Summer's coming to an end (or just getting started here in SF), so let's toast to the season. Where better than at one of the Bay Area's stellar beer bars? Our 10 favorites sling local brews and foreign rarities. Bottoms up:
① Toronado in Lower Haight
Sure, the bartenders have 'tude, the bathrooms smell and the crowd is beyond tolerable on weekends. But the 45-plus beer selection (and low prices) at this Lower Haight institution is unbeatable, from rare Belgians to local brews (Russian River, Almanac, Half Moon Bay). If you can, come during the day on a weekday and bring cash.
② Church Key in North Beach
This little gem of a bar on the frat row of Grant Street still feels like a well-kept secret—marked only by a sign with a lit-up key, it's a neighborhood joint with a constantly changing and well-curated draft list (each $7) and an encyclopedic bottle selection. Don't miss Wednesday nights when they spin deep soul cuts on vinyl.
③ Mikkeller Bar in the Tenderloin
A gleaming palace of excellent beer, Mikkeller slings its own excellent drafts (Tenderloin Wit, Pale and IPA are a few of its offerings), a wide selection of others and has a great food menu of snacks like salt and pepper fries with vinegar mayo ($6). Sample the goods in the semisecret sours-only room downstairs if you can.
④ Monk's Kettle & Abbot's Cellar in the Mission
Monk's and Abbot's are both incredible beer destinations, and since they're in the same family, we're cheating and including them both. Both have knowledgeable servers, once-in-a-lifetime drafts and killer food. Pick your pleasure at the chic and airy Abbot's (complete with a chef's counter) or cozy Monk's (if you can get in—though we hear they're expanding with a soon-to-open patio).
⑤ Zeitgeist in the Mission
Lest you think Zeitgeist is just a divey outdoor drinking destination where smoking of all kinds goes unpunished, take a look at its extensive and impressive draft beer list—almost all of which is available by the pitcher. Fair warning: Drinking Total Domination IPA by the pitcher ($19) is dangerous, if delicious.
⑥ The Sycamore in the Mission
Another unostentatious dive with an impressive draft selection, we love the Sycamore for its neighborhood feel, its back patio and, oh yeah, its beer. Look out for tap takeovers and stop by for Bingo Night whenever possible.
⑦ City Beer Store in SoMA
In addition to being able to sample excellent beers on draft, such as Stone Brewing Company's Cali-Belgique, aged in red wine barrels ($8), and in the bottle, City Beer Store is, yes, a store, meaning you can take the goods home for further enjoyment. Snacks from Pinkie's down the street are a worthy pairing, too.
⑧ Beer Revolution in Jack London Square, Oakland
Beer Revolution is high on every Bay Area beer lover's list, and for good reason: 50 drafts, hundreds of bottles, and tons of events celebrating local brew stars large and small. Bike over and while away an afternoon or evening at a table out front.
⑨ Brotzeit Lokal in East Oakland
Our favorite Bay Area biergarten these days, Brotzeit Lokal has outdoor seating on the waterfront, and a delicious selection of brews from Germany, Belgium and the U.S. Ask for recommendations, and follow the bar on social media for updates on seasonal drafts, such as Rodenbach Grand Cru ($9).
⑩ The Trappist in Old Oakland
Sample Belgian and American brews, ranging from Allagash to Evil Twin to Petrus, from the front and back bar, and pair with some tasty cheese and charcuterie. Bonus: You can also sample and buy bottles to go at Trappist Provisions in Rockridge.
Please check your inbox to verify your email address.