San Francisco is one of the best beer cities in the world, due in no small part to its focus on craft everything and an array of top-notch beer bars. I’m flying home as I write this, and I already miss the city and its beer. One of my favorite beer spots in SF is City Beer Store in the SoMa (South of Market St.) neighborhood, an unassuming, friendly and inspired combination bar and bottle shop.
The space is half retail shop and half bar, and it’s split accordingly, with a number of jam-packed shelves and a cooler to the far left when you enter, and the bar area and a few small tables to the center and right of the entrance.
Unless it’s very busy, a friendly clerk usually greets you as you walk in. You can stop by, grab a few bottles and be on your way. Or you can sit and drink a few pints, shop around the retail space while sipping your suds or even open any of the bottles they sell and then drink them there–though they do charge a “corking fee” of up to $3 for bottles you bring over from the retail side to drink in the bar.
Behind the bar is a two-door cooler with vintage bottles, and City Beer always has an impressive lineup of aged selections. During my most recent visit, they had multiple Cantillon bottles, early vintage Russian Rivers (some in 750ml bottles, which they haven’t offered for years) a few different Bourbon County Stout variants, rare Cascade and Bruery releases and much more. The vintage bottles are a bit overpriced, but the drafts were reasonable, with most ranging between $6 and $10, depending on the beer and size of pour.
City Beer also serves many local SF and California beers, so it’s a good place to try out the local beer terroir. Unfortunately, City Beer doesn’t have a kitchen, so it’s not a great place to grub, though you can buy some snacks, such as crackers, popcorn and jerky.
The vibe at City Beer is welcoming, and the bartenders are mostly friendly and willing to answer any questions patrons have. It’s a great place to learn about the local craft beer scene, because the staff is both knowledgable and willing to converse with curious beer nerds.
City Beer Store is also one of the few places I know of in San Francisco where you can consistently find bottles of Pliny the Elder to go. I always ship beer back home to Boston when I visit San Francisco, and the bulk of it comes from City Beer. (Note: If it’s Pliny bottles you seek, be prepared to visit on a Wednesday in the early afternoon. That’s when their weekly shipments arrive, and the bottles go very quickly. Also, call first to make sure they have some. Unfortunately, they won’t hold bottles for you…at least they won’t for me, but maybe you’re cooler and/or betterlooking, and people just do nice things for you. If so, fuck you.)
If you’re in San Francisco, and you’re looking for a laid back spot to enjoy a local or rare beer, you’ll appreciate City Beer Store, which is located at 1168 Folsom St. You can learn more on the City Beer Store website.