Five Beer-Focused Restaurants to Taste California’s Booming Beer Scene
Like you have probably noticed, beer is pretty hot right now. In fact, many restaurants in San Francisco are working hard to show beer the same respect as wine on their drinks lists, and hiring cicerones (like sommeliers, but for beer) to develop their beer lists.
Microbreweries continue to pop up all over town, and many of them are just as focused on pairing their beer with food. Here are some new places in SF for enjoying the fresh wave of beer, from breweries to beer-focused restaurants, and more.
Belga (2000 Union St.)
Belgium has long been one of the world’s centers for quality beer, and so it’s no surprise that new beer-focused restaurants are looking to the tiny European nation for inspiration. Just recently, San Francisco got Belga, the Cow Hollow Belgian-inspired brasserie from local restaurateur Adriano Paganini. There are classic Belgian dishes, with French and German influences, and of course a California sensibility. There’s a wood-fired grill, which is firing up housemade sausages from chef Freedom Rains, like currywurst, boudin blanc, and boudin noir. There are also a few steaks (the 7-oz. bar steak is a play on au poivre) and a grilled pork chop too.
Beer is a huge part of the menu. Not only is there an extensive list, but many dishes are made with beer and meant to be enjoyed with beer. You’ll enjoy some excellent pairings from cicerone Ryan Murphy. There are 10 taps and 50 bottles available, with both Belgian beers and many Belgian-style craft beers made in the U.S., and ciders too. Look for some reserve bottles. Oh, and for those not so into beer, there’s also a full bar and cocktails.
Local Brewing Co. (69 Bluxome St.)
Local Brewing Co., a new female-owned brewery from Regan Long and Sarah Fenson, is now open on Bluxome Street in SoMa. The goal of Local Brewing, the pair says, is to create a brewery worthy of a special trip, but not so intimidating that only “beer geeks” will be able to enjoy themselves. There are currently 10 beers on tap, but eventually there will be 16 total taps. The current list includes two spins on IPA and an IRA, or India Red Ale, plus the Bluxome Black Lager and SF Lager, a common lager-style beer. They are also serving some simple snacks, like salads and sandwiches, to accompany the beer.
Bartlett Hall (242 O'Farrell St.)
Last May, Bartlett Hall opened downtown, very close to Union Square, and they are now brewing and serving their own beer. Christopher Wike, the brewmaster, is working on beers that will appeal to both beer snobs and newbies, including the Hoppy Scotsman, a hop-driven Scotch ale, or the In the Barrel, a West Coast pilsner that’s finished Kölsch. www.bartletthall.com
Bel (3215 Mission St.)
There’s more than one Belgian-inspired game in town, with the opening of Bel in the Bernal Heights neighborhood last month from the owners of Pi Bar. The menu offers dishes like shrimp croquettes with leek and potato or foie gras terrine to start, along with heartier choices like a brisket braised in dark Flemish ale or salt cod gratin. And don’t worry, moules frites and steak frites are available.
As for beer, the list is extensive and focused on Belgian and Belgian-style beers. The beer list is broken into several different categories, including fruit-based beers; double, strong, and quad styles; and sour beer. The team is knowledgeable about the different styles and happy to help diners pair their beer with the food.
Barrel Head Brewhouse (1785 Fulton St.)
Barrel Head Brewhouse opened last year in a very spacious and long-vacant space in NoPa. There are 43 beers on tap, including ones brewed in-house and plenty of guest taps, offering a mix of unusual and more approachable selections. The food menu includes a signature dish mini Cristo (that’s a deep-fried, miniature Monte Cristo), and lots of pub-friendly food, like fish and chips, a burger, and smoked meats.
Dana Eastland is the associate editor for tablehopper.com.