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Thirsty Bear Brewing Company
Active Beers: 17
Beer Ratings: 189
Beer Avg: 3.64
Taps: - / Bottles: -
Cask: N / Beer-to-Go: N
$$ - reasonable
[ Brewery, Bar, Eatery ]
661 Howard Street
phone: (415) 974-0905
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vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$
The alleged California, I see. Okay, I have to admit, it’s seemingly real. Everybody out here says it is, anyway. Did the pre-check in at the hotel and set out for beer. This, an easy walk and found in a strip of store and eats on 3rd. Made direct eye contact with the host station people and silently passed them by; I’s got a bar to be at...
It’s a large, cavernous space, surprising for the strip it’s in. Off to the left, a copper-like colored with silvery swirls of wet lookingness topped bar beneath laminate, and a stainless steel drain trim running its perimeter. Wood base & piping foot rail, the stretch broken by a service piece. Seating for nearly a dozen and a half on the straight piece on brown leather chairs, and seating for another 4 up front on the wrap around. A trio of upright bar towers of 3 each clustered at both ends of the bar and a sole handpump further along.
The barback is a ½ wall of glass with 2 long shelves running its length holding boozables, and offering views of fermenter tippy tops from the sunken basement brew room behind it. Below it sits a long counter with stacked glassware of all sizes and shapes, and a pair of tap towers holding 4 each on the barback pouring organic wines. Cooler space & shelved booze down underneath the bar, and growlers in a fridge at the far end. Vintaged horizontal sign pieces for each house beer and ‘certified organic’ signage running along the overhang above. I beams and pieced phat wood beam uprights along the bar, holding beer boards listing selections, OG’s, IBU’s, and ABV’s on the posts at both ends, and mounted flatscreens above.
The far wall is brick, and the other areas are painted in shades of green, beige, orange, yellow & red. Concrete floorings, a black painted ceiling with panels with spots, and a high squared skylight piece on center. Glass lampshades tracing the bar, and elongated versions of the same up front. Some cool horizontal art pieces on the big brick, curtainings, and plants in, well, planters.
2 dozen raised roundies in a row adjacent to the bar and along the far wall, some effectively sharing boothing benchings, and a few around the front bend. More seating to the rear, tiered to one side overlooking the open kitchen sunken below the stairs, and a few tucked forward the kitchen in a nook. Some 2 dozen+ tables in all back there, some of which are piecemeal plankings of color and coolness. And a secret front section curtained off (but I will not, cannot be kept out), holding a single table in the large front windows over 3rd, and a ½ dozen tables against the far wall.
Upstairs, a wraparound space with a single pool table and a pair of dartboards. A small “L” shaped bar around the bend shuttered just now with a few hightops adjacent, and a smallish event room to the rear with a dozen tables and another pool table. Cool views over the down below from uppathere.
Took in a sampler ‘cause ‘cause. 7 full time beers (Polar Bear Bohemian Pilsner, crisp, pleasant enough; Golden Vanilla, an American blonde and the nose knows first what comes, much vanilla not goodness there, no; Valencia Wheat, a Belgian wit, coriander, check, orange peel, check, it was okay; Brown Bear, an English style Brown with big maltiness, very good; Meyer ESB, caramel sweetness with nice hoppiness; Kozlov Stout, a dry irish stout on nitro, roasty, chocolatey, mmmm, quite nice; Howard Street IPA, in at 7%, nice bitterness), and a single seasonal (Winter Stave, a Golden Ale in French oak from white wine with cranberries & Brett, 6.3%, and has some, you know, nice sourness going on), guest tap (San Francisco Strong Ale, a brewer’s guild collaboration, 8.5%, has some alcohol to it, uh huh), and cask offering (21st Amendment Lord & Master, an 8.3% English Strong Ale). The Brown Bear, Meyer ESB, Kozlov Stout, Howard Street IPA, and Winter Stave were the best of ‘em. Took in shortys of the Brown Bear & Kozlov Stout on the heels of the sampler. And the aforementioned organic wines on tap, currently 3 red & 3 white, as well as a dozen bottled wine selections, mostly California & Spanish.
Today’s lunch special ($8) is a Spanish cured meat bocadillo with roasted piquillo peppers, lettuce, and aioli. It was a good sandwich, served with house pickled vegetables picked at, as I had no idea what they were beyond beige, reddish & kind of yellowlike vinegarings. I was happy to have gotten my snack on.
Oh, this is the tapas place Ben was talking about. Seems that every item on the menu has at least one word that I don’t know. Friendly people on both sides of the bar (Joetender saw some Brooklynburg things just recently). Caught a nice snack and some good beer here.
05-01-2012 17:57:04 |
More by slander
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | $$
A wide front with a recessed entryway. I was glad for its spaciousness. The m.d.s. was just inside the door and the bar, with its interesting silver and copper swirled acrylic pattern, was just beyond, on the left. Rows of high tables and chairs were right and center. The ambiance was Lynchian with the heavy curtains, the steps leading up to the lavs along with a separate bar, two pool tables, English dart boards, and the Flamenco Room, and the 1950's lounge type lamp covers. The only problem was that it too dang bright! Crap, I needed welder's goggles to sit at the bar! Ouch. My bartender was a rockabilly type with mutton-shop sideburns and a cool two-tone B & W shirt. Long line of seating aft. Brewhouse visible on left, aft of the bar.
Beers: Polar Bear Pilsner*; Golden Vanilla; Valencia Wheat; Brown Bear; Meyer ESB; Kozlou Stout; Howard St. IPA*; Bearly Legal Barley Wine; and Hibernator Doppelbock.
11-27-2009 13:33:11 |
More by woodychandler
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$
I thoroughly enjoyed the Thirsty Bear!
It's nice to find a bartender who knows his beer; will listen to what you want; and then make suggestions based on that (and not what they're interested in or know about). Additionally, I really appreciate a bartender or server who'll steer you right as far as the menu offerings go (as in "perhaps the 'blah blah' might be a better choice").
I had a "Rum Runner". It was a kind of barleywine-style ale served in a smaller glass. It was a deep chestnut brown with an off-white head, and exhibited caramelized brown sugar and some spiciness. Quite nice. Well done.
It's a good looking place (exposed brick, wood floors) with some interesting quirks, i.e. the odd orange and silver bar top. It's open and spacious and comfortable.
They offer 7 regular beers, 2 seasonals, and a cask offering.
The food is good and the service follows.
Well done all around. Worth a visit!
01-18-2011 01:37:03 |
More by NeroFiddled
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$$
This place is located close to the convention center which makes it easy to hit for lunch or a quick pint after sessions. The place has more of an upscale modern restaurant feel with very high ceilings, plenty of wood tones, lots of brick, and nicely separated areas for the bar and dining. The bar can seat about 20 or so and overlooks a few tanks behind the bar. Several hitops and some circular booths are also just off the bar.
There were 8 beers on tap during my visit - most seem to be the normal house beers except for a 15th anniversary beer that was an imperial red ale. The beers I had during my few stops here were of good quality and OK versions of the styles - and the crowd seemed to be drinking quite a variety of styles.
The food was focused on tapas, and several of the dishes were quite good like the octopus, albondingas, and empanadas. The paella was also good hearty portion. The tapas format worked well here for having beers and food with a bunch of people.
Overall this is a good place to hit for the whole food and beer experience, but don't expect any over the top beers here - they brew to fit the clientele, which I am sure focuses on local business men and women, and of course conventioneers.
10-21-2011 11:19:02 |
More by Gavage
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 3 | food: 4 | $$$
This place is pretty good. The atmosphere is slick with a long bar and many tables downstairs with some ppol tables and more seating upstairs as well. The nice 2 level warehouse/loft style suits this place nicely, although the clientele does tend to sway a little too yuppy for my liking. The quality of the food and the beer here is pretty good, but the year rounds beers can be a little boring and bland to this weather BA. Never-the-less some of the heavier winter seasonals and experimental beers turn out pretty darn good. The selection is usually pretty boring though, and this place is quite pricey...I will say that the service is great on some occasions and bad on others, so all in all i'll give it a 3 for service...as for the little plates (tapas)...they are all very good, but again pricey...a popular place with beer-lovers and non-beer lovers alike...and certainly worth a trip when you are in the SoMa district of downtown SF.
05-18-2007 04:10:31 |
More by francisweizen
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | $$
Came here about 930PM on the Sunday night of Memorial Day weekend. Another long front-to-back place. Flamenco music playing on this eve. Long bar lines the left side of the room, with brew kettles visible behind glass behind the bar. Right side lined in brick, with numerous tables scattered about, booths along the wall, and with a small stage near the middle right for musical entertainment. Somewhat dimly lit, and rather sparsely populated on this night. Besides bier they have lots of liquor here...anything you might want. Does have a yuppy-ish vibe, as earlier noted; tries to be more of an upscale place. OK, overall. Had 8x biers on tap during this visit, and I enjoyed a couple of pints of their seasonal Maibock ($5.00), served in a great German, stange-type glass. Bartender was quite pleasant, an English chap. He was a few minutes late pouring me my second Maibock, and I wasn't bothered by it, but he comped it for me. Cool. Decent place in general, though I'd hit Toronado or Zeitgeist first, personally.
atmosphere: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: n/a | $$
06-09-2005 18:07:36 |
More by Bierman9
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5
This is a very good brewpub very close to the Muscone convention center. There is a decent selection of good brews, with about half a dozen on tap at any given time. I recall the stout as being very decent. I think they have a cask one night of the week. They also serve home made sangria. As for the food, it has a Spanish theme. The tapas (appetizers) are exellent, and go very well with the beers. Try the cod cheeks!
This is a comfortable place, though a bit more of a restaurant and bar than a typical brewpub.
12-29-2002 04:00:36 |
More by UncleJimbo
vibe: 4 | quality: 2.5 | service: 3 | selection: 3.5 | $$
I found a bit more class at the thirsty bear than Im used to finding in the average brew pub. The stereo pumped Cole Porter era jazz, the tables were filled with well dressed businessmen in work attire, and the very idea of a Tapas Brew Pub seemed a touch upscale. Atmo was pleasing: high ceilings, good conversation space, large patio, multilevel, well separated bar/dining rooms, bright but well placed and uplifting lighting, etc The food looked great but I didnt try any. Service wasnt very good. My bartender seemed to know the beer and answered my questions directly but didnt offer any suggestions or elaborate much. He also seemed a bit annoyed that I was bothering him at all. He provided me with a couple of free samples (which should have been .$50 based on the menu) but did so as if it were a pother to him. Selection was mediocre. Aside from 10 or so house beers, the bar offered 3 Belgians in the bottle (Chimay and Lindemans). Quality was low. The Vaencia Wheat was a cloying disaster. The ESB was thick, heavy, and utterly unhopped. The only beer that I found at all pleasing was the Kozlov Stout on Nitro and that was just average. This place is low on my list of spots in the area but if youre walking to 21st Amendment from the BART its right on the way so you might as well stop in and check it out. Maybe if you try some food youll like it more than I did.
05-12-2006 16:58:00 |
More by DaPeculierDane
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4.5 | $$
I hosted a small business diner here. Some of co-workers were initially skeptical, but this place quickly won them over.
As described by others, this is a fairly narrow but long bar/dinning area. The upstairs contained the bathrooms, pool tables and some place for entertaining.
I was there on a Sunday evening which happens to be flamingo night! Some nice guitar playing and dancing entertained us. It really added a unique vibe and I wonder if this weekly event draws a different crowd.
For dinner, we went with a bunch of tapas dishes and some yummy seafood paella. Some of the best food I have ever had at a brewpub. Great combinations of flavors and very fresh ingredients!
The beer was fine, but it didn't blow me away. Still, very solid representatives of the styles. I had a seasonal Mai Bock and the IPA. The brewing equipment is on display behind the bar. I wish I had another chance to sample a few more.
The service was a bit slow, but very friendly. The food did come pretty quickly after we ordered..
I'm very glad I had a chance to stop by.
05-26-2005 18:16:51 |
More by Redrover
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4 | $$
Stopped in here for dinner the other night with my family and good friend, Zach.
Thirsty Bear has an atmosphere that seems to accommodate all ages. The interior is open and comfortable with modern decor. The restaurant and bar occupy the deep and narrow bottom floor, while the upstairs is (apparently) reserved for private parties - there are a few billiards tables, dart boards, and a small bar area.
Zach and I each ordered the "all beers" sampler, which included eleven different 4oz. samples. Nearly all of the beers were above average (Golden Vanilla being one exception), though none of them were special. The best of the bunch were Brown Bear, Meyer E.S.B., and Howard St. I.P.A. (Polar Bear Pilsner also deserves mention).
Our group ordered several rounds of tapas, capped off by a shared plate of steak and broccoli paella. While the tapas ranged from mediocre the good, the paella was great! On top of that, the tapas-style dining left all of us feeling satisfied, not overly full, at the end of the night.
Our waitress was very friendly and attentive, and even gave us free beer coupons at the end of the night (I think because I presented my AHA card). Even though the food and drinks weren't much to write home about, we really enjoyed our experience.
12-23-2010 19:14:05 |
More by ThreeWiseMen
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Thirsty Bear Brewing Company in San Francisco, CA