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Bay Area Bites Guide to the Best Spots to Drink Beer This Summer

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A beer sampling (Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr)

Summer is finally here and what better way to enjoy the sun and warm weather than with a cool beer sipped on a lovely garden patio?

Fortunately, the Bay Area brewing scene is booming, with local craft breweries and taprooms popping up all over. If you want to get an in-depth look at the brewing trends right now, listen to the KQED Forum discussion. If you just want to get to drinking, then check out our list of some of the best beer spots in the city, East Bay, South Bay, and North Bay (broadly speaking, geographically).

And, no, we were not able to include everywhere that has great beer. If we missed your favorite spot, let us know in the comments.

Biergarten in San San Francisco
Biergarten in San San Francisco (Markus Spiering)

San Francisco:

  • The Beach Chalet (Golden Gate Park): Yes, it's primarily known as a tourist destination. But the Beach Chalet has its own brewery. And you can sip a beer in the backyard park garden, with the ocean breeze blowing through.
  • Zeitgeist (Mission): 40 beers on tap, an outdoor beer garden with picnic tables. Sure, it's right next to the freeway, but it's a San Francisco classic.
  • Monk's Kettle (Mission): It bills itself as your neighborhood tavern, but slightly fancier. There are daily food specials, made with whatever the local ingredients of the day are. If you're really here for the drinks, there are 28 taps, a cask engine, and over 100 bottles -- mostly local and Belgian style beers.
  • El Rio (Mission): This cash-only dive, is a staple of San Francisco gay bars. Join in the party in the overgrown quirky backyard patio, play pool or salsa dance. Get there early on Fridays for free oysters.
  • Wild Side West (Bernal Heights): Wild Side West has been serving up beer for the LGBT community in its backyard since 1962 -- making it one of the city's original beergardens.
  • Biergarten (Hayes Valley): Biergarten is the grandaddy of beer gardens in the city. Beer, brats, picnic tables, and blankets to ward off the chill.
  • Golden Gate Taproom (Union Square): A relatively new addition to the city scene, Golden Gate Taproom has over 100 beers and games like shuffleboard, foosball, and skeeball. There are also lots of TVs, if sports are your thing.
  • Fat Angel (Western Addition): A connoisser's spot, Fat Angel Food & Libation has constantly changing taps, a long list of unique bottles, and wine and cocktails if you get tired of beer. Check the calendar for special events, like tap takeovers from local breweries.
  • The Ramp (Mission Bay): San Francisco is, after all, a city on the water, and if you want to enjoy your drinks while admiring that view and some oysters, then The Ramp is the spot for you.
  • Sparrow Bar and Kitchen (Upper Haight): Sparrow is a high-brow alternative to the classic beer garden, with local food and drinks.
  • Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery (Upper Haight): Considered one of the best craft breweries in the city, Magnolia serves 20 of its beers daily.
  • Southern Pacific Brewing Company (Mission): In a converted warehouse, Southern Pacific has created a large, open, light-filled space that serves up its barrels, plus unique guest brewers.
  • Thirsty Bear Brewing Company (SoMa): On the edge of the financial district, Thirsty Bear is a popular spot to grab a drink and a bite after work. One of the oldest of the breweries in the city, it typically has 10 of its beers on tap -- meant to be paired with the tapas they serve up.
  • Speakeasy Ales & Lagers (India's Basin): Speakeasy can feel like, well, a speakeasy -- a secret that not everyone travels down to.  There's a rotating list of beers available by flight, growler or bottle. And you can take a tour of the brewery. [CLOSED] news about Speakeasy
  • Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company (Outer Sunset): It only opened a bit over a year ago, but Sunset Reservoir has become popular for its range of distinct beers: stouts to sours. There are also shared plates and sandwiches, and brunch on weekends so you can start drinking early.
The bar at Drake's
The bar at Drake's (Shelby Pope)

East Bay:

  • Lost & Found (Oakland): A beer garden with 20 beers on draft, an eclectic menu of small and medium plates, with things like deviled eggs and tacos, and an outdoor patio with a ping-pong table and bean bag toss.
  • Rosamunde (Oakland): First and foremost, it's about the sausage. But also, the 16 craft beers on tap that you can drink on the sidewalk patio or inside.
  • Lake Chalet (Oakland): Sister to the Beach Chalet in San Francisco, Lake Chalet is primarily about sitting on the dock, taking in the views of Lake Merritt. And drinking one of the restaurant's own beers on draft.
  • Telegraph (Oakland): Local art, pop-up shops, and housemade sausages, sandwiches, and burgers -- all to be enjoyed in the outdoor picnic tables. Of course, don't forget one of the local draft or bottled beers, or kombucha.
  • The Trappist (Oakland): If you want hard to find specialty beers, particularly those from Belgium, then the Trappist is the place to go.
  • Beer Revolution (Oakland): Beer Revolution is the true beer aficionado's spot, with 50 taps and hundreds of bottle options. Grab food from one of the neighboring spots.
  • Drake's Dealership (Oakland): While Drake's brewhouse and taproom is in San Leandro, its massive outdoor beer garden and restaurant opened in Oakland last year. It has outdoor seating with live music, 32 taps, a growler station, and a wood-fire pizza oven.
  • Brotzeit Lokal (Oakland): The waterfront beer garden has a rotating list of German and U.S. craft beers. Try the brats or jalapeño chicken. And be sure to get your beer in a boot.
  • Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon (Oakland): The legendary bar is a designated historic landmark -- a badge you earn after pouring drinks since the late 1800s. Sit inside and be amazed by the history, or sit outside on the patio facing the water.
  • Faction Brewing (Alameda): Started as a brewhouse in an old airplane hangar, Faction now has a tasting room, a patio that looks out over the San Francisco skyline, and rotating food trucks.
  • Westbrae Beer Garden (Berkeley): Outdoor beer garden with California beers, ciders, wine, and house-made sangria. Guest food trucks on weekends and a Latin American menu always.
  • Jupiter (Berkeley): In an old livery stable from the 1890s, Jupiter serves 12 house and 20 regional craft beers. There's also a two-story beer garden, with fire pit, and pizza.
  • Prizefighter (Emeryville): Voted one of the best bars in America by Esquire last year, Prizefighter has plenty of beer on tap, but it's really about their top-end cocktails and spirits.
  • Tap 25 (Livermore): The 25 in the name comes from the 25 rotating beers on tap. There is also a large list of bottles on the menu. Sit outside in the brick courtyard and enjoy the live music while you drink your beer.
Liquid Bread taps
Liquid Bread taps (Jeff Cianci)

South Bay

  • Teske's Germania (San Jose): A classic German restaurant and beer garden in the heart of San Jose.
  • Market Beer Company (San Jose): Inside the San Pedro Square Market, there's plenty of nearby food options. But then try and pick just one beer from the Market Beer Company, especially if there's a guest tap takeover.
  • Steins Beer Garden (Mountain View): There are 16 house staple beers and 15 rotating taps, local beers and from around the world, which should be plenty for you to work through.
  • Bierhaus (Mountain View): Small plates, burgers, and an outdoor beer garden with German and European beers (and a few American craft brews).
  • El Toro Brewing Company (Morgan Hill): This is your old-fashioned, classic brewpub, with wood-fired pizzas and cheesesteak sandwiches -- and really good beer. There are 25 beers on tap, primarily their own award-winning ones.
  • Liquid Bread (Campbell): There are more than 20 taps and a large fridge of bottles. But don't miss out on the high-end and unique food. try the doughnut bread pudding.
  • Half Moon Bay Brewing Company (Half Moon Bay): Being right near Half Moon Bay's famous beaches and surfing spots probably makes the beers taste better. It at least makes for a better day and viewing spot from their patio.
  • Gourmet Haus Staudt (Redwood City): In the back of a German specialty store, the beer garden serves up authentic beers, sausages, and pretzels. Be warned, though: this is not a place for late night owls.
Russian River Brewing tasting sampler
Russian River Brewing tasting sampler (George Ruiz)

North Bay

  • Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa): If you make the trip north, you'll definitely want to visit Russian River's brewpub. The Northern California brewery is a regional favorite and it serves up its fresh beers with some pub snacks.
  • Lagunitas Taproom (Petaluma): Take a tour of the brewery and then taste for yourself.
  • Marin Brewing Company (Larkspur): Situated right across from the Golden Gate Ferry, Marin Brew Co for after work or weekend drinks and burgers. Sit on the patio and enjoy the music.
  • Beerworks (Mill Valley): It's a small restaurant, specializing in local entrees that change regularly. But the beer list is massive, with samplings from all over the world mixed with regional hard-to-find brews.
  • Bar Bocce (Sausalito): You can, literally, paddle up to the beach in the back of Bar Bocce, pull your boat (or board) ashore, and enjoy some drinks on the patio. Try the pizzas with your local craft beer.



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