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Bottoms Up! Best Breweries in San Francisco



We all know why California became the land of wines. Like the idyllic vineyards of France, Italy and other coastal regions, Napa and Sonoma counties are in the "Goldilocks" zone: not too hot, not too cold, just the right kind of consistently moderate temperatures to allow a wide variety of grapes to ripen to their maximum potential.

Over the past decade or so, local breweries have been making their mark, too. Riding the coattails of the "maker" movement, breweries have been popping up all over San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, each one trying to outdo the other. From well-established breweries like Anchor Steam and Lagunitas to the newcomers to the party like San Francisco Brewing Co., the San Francisco brewery scene is as bubbly and lively as any city in the country. 

Think not? Just one more reason to put these top San Francisco breweries to your own personal taste test.


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Housed in what was once a stable, Jupiter has taken full advantage of its unusual location by creating a unique modern day Gothic ambience. Pews and Gothic-style chandeliers were scavenged from an old church, bronze-colored pressed tin panels some of the walls, and copper tops the bar itself, and vintage games provide some entertainment. Upstairs there are several cozy tables set up around a woodstove, and out back there's a heated patio that functions as a lively jazz venue during the summer. Jupiter brews its own beer, but offers an array of other microbrews as well, and when hunger pangs strike, you can order a stellar wood-fired oven pizza.

Recommended for Breweries because: Although it's across the Bay, the brews of Jupiter's is well worth a BART or Bay Bridge toll.

Tom's expert tip: Jupiter's has a wide-range of their own beers, as well as an inviting patio to enjoy that Berkeley sunshine. Live music most nights, as well.

Read more about Jupiter's →




The Beach Chalet sits right on Ocean Beach, so it's a great spot to watch the sun set. Quality comfort food with a California twist, inventive but not too radical, definitely offers something for everyone. Start off with the crispy calamari, crunchy and tangy, and pair that with the filet mignon for a surf and turf meal. The Chalet burger is a favoritee, too, as is their BBQ pulled pork sandwich with Jordo's Carolina BBQ sauce. The house wine list is extensive, but the signature drink here is their brewery, from Riptide Red to Fogtown Brown - or try the sampler to get a taste of them all.

Recommended for Breweries because: Beach Chalet is an excellent brewery, as well as an excellent spot to catch a sunset over the Pacific.

Tom's expert tip: The Park Chalet, just behind the Beach Chalet and on the boundaries of Golden Gate Park, brews its own beer and offers live music.

Read more about Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant →




Half Moon Bay Brewing Company is always "hopping." People come from miles around not just for their excellent brews, but for their fantastic meals, as well. If you're looking for an excuse to get out of San Francisco -and want to avoid the traffic and tolls of the Golden Gate or Bay Bridge - a trip down to Half Moon Bay and dinner and drinks at the brewery is a great plan. There are plenty of options for building up a healthy appetite in the area, such as kayaking on the bay or long, window-shopping strolls down its quaint main street.

Recommended for Breweries because: Half Moon Bay Brewing Company is well worth the trip for those who also want a picture-perfect drive down iconic Highway 1.

Tom's expert tip: If you're in the area for their excellent "Brews and Views" speaker series, be sure to stop by!

Read more about Half Moon Bay Brewing Company →


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What do you do with a 10,000 foot warehouse that used to be a neighborhood's center for industry? Build a brewery, of course! Proprietor and San Francisco native Chris Lawrence took on the massive job and delivered a spacious brewpub with a solid menu. Although it's in "foodie central," that is, the Mission District with its endless choices for food, don't pass up Southern Pacific Brewing Company's menu offerings, like the Cheddar Bratwurst, a pork brat made by the local butcher shop 4505 Meats. And the beers don't disappoint, either, making Southern Pacific Brewing an important stop on your tour of the Mission neighborhood.

Recommended for Breweries because: Southern Pacific Brewing is a grand space for bold beers, a fun respite from the elbow-to-elbow daily jockeying of the Mission neighborhood.

Tom's expert tip: Try the brussels sprouts!

Read more about Southern Pacific Brewing →


Social Kitchen and Brewery
Photo courtesy of Molanphy


With more recognizable neighborhoods getting all the culinary attention, such as Haight-Ashbury or Mission, the foggy Sunset District is often overlooked as a residential neighborhood not worth the trip. But it's that very heart of the Sunset - an area for locals and families - that has made Social Kitchen and Brewery such a success. And not only does this charming spot right by Golden Gate Park really know how to make beer - Brewmaster Kim Sturdavant won the Gold Medal for 'Classic English - Style Pale Ale' at the renowned Great American Beer Festival in 2015 - they also have an impressive cocktail list for those who like their drinks less yeasty.

Recommended for Breweries because: Social Kitchen and Brewery has established a successful microbrewery in the overlooked Sunset District that deserves attention.

Tom's expert tip: One of the better local brewery Happy Hours in San Francisco: $6 Select House Beers, Monday to Friday till 6pm.

Read more about Social Kitchen and Brewery →




What separates Thirsty Beer from other breweries is its intense dedication to sustainably sourced beers, making it San Francisco's first and only certified organic brewery. The whole enterprise springs from the particular background and experiences of Master Brewer & Founder, Ron Silberstein, who was part of the wave of home brewing in the 1980's and, while living in Madrid after college, fell in love with tapas, small plates of food that are maleable and thus perfect for pairing with different beers. With his diploma from the first Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering diploma course offered by the American Brewers Guild in hand, he started Thirsty Bear in 1996 and the rest, as the say, is history.

Recommended for Breweries because: Thirsty Bear has become a great hangout for those working in or visiting downtown San Francisco.

Tom's expert tip: Specializes in Spanish tapas, perfect small plates to go with their outstanding selection of beers.

Read more about Thirsty Bear →




Nothing quite symbolizes San Francisco as much as her famous beer, Anchor Steam. Locals always anticipate the brewery's "holiday brew," which includes secret ingredients that change every year. And both tourists and locals have made the tour of the brewery incredibly popular. Even if you don't like beer, the tour offers a fascinating local history dating back to the Gold Mining days when the beer got its name for the steam that came off the open vats that cooled naturally in the mild climate. The tour is fantastic, but you have to sign up at least two months in advance. No e-mail sign ups, only by phone: 415-863-8350.

Recommended for Breweries because: Anchor Steam is considered the oldest and most respected brewery in San Francisco.

Tom's expert tip: The tour of Anchor Steam is very popular - be sure to make reservations several months in advance.

Read more about Anchor Steam Brewery →




The reason behind the name of 21st Amendment is the reason why you need to visit this brewery. When founders Nico Freccia and Shaun O'Sullivan learned about the rich history of breweries in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th Century - and how these civic meeting places were shut down during Prohibition - they wanted to celebrate the amendment that brought the breweries back. And that engaging civic atmosphere is what you'll find at 21st Amendment Brewery, a lively crowd of locals and visitors eager to discuss the events of the days - or the latest Giants game - over a fantastic beer, like their popular "Brew Free or Die!" IPA.

Recommended for Breweries because: 21st Amendment Brewery has become an essential part of the energetic SOMA district of San Francisco.

Tom's expert tip: Perfect spot before - and after - a Giants baseball game.

Read more about 21st Amendment Brewery and Restaurant →


Magnolia Pub & Brewery
Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy


There's no better place for people watching in San Francisco than the Haight-Ashbury, where hippies with flowers in their hair and all kinds of eccentrics roam the fabled street. And there may not be a better place to catch the show than at a street-side table at Magnolia Pub and Brewery, a beloved institution started by Founder/Brewmaster Dave McLean in 1997. Aside from its fantastic and imaginative beers - like the "1919 IPA," a collaboration with another beloved institution, Tosca Cafe - Magnolia elevates "pub grub" into something really extraordinary, like its irresistible "Devils on Horseback" starter that has to be tasted to be believed.

Recommended for Breweries because: A visit to the historic Haight-Ashbury district isn't complete without a beer at Magnolia.

Tom's expert tip: Check out Magnolia's Smokestack restaurant, too, a "BBQ restaurant meets beer hall meets whiskey bar," that opened in 2014.

Read more about Magnolia Pub & Brewery →


San Francisco Brewing Co.
Photo courtesy of San Francisco Brewing


Described as both a "family affair and a labor of love," the warm and celebratory spirit of San Francisco Brewing Co. is evident as soon as you walk through the door. For tourists, it's conveniently located within the exciting confines of Ghirardelli Square, chocolate and fun central for those visiting from out-of-town. For locals, the family management team of the Leavy's grounds the whole operation in an informed and enthusiastic Bay Area tradition. And - for everybody - their thoughtfully crafted beers and bar menu complimenting these tasty drafts are growing in popularity each and every day. For a new brewery that's grounded in San Francisco traditions but placed in the international, vibrant scene of Ghirardelli Square, check out San Francisco Brewing Co. today.

Recommended for Breweries because: San Francisco Brewing Co. epitomizes the grass-roots, local craft brewing scene that has swept across the Bay Area.

Tom's expert tip: San Francisco Brewery Co. brings beer to the chocolate scene of Ghirardelli Square. Double-yum.

Read more about San Francisco Brewing Co. →


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Meet Tom Molanphy

The only thing that Tom Molanphy loves more than the food, art, music, and culture of San Francisco is sharing it with others. San Francisco never gets old for Tom.

Tom has lived in the San...  More About Tom

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