rather fine resource as well: http://beeradvocate.com/beerfly/city/17

        2. Church Key and Le Trappe, both in North Beach, have bottles of sour. Le Trappe's only sour beer on tap is Petrus Oud Bruin. Church Key doesn't have that many taps, so it's unlikely to have more than one sour.

          1. Toronado's probably the first choice for many beer geeks within SF proper - the place has certainly been around the longest, and generally has a good selection of beers available (though whether any of the ones on tap will be sours is up in the air). If you're going that route, I'd consider looking over their bottle list, especially to see if they have bottles of Cable Car available - very limited-production sour made by Lost Abbey Brewing down in San Marcos, solely for the Toronado outposts here and in SD, and for on-premise consumption only. The bottles aren't cheap ($40, last I heard), but well-received among the beer-geek crowd. I personally haven't tried it yet, though, because the fabled Toronado 'tude, coupled with its rather inconvenient location in the Haight, tends to stop me in my tracks.

            City Beer is a lot closer to Union Square, and if you're looking to tote any bottles back home with you, that's probably the way to go (though SoCal tends to get pretty much anything NorCal gets in terms of beer) - they have something like 10-12 taps, usually with at least 1 or 2 very interesting sours, but shelves upon shelves of interesting bottles that can be bought to take away. They also have the "special" bottles cooler behind the bar that usually holds several high-demand, rarer sours, like ones from Cantillon, Cascade, and the Bruery - those are on-premise consumption only, though. You'll also pay a pricing premium for pretty much anything in the place.

            Monk's Kettle, unlike either Toronado or City Beer, has a kitchen, and I think the food's pretty good. They often have a few interesting sours on tap - looking on their website, seems like they've been pouring 2 different vintages of Russian River Consecration as of last Friday - and some interesting ones in bottle as well, but their pricing scheme, at least for bottles, is simply brutal, much more like typical restaurant wine markups (2-3x retail) than the usual prices I see at almost any other beer bar or shop in the Bay Area.

            All that said, I personally spend most of my time at Trappist and Beer Revolution in Oakland, mainly because I live there, but also because they're both ridiculously-awesome beer bars that I think beat any of SF's options. If you were willing to hop on the BART to the 12th Street station, I'd honestly say do that and check out both.

            Have fun!

            5 Replies
            1. re: Spatlese

              From Union Square it's just as easy to get to 12th St. in Oakland as it is to the Haight. Fifteen minutes on BART and a five-minute walk.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                yes but both of the beer bars are a bit of a walk from 12th st

                1. re: vulber

                  12th to 8th, and that's on the short side. It really is only 5 well-lit minutes.

                  1. re: vulber

                    That's not true. The Trappist is like two blocks if you use the south stairs.

                    I know people are wary of being in Oakland, and there are definitely areas I would avoid at night, but the 12th St area is not one of them. I used to work in that area and we used to grab drinks after work all the time. Not once did anything happen to me.

                    1. re: dunstable

                      Plus you get the benefit of being really close to Oakland Chinatown and the incredible pairing of the Trappist followed by Spices!3.

              2. I see that you're from San Diego. That being the case, you probably already know that there already exists an outpost of Toronado in your fair city.

                San Francisco is about the same as San Diego where it comes to beer bars -- there's not a lot of choice, but there are a few great places. The above suggestions are pertty much all good. Personally I'm not high on Toronado; I am very high on the Trappist in Oakland (Somehow I've never made it to Beer Revolution, though my friends are big fans. Perhaps this weekend.) It's not that hard to get to Oakland, and the Trappist is right by the BART station. Give 21st Amendment a shot too.

                Unless you're going for ambience, skip Zeitgeist completely; it's just a bar that has a better-than-average selection.

                1. If tomorrow evening is tonight, then City Beer is a no-go ... closed on Mondays. If you really want sours and ambience, I second (or third) the recommendation to BART over to 12th in Oakland for the Trappist. I've been to a lot of the San Diego beer bars and I think you will find Trappist to be special. If you want to stay in the City, I am more of a fan of Monk's Kettle than le Trappe, but either would work.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: The Dive

                    As long as you don't require an actual seat, Monk's Kettle is great. It's tiny and gets prohibitively crowded fairly early.

                    +1 Trappist. The BART ride is easy, and they currently have outdoor seating, something you'll not find at any of the other places with noteworthy sour offerings mentioned above.

                  2. Amsterdam Café probably won't have any sours on tap, however they have several hundred beers in their extensive bottle list, including a lot of Belgian & American sours. Nice staff, and walking distance from Union Square.

                    Amsterdam Café
                    937 Geary St
                    San Francisco, CA 94109

                    1. Tommy's Joynt -
                      lotsa beer
                      lotsa ambience
                      lotsa history

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Sharuf

                        Tommy's Joynt is decent for cheap food, but honestly, the beer selection is amazingly mediocre considering the volume. It might be OK if this was 1985, but in 2012, you can do a whole lot better.

                      2. it's not a bar - more a gastropub - but the beer list at St. Vincent on Valencia is really good. Small, but excellent. (And the food is so thoughtful, interesting, delicious.) They've got at least three sours, including a sour ale on tap from Dying Vines in Oakland and a Jolly Pumpkin sour Saison in the bottle. A moderately easy BART ride from Union Square.

                        1. I will second Tommys Joint. the beers of the world, and they have a bunch of sours, but not on tap.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: smatbrat

                            what sours does Tommy's Joynt have?

                            1. re: chuckl

                              not sure based on memory. I did a huge beer tasting/training there before my Cicerone and it included a bunch of Lambics and sours. They menu changes fairly often of their "Beers of the world" and its international beer selection is way better then its domenstic for sure.
                              this is the menu they have on line.


                              1. re: smatbrat

                                a tad better than the last time I was there, at least they have a kriek, albeit not a great one, but not in the same league as the trappist

                                1. re: chuckl

                                  Oh yeah. Not even close to as good. But the OP said SF, so i was just adding to the list of those options

                                  1. re: smatbrat

                                    Tommy's Joynt is always a good recommendation for out of towners. It's sort of old school SF and still manages to be a good value after all these years. So thanks for bringing it up, I'll have to scoot over there again at some point. Not to change the subject, but one relatively new brewpub worth checking out is Social Kitchen in the inner Sunset. After years of false starts, I think they're finally getting it right with a new brewer and a new chef.

                          2. Trappist in Oakland will be your best bet for Belgian style ales, including "sour" beers. Fom Powell BART, an easy ride to downtown Oakland (check the maps) and a short walk to 8th, I believe. If you're a little more adventurous, keep walking down to Beer Revolution, also right off Broadway. You need to check it out, because, along with Toronado, it's probably the best beer bar in the Bay Area at this point. They had a few sours in the cold case yesterday and they had Palo Santo Marron on tap, unless the keg blew.. Monk's Kettle has some great ones, but keep your eye on the prices of bottles, or you could be in for a shock when you get your bill. If you're interested in bottles, check out Jug Shop (talk to Eric Cripe or his brother), Healthy Spirits, City Beer and, believe it or not, Ales Unlimited on Webster. I saw some amazing sours at Ales Unlimited yesterday. You'll know them when you see them. Being from SD, you're already familiar with Lost Abbey and Bruery., and you have to know about Russian River too. You can find several RR brett beers all over, but some, like Beatification, don't make it beyond the brewery, sadly..

                            1. Also, dont forget about the Public House at ATT park http://publichousesf.com/ great selection of craft beer and imports ...Also your close to 21st Amendment , Southern Railroad...And also Rosamunde Grill's second location on mission 50 yards from the bart station at 24th st ...I highly recommend this website ...Every brewery and brew pub by bart stations ... http://beerbybart.com

                              1. City Beer has some beer on tap but the bottle selection is great. I mean the bottle selection will give you more complexity per buck than going out and having it on tap.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: DillMuncher

                                  I hadn't been to City Beer in a while, they've greatly expanded both tap and bottle selections. Note that there are some rare items on the bottle menu that are available only to drink at the bar.