Sayre Piotrkowski is the last word in beer when it comes to local San Francisco breweries, bottle shops, and bars. If you want to experience the best beer in SF, follow Sayre's famous "Swagger Stagger" day of drinking where he will take you to all of the best spots to try unique and delicious brews. The Swagger Stagger is for true beer aficionados who want to experience some of the best beer in the city. This ultimate day of drinking and debauchery (ok maybe just drinking) will show you not only some amazing breweries, bars, and bottle shops, but some great food, and a local side of San Francisco culture. Just remember to pace yourself.
Start at — The Toronado — This is San Francisco's oldest and most established craft beer landmark. Dave Keane opened this place a quarter-century ago and in it he created the prototype for the contemporary American Craft Beer Bar. It would not be right for a survey of beer in San Francisco to begin anywhere else. Luckily the Toronado opens at 11:30 AM.
From there it is a nice long walk (both literally and figuratively) to — The Monk's Kettle — The walk will help to build your appetite, which is a good thing as Monk's offers solid high-end gastropub fare highlighted by one of the city's most celebrated burgers. Monk's is the complete opposite end of the beer bar spectrum from Toronado. Things will be about 50% more expensive here than at the Toronado; however, unlike its forebearer, Monk's is clean, the staff is eager to please, and the clientele is decidedly less anti-social.
Now that you are fed, and perhaps a touch tipsy, it is time to take the training wheels off and visit — The City Beer Store and Cellarmaker Brewing Company — These two establishments are within a block of one another in SOMA section of the city. If there is one place in all of the city for someone go to start tasting the best beers on the planet, CBS would be it. City Beer's proprietors Craig and Beth Whalen, have maintained this bottle shop and tasting room for several years, both the draft and bottle selections are excellently curated.
Duck around the corner from CBS and you will find Cellarmaker Brewing Company, San Francisco's most extraordinary new brewery in years. Cellarmaker is really raising the bar when it comes to hoppy beer. These guys really repeat a specific recipe but they consistently produce aromatic pale ales, IPAs and DIPAs with exotic hop varietals that are lean, bright and packed with abundant hop flavor and aroma. Tim, the Cellarmaker brewmaster has a knack for muting the fermentation character of his ales that really serves to bring the aromas of the various hop varietals to the forefront. If you miss out on having a brewery-fresh IPA while in the Bay Area, you have failed as a beer-lover.
After the one-two punch of Cellarmaker and CBS you will need a brisk sobering stroll. 21st Amendment is just about the perfect distance. I know what your thinking... You've had 21st Amendment beers before, they are everywhere, why would I need to come to SF to taste them? Well here is the thing, the 21st Amendment beer that gets packaged and distributed is not actually brewed here. It is contract brewed in the midwest. However, most of the beer poured at the 21st Amendment brewpub is actually still made on the small humble system that birthed the monster that 21st Amendment has become. Make sure and treat yourself to a brewery-fresh pint here.
Just a stumble from 21st Amendment you will find The Public House. This is the beer hall owned by famed chef Traci Des Jardins. It is located inside the gorgeous waterfront home of the San Francisco Giants. Either hit up this place on a game-day to bask in all of that exciting mayhem, or visit when the Giants are away and have the time to really engage with what is usually quite a fine selection of beer on tap.
At this point I'd imagine you are either dead or ready to eat again. If it is the latter I'd suggest you hop aboard the T (the charming trolley looking muni trains) and ride up into the neighborhood known as "The Dogpatch." Here you will find Smokestack a BBQ joint housed inside of Magnolia Brewing Company's new production facility. The Chef at Smokestack is none other than Dennis Lee who with his brothers have made their Mission District restaurant, Namu Gaji a must among foodies. With Smokestack, Chef Lee has fused and tossed his Korean palate of flavors upon the canvas of a classic American BBQ counter. The food is just outstanding and in addition to a broad selection of brewed-on-premises English Style Ales from Magnolia, Smokestack boasts one of the city's best whiskey selections. Making this spot even more perfect is that it is open until midnight, the perfect conclusion to an entire day of basking in SF's beer culture.
*The Monk’s Kettle
*The Public House