As beer travelers, my husband Chris and I have explored San Francisco’s beer scene many times. On a recent sunny afternoon, we embarked on our own beer-based walking tour of the City. We got some good exercise, drank great brews, and saw a beer’s eye view of San Francisco’s neighborhoods.
In 1849, California’s first brewery, Adam Schupperet Brewery, opened its doors. Located at Stockton and Jackson Streets in San Francisco, this brewery sparked the City’s love of beer and a brewing tradition that continues today. Some have even dubbed San Francisco “America’s original craft beer drinking city.”
21st Amendment Brewery
Chris and I kicked off our day with an early lunch at 21st Amendment Brewery. With a big day of walking planned, we needed a hearty lunch to get us started.
Chris ordered a pizza with his India Pale Ale, while I chose a pulled pork sandwich to accompany my Porter.
The spacious brewery is situated a few blocks away from AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants. A popular spot with baseball fans, the place is packed before and after games. They even offer a special brew each year to celebrate the start of baseball season.
This day offered a more relaxed atmosphere, but the lunchtime crowd poured in as we readied to leave for our second stop of the day.
City Beer Store
We walked up a few blocks to Folsom St. and headed southwest down to City Beer Store, a specialty beer store and tasting bar.
The 30-minute walk through the colorful South of Market district produced quite a thirst. When we arrived, we were ready to taste some beers and proprietors Craig and Beth were ready to help.
Descending the steps into City Beer is like entering a beer lover’s heaven. Hundreds of beers stock the shelves and coolers. We contemplated the six draught beers available and examined the myriad of bottled beers. Chris quickly decided on a brew from the tap and sat down at one of the tall bistro tables. I poured through the many choices and eventually joined him with a bottle of German beer.
Thanks to City Beer’s unique concept, beer can be purchased to go or opened for immediate enjoyment. The option of creating customized mixed six-packs also encourages patrons to explore new beers. Our backpacks heavy with purchases, we continued our exploration of San Francisco by walking a mile and a half to Toronado on Haight Street.
Following along Haight Street, we looked for the Toronado sign, a bold muscled arm holding a pint glass. This signature logo served as a beacon that drew us toward the world-renowned beer institution.
At first glance, Toronado appears to be just another dive bar. However, the extensive beer selection has prompted many to list Toronado as one of the top ten beer establishments in the country.
A little tired from the walk, we plopped ourselves down at the bar and ordered some pints from the heavily tattooed bartender. The long walks in between stops gave us a chance to check out the neighborhoods and get some exercise. The travel time also provided good pacing to our beer drinking.
Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery
After our pint at Toronado, Chris and I strolled twenty-minutes down Haight Street to Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery.
As I peered in the windows of smoke shops and stores selling every manner of tie-dyed apparel I resisted the urge to go inside and instead envisioned myself as R. Crumb’s famous ‘Keep on Truckin' man and carried on toward our next destination.
Magnolia’s cozy, funky interior projects a modern 1960s Haight-Ashbury attitude. On this visit, the crowd was lively and the atmosphere bustled with activity.
We found seats at the bar and watched the busy bartender pull pints. If you prefer a more traditional approach, Magnolia also regularly serves a selection of beers on cask. In need of a late afternoon snack, we ordered a selection of cheeses and meats to accompany our beers.
La Trappe Café
Chris and I discussed our final stop of the day, La Trappe Café in North Beach. We determined the long walk to this Belgian bistro to be about one and a half hours. The day had already turned into evening and we wondered if we should walk or save time and hail a taxi. In the end, we decided the exercise and mild San Francisco air would do us some good.
Our challenging trek included a hike up and over Russian Hill. It felt good to reach our final destination of the day. The top level of La Trappe is a small bistro that gives away few hints of the beer treasures found below.
The romantic dim lighting of the cellar bar provided the perfect mood to end our day. Exhausted from all the walking, we deserved a gourmet meal paired with an exceptional Belgian beer. Chris and I heaved sighs and congratulated each other on a fine day of exploration.
The ambitious itinerary we mapped out kept us busy for a full day. We walked for miles and tasted a variety of beers.
San Francisco is home to many tasty breweries and beer establishments, all of which are accessible by public transportation in one form or another. Whether you have an entire day and the energy to hoof it or just a few hours and need to take a faster means of transportation, it’s easy to create your own beer-based tour of San Francisco.
Public transportation information for each stop on our tour can be found on the establishment’s individual web sites. To learn more about San Francisco’s breweries and special beer events, visit sfbrewersguild.org.
Merideth and her husband Chris travel the world looking for the next great beer adventure. Tales of their travels can be found at thebeergeek.com.
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