San Francisco’s beer-spoilt citizens aren’t often left wanting in the booze choice department. The city really has a flourishing beer scene, with good local brews on tap in a significant majority of bars, as well as boasting a dozen-or-more truly first class beer hangouts. I took an (admittedly exhaustive) look at some of the best spots to get your drink on in the city in this previous post – but on a return visit last week, it turned out that there’s a new kid on the block. Enter Cellarmaker Brewing Co.
One thing that SF seems to be lacking in the beer stakes is somewhere to fill growlers. California law states that only breweries may fill up jugs of their own beer to takeaway; this is radically different to other, more growler-friendly, states (Oregon, for example) where more or less any Tom, Dick, or Harry with a booze licence can sell any draught beer to go. Petrol stations, supermarkets, bars… you name it. So, that leaves cracking SF beer establishments such as The Trappist, City Beer, and Mikkeller unable to give drinkers the option to take away beers from their mega tap selections. The dearth of actual breweries in the city-proper has left San Franciscans in search of decent tap-takeaways pretty disappointed in recent times…up until now, that is.
Well, growler fans, central SF has now got somewhere that’ll fill your glassware when you’re en route back to your condo in your Prius.
Cellarmaker has literally just opened its doors (well, shutters) at 1150 Howard Street (a very handy stroll away from City Beer). It’s a wonderful little space: nice dark wood, simple decor, and a glass wall looking through to the brand-spanking-new brewhouse in the back. It’s also got a git-big telly. Massive, so it is. It seems to play a lot of that sport that’s like rugby, but for softies. The sound wasn’t on when I was in, though, so it wasn’t obtrusive by any means.
The Cellarmaker lads have got a pretty impressive range of brews for such a small place. Eight of their beers were pouring when I rolled in there on a Saturday afternoon, and they were a pretty diverse bunch.
Everything from decent hop hits and peach sours to roasty session porters and a Grisette was on the list. Plenty to keep you entertained, that’s for certain. Obviously, I went for the full tasting flight (I was duty bound) – twenty bucks for a decent little sample of all the brews on offer? Aye, I’ll take that. As did most of the other folks in the bar, to be fair – the poor barstaff must’ve been sick to the tits of pouring teeny-tiny glasses all afternoon. Never did they show it though, the service was top notch.
So, how were the beers? Pretty damn good, all in all. Hop Slangin’ IPA (coming in at 6.1% ABV) was a personal highlight: loads of great sweet tropical fruit on the nose, full of mango and passionfruit, touch of pine in there too. Big pungent papaya juiciness comes along in the taste with some tangerine, light grapefruit and pine resin. There’s a bit of biscuity malt bringing up the rear, without dulling any of the hop-fruit-assault. Plenty of lingering resin and tangy citrus to keep you interested. And by ‘interested’, I mean ‘ordering another pint of it’.
The Dobis Pale Ale gave a big hit of dank tropical fruit and juicy tangerine; pretty crisp all-round with a nice fruity hop bite to finish. Light and sessionable – you’d bathe in this, no bother. Their Grisette, pun-aliciously-named Coquette, was lovely: a nice wheat character, matched up with a bit of fruity (slightly muddy) Belgian-esque yeastiness. Some interesting salinity in there, with touches of lemon rind and cereal. Decent for a summer’s day with the windows down in your Prius.
Peach Nightmare was odd. Wasn’t fully sold on it – a bit messed up and muddy (maybe it was just me, I’d tried a few by that point) – but its base beer, Petit Sour, showed a lot of promise. Branded as a Berliner Weisse (that oh-so-hip beer style du jour), it poured a hazy golden colour: there’s a fairly pungent bit of yeast funk on the nose, giving some stale fruitiness, a bit of lemon rind and some slightly sweet orange. More musty funk comes in the taste, as well as a good slab of fairly sharp lemon rind (and Jif lemon juice), light orange, dirty herbiness, and stale muddy notes. A clean lemon rind funk finish with a tartness-level that sourheads would probably describe as light/medium makes it pretty damn refreshing.
The darker brews Midnight Society (a 5.5% ABV Stout) and the sexily-named Batch 1 Porter (4% ABV) were both solid. Plenty of great dark chocolate stuff happening in the Porter, for sure. You’d not say no to a growler-full of that.
So, a really bloody great place that’s well-located just off Market Street. Can’t fail. Go there. Be merry, drink some decent beer, watch some namby-pamby American sport, and then grab a growler of whatever you fancy to take home with you. That’s what I’d be doing most Saturdays anyhow.