Though the Bay Area may be better known for its classic homegrown cocktails (think Irish Coffee and Pisco Punch), for more than 50 years San Francisco breweries have been at the center of the craft beer revolution. Following in the footsteps of small-batch pioneer Anchor Brewing, dozens of excellent independent breweries now grace SF, Oakland, Berkeley and other regions of the Bay. Taste everything from experimental milkshake IPAs to smokey pilsners to breakfast-cereal and maple syrup stouts at the 10 best San Francisco breweries.
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Best San Francisco breweries
Fort Point Beer Company takes inspiration from its Presidio setting to produce three staple brews: The KSA Kölsch-style ale, the Westfalia Nuremberg red ale and the Park hoppy wheat. Brothers and cofounders Tyler and Justin Catalana, along with head brewer Mike Schnebeck, have grown the brand from hyperlocal to a major California craftbrew player producing approachable quality beers with relatively low alcohol by volume (ABV). Whatever your style of choice, Fort Point's brews will pair equally well with an upscale meal or a football game.
Oakland's Novel Brewing Co takes a literary approach to craft beer in their cozy, industrial-chic homage to books and booze. With 15 beers on tap at any one time, ranging from barrell-aged Imperial stouts brewed with TCHO chocolate nibs and habanero chiles to cleverly named brews like the hazy Dust Jacket IPA and The Book Was Better Belgian-style pale ale. Borrow a book from the communal shelf for a quiet evening of solitary sipping or make some new friends at a regular game night or book swap.
At this bright, brick-walled taproom, the beer ranges from juicy and aromatic to deep and malty. IPAs are beloved at Cellarmaker, and there are always several on tap including more experimental brews like Neapolitan Pillow Fight, a double milkshake IPA made with Madagascar vanilla, strawberry, organic marshmallow creme and Cru cacao. Though their original SoMa brewery is food free, their recently opened Mission extension, the Cellarmaker House of Pizza (3193 Mission St), serves several house-brewed styles that pair perfectly with classic pies and sides.
Since opening its original Berkeley taproom in 2015, Fieldwork has become something of a household name, with locations in Berkeley, Napa, San Mateo, Monterey, Sacramento and soon, San Ramon. Fieldwork produces more than 200 beers in just about every style, including the ever-popular Chocolate Thunder God imperial milk stout and Destination Unknown double IPA. The taps at each location change regularly and include stations for filling growlers and 32-ounce cans for day-drinking on the go.
The Rare Barrel is ground zero for smooth, drinkable sour beers in the East Bay. Behind the scenes, the brewery painstakingly ages hundreds of barrels for maximum lip-puckering acidity, with seasonal flavors like the Mad Plum or Outlaw Bound (made with prickly pear and lime zest). At their Berkeley tasting room Thursday through Sunday you'll also find guest beers, wine, cider and dishes like smoked potatoes or rye and kimchee dumplings.
At this breezy, laid-back Mission spot, brewmaster Paul Duatschek crafts some of the city's best beer. You'll find classic styles here, as well as a bit of experimentation like a kolsch smoked with Peachwood. Catch a game on TV from a seat at the wooden bar or post up by the pinball machine with a pint of your favorite lager.
Immediately upon opening back in 2016, Temescal Brewing earned itself a strong cult following for its hoppy ales and easy drinking pilsners. With a sunny outdoor beer garden lined with greenery and a cozy, color-drenched pink and yellow interior, this craft brewery is a great selection no matter the weather. Inside or out, a rotating selection of food trucks will keep your belly full as you taste seasonal styles like the Purple Passion, a blonde ale brewed with blueberry and passionfruit.
In Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, Ale Industries serves dank and sessionable beers (like the Uncle Jesse), crisp and light beers (like the Beast Oakland) and seasonal offerings like the Cherry Kush brewed with California bing cherries. The city's oldest and largest brewery also hosts a weekly Wednesday trivia night, as well as comedy, live music and Arts and Drafts night, complete with adult coloring. Pro-tip: If you can't make it in on a pop-up restaurant night, you can bring in outside food to complement your favorite lagers and ales.
Few beers are as refreshing as those at Almanac Beer Co., known for its saison beers, farm-to-barrel brewing technique and use of fresh fruits (such as pluots and strawberries) sourced from regional family-run farms. Their new 30,000 square foot brewery and taproom in Alameda features an indoor beer hall, a beer garden overlooking the bay and rotating food trucks.
Seven Stills is known not just for its craft beer, but for the liquor they distill from it (think hoppy double IPA whiskey and chocolatey oatmeal stout spirits). At their flagship location in Bayview, you'll find live music, DJs and comedy nights while the brand new Mission Bay location (100 Hooper St) offers a dog-friendly beer garden. At their third location in the Outer Sunset (3645 Lawton St.), hard agua frescas and Mexican nibbles like nachos and quesadillas are served alongside the on-tap selections.