Snapshot – Taprooms
San Francisco launched craft beer not only by being a creative home to brewers, but by providing early outlets for their products in the form of specialty bars such as the scruffy and utterly legendary Toronado in SF, Beer Revolution in Oakland, and The Bistro in Hayward.
Modern variations on the beer bar attract loyal fans to destinations scattered throughout the region, from SF’s beer-wonky Mikkeller Bar and the new, moody Old Devil Moon, to the peninsula’s Ale Arsenal, to The Hop Grenade, east of the Bay in Concord.
These specialty craft beer bars will be pouring rare brews and holding special events throughout SF Beer Week (February 10-19, 2017), but joining them will be more local craft brewery taprooms than ever before.
If a brewpub restaurant or industrial production-only facility comes to mind when you think brewery, the current trend in brewing facilities may surprise you. Increasingly, breweries are emphasizing local as part of their business model, building out sophisticated public taprooms where they release and pour their freshest beer. The SF Bay Area is now home to dozens of these new taprooms, many open seven days a week. Serving beer directly to consumers, these taprooms are the new neighborhood hangout, where people socialize or enjoy a bite (via food trucks, order-in services or in-house menu options), often with children and pets in tow. For patrons, the draw of these beer destinations usually centers on a neighborhood feel combined with the pleasures of exceptionally fresh beers with standout aromas and bright flavors. Sometimes gleaming brewing equipment is in full view, bringing the romance of beer making front and center.
For small breweries with a hyper-local focus, a taproom is a place for nearly endless brewer creativity. For larger facilities that also distribute packaged beer offsite, the taproom can serve as an R&D laboratory where brewing experiments get to beer appreciators for immediate honest feedback. And many of the region’s vibrant taprooms will sell a growler or Crowler to take away with you. [See SF Beer Week Media Snapshot: Packaging]
KNOW YOUR TAPROOM DESTINATIONS
With well over 100 breweries in the greater Bay Area, there are literally dozens and dozens of taprooms, all with distinct personalities that tend to reflect the personalities of the brewers, the brand, their fans, and/or the neighborhood they serve. Here are a few highlights:
- Many breweries in the heart of SF are producing amazing beer while being fully focused on serving neighborhood first—in Haight, Sunset, SoMa, Dogpatch and more. That means they’re 100% focused on delivering their best beers and hosting great events for SF Beer Week. Check out Triple Voodoo Brewery, Local Brewing Co., Black Hammer Brewing Co., Laughing Monk Brewing Co. and many more. Visit sfbrewersguild.org to see current members based in the City.
- The Rare Barrel, the award-winning Berkeley sour beer brewery, offers long shared tables in the barrel-aging facility where their dry, tart beers are born. If you are part of a party with mixed opinions on sour and funky beers, some of the group can enjoy these rarities while hopheads enjoy a fine guest beer. Casual TRB sipping sessions often lead to ad hoc discussions of their beers and life itself.
- To experience a taproom tucked into the middle of a large production brewery, head for San Leandro, where you can sip special brews and gaze upon a state of the art, large-scale canning line at 21st Amendment Brewery. 21A has a San Francisco location with a solid pub restaurant, but fans also love to trek to where most of the beer is made, and authentic Mexican food trucks linger.
- In Berkeley, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. offers small pours of special brews from their original Chico location at their Torpedo Room. This example of a satellite taproom hours away from its brewing facility provides a connection to experimental brewing and one-offs that would otherwise not get previewed in the Bay Area.
- Woods Beer Co. offers two tiny breweries in SF and Oakland, and two taproom-only locations in SF and Treasure Island. The island site provides a “beach” venue complete with trucked-in sand. Woods Island Club features an indoor bar inside an old airplane hangar and an outdoor bar on a sandy beach with stunning views of the new eastern section of the Bay Bridge.
- Another taproom with an exciting island location, Faction Brewing Co. in Alameda offers an astonishing vista of the SF skyline across the Bay, with an unused World War II era naval airstrip in the foreground. This brewery moved in to a decommissioned military base, building an indoor-outdoor taproom on the end of a huge aircraft hangar. When geographic discovery combines with beer exploration the visit becomes even more satisfying.
- Roomy and dog-friendly, SF’s Barebottle Brewing Co. and Oakland’s Temescal Brewing Co. were both designed with visual satisfaction and off-street food truck parking in mind. Temescal provides an attractive beer garden, while Barebottle offers expansive tables for an indoor picnic experience, with plenty of space for liesure and games.
- Drake’s Dealership, in Oakland’s bustling Uptown, provides wood-fired pizza, small plates and more in an indoor-outdoor setting, pouring fresh beers from their San Leandro brewery. The roomy restaurant was once the auto-shop for a Dodge dealer, now graced with fire-pit outdoor dining. With an emphasis balanced between food and beer, the Dealership is a new local favorite.
- New breweries and stalwarts put Silicon Valley on the craft beer map with relaxing, approachable taprooms, such as Hermitage Brewing Co., Santa Clara Brewing Co., Mission Creek Brewing Co. (with Whole Foods Market on The Alameda) and Strike Brewing Co. in San Jose, Faultline Brewing Co. in Sunnyvale, Golden State Brewery in Santa Clara, and more.
- South along the coast, it’s worth the road trip to check out the plethora of new and award-winning breweries on the way to, and within, Santa Cruz. A swing into any of these taprooms—Half Moon Bay Brewing Co., Hop Dogma Brewing Co., New Bohemia Brewing Co., the all-organic Santa Cruz Mountaing Brewing Co. and Discretion Brewing Co., to name a few—on the way to nationally known Sante Adairius Rustic Ales would be quite the craft beer excursion.
- No SF Beer Week is complete without a trip to North Bay. There’s the pilgrimage to Russian River Brewing Co. and Bear Republic Brewing Co., for sure, but now also a host of younger breweries with buzzing taprooms to tempt: HenHouse Brewing Co., Cooperage Brewing Co., Fogbelt Brewing Co., Plow Brewing Co. and Woodfour Brewing Co., again, just to name a few.
Expect these craft brewery taprooms, along with the many exceptional specialty craft beer bars across the region, to be pouring special brews and holding special events throughout SF Beer Week.