1. Laughing Monk
2. Monk’s Kettle
3. Pond Farm Brewing
When Trevor and Stephanie Martens set out to open Pond Farm Brewing Company in San Rafael, they sought out the neighbors for extended consultations about what would best fit the needs of the family-oriented community. The result is the ultimate local hangout were regulars convene, tots in tow, to try the latest releases and local bands play every Sunday afternoon. The kitchen continues the family-friendly vibe, with $6 grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, and goldfish alongside a selection of more adult-oriented pub fare. Hazy IPAs are among Pond Farm’s numerous specialties, which also include a crisp, fresh San Rafael Lager, a rich, chocolatey Imperial Mast dark lager, and Surreal Appeal golden ale. And, in a rare and welcome move for the gluten-intolerant, they offer a house-made hard seltzer as well.
4. Local Brewing
Hometown Heroes Local Brewing may lack a taproom during their temporary closure following a disastrous fire, but they continue to be a major player in the local craft brewing community. Head brewer and co-founder Regan Long holds degrees in physics and oceanography and her scientific approach shows in her technique, honed over many years as a home brewer in her home state of Oregon. The roster features a rotating selection of Local Brewing’s signature small batch beers like Bluxome Black Lager, named for the taproom’s address, and Baycation Tropical Blonde. During their enforced taproom hiatus, Local Brewing is collaborating with Pond Farm Brewing of San Rafael and a host of local luminaries on special release beers.
5. 21st Amendment
Also specializing in Belgian-style beers, primarily ales and stouts, 21st Amendment is above all a friendly, informal place, with a big semi-circular bar that seems to welcome strangers into an already happening party. An open kitchen continues the welcoming atmosphere; the only downside is it can get loud.
Stay at the Hotel Vitale just a few blocks away and you’ll have a pleasant stroll along the waterfront to get back to your bed.
6. Beach Chalet and Park Chalet
On the west side of the city, in fact about as far west as you can go, are the Beach Chalet and Park Chalet brewpubs, located at the westernmost end of Golden Gate Park where the dunes meet the sea. Best known for the history, architecture, and atmosphere of the buildings they’re located in, these brewpubs deserve a nod for serving a well-curated selection of handcrafted local beer as well.
Still, back to the buildings, which are worth a visit for admiration’s sake — and for the view. The Beach Chalet is located on the second floor of the old Golden Gate Park Visitors’ Center, which had sat vacant for 17 years before its rebirth, and the dining room has a jaw-dropping view of Ocean Beach. The spectacular craftsman-style building was designed by famed SF architect Willis Polk, and features restored art-deco WPA murals with scenes depicting San Francisco life was like during the 1930s. The restoration and reopening of Beach Chalet was completed in the late 1990s, so its not “news,” but the addition of the Park Chalet a couple of years ago upped the “must visit” factor, thanks to a lovely, wind-protected garden patio and massive stone fireplace. Saturday and Sunday afternoons now feature live music, ranging from jazz to funk.
Stay at the Hilton Union Square or Campton Place Taj for a central Union Square location that makes it easy to get to all the City’s most colorful neighborhoods.