Craft Beer Report: The Latest San Francisco Trends

The brew drinker's guide to the local beer scene

Bay Area brewers proudly put their own twist on craft beer trends. Here, four of the top tendencies to look out for.

 (©Steins Beer Garden)

Beer Gardens

For a leisurely outdoor sipping session, head to the Bavarian inspired Brotzeit Lokal in Oakland. The waterfront restaurant and beer garden serves sizzling house-made sausages and hard-to-come-by German beers, plus some California craft selections. Nearby, Berkeley’s Moxy Beer Garden also offers alfresco seating, while Biergarten, in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley, goes traditional with big steins and bar food. The beer garden at Zeitgeist remains one of the city’s liveliest, with affordable eats and more than 40 draft beers.

 

Session Beers

To sample the Bay Area’s take on session beers, which promise big, balanced flavor while keeping alcohol in check (typically 3 to 5 percent alcohol by volume), reach for 21st Amendment’s Bitter American or seasonal offerings like Alpha Session by Drake’s Brewing and Lagunitas Brewing Company’s DayTime IPA.

 

Farm-to-Glass

Social Kitchen & Brewery, Calicraft Brewing Co. and others partner with regional growers to source surprising brewing ingredients. Almanac Beer Co. built its reputation on farm-to-bottle beers made with locally harvested heirloom pumpkins, honey, ginger root, buddha’s hand citron and more, while Anchor Brewing folded a West Coast syrup into its Big Leaf Maple Autumn Red. “It’s all about opening the bottle and having a taste of that season,” says Brian Stechschulte of the San Francisco Brewers Guild.

 

Contract Brewing

Five San Francisco Brewers Guild members, including Pine Street Brewery and Headlands Brewing Company, operate as contract brewers. That means the beers are crafted on others’ equipment. Some upstarts use contract brewing as a steppingstone to establishing their own brewery; others, known as gypsy brewers, embrace the flexibility of working out of different facilities. “For the average consumer, it means more options and more variety,” says Stechschulte.