San Francisco and the entire Bay Area have been having a frantic and belated craft brewing renaissance the past two years, long after the first wave swept through fellow west coast cities San Diego, Portland, and Seattle. Perhaps it was because the city cherishes beloved Anchor Brewing as the symbol of the city’s beer culture, and the brews (and wines) from north of the city are so impressive (Russian River Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing).
Now the city has Magnolia Brewing and 21st Amendment, both boasting terrific brewpubs with the brews. Speakeasy may actually have the most exciting portfolio of beers and now, a slew of start up breweries are the darlings of the city (Pacific Brewing Lab, Almanac). However, the newest brewer with a brewpub? That would be Southern Pacific, courtesy of brew master Andy French and named for the old railroad that used to run nearby on Harrison Street.The pub itself is nothing short of spectacular (and colder inside than the reliably chilly San Francisco weather outside). Located on the outer skirts of the Mission at the end of a small alley by a school (interesting for a brew pub), the outside front patio feels more fraternity party, while the two story bar-restaurant inside is all about absorbing the grand, airy design of the old industrial warehouse by Boor Bridges Architecture (the same firm that created the city’s design coffeehouse masterpiece, Sightglass). The second level bar is much more civilized than downstairs.
So, the design is superb outside of the lack of heating. How about the beers? Unfortunately, numerous ones faltered: a bland California Blonde, a decent IPA with few hoppy notes, a somewhat nondescript Pale Ale, a Belgian Wit on par with Blue Moon sans orange.
I appreciated a Bourbon barrel aged Bastonge Blonde for the taste effect of the liquor, but the beer itself was not notable.
However, the Deep Amber ale certainly was notable. A nose of smoke and espresso, along with a mahogany body greet you, darker and denser than any amber I know. Really, a deep amber must be much closer to a porter than to an amber. No problem. The body is smooth and even refreshing, with a slight head adding cream notes, avoiding any hints of being heavy. There are no caramel notes to make this seem at all like a Scotch ale, though it boasts many character notes of one. Ultimately it’s the hints of smoke, with a little hickory and cacao that shine brilliantly here.
Of course you have to try the house made brews at Southern Pacific. But, don’t skimp on the guest beers either, especially if the sterling Tricerahops Double IPA from Ninkasi in Eugene, Oregon is on draught.
It might not be a genre yet, but after a taste of Deep Amber, it may soon be the next darling of craft brewers. I’ll hop on the train to go to Southern Pacific for a taste.