Thirsty Bear Brewing Company
661 Howard St
San Francisco, California
Visited in August and September, 2007
Thirsty Bear was the first brewpub I ever went to where I was completely blown away by the beer. They had an ESB on nitro that was outstanding. In fact, every beer I tried was outstanding. However, at the time, I was going to a lot of these places by myself. I didn’t yet quite comprehend the idea of tapas, so their menu really pissed me off. There was almost no full-plate meals and I let that cloud my judgment in my original review. But looking back, the food was outstanding as well – especially the seafood paella – and this establishment deserves to be on the top tier of brewpubs. It was my favorite in the Bay Area by far.
Located in the heart of downtown San Francisco, this is easily one of the most unique brewpubs I’ve ever been to. (Hmmm… seems like a common trend in San Francisco. See Magnolia.) It is unique because it’s a Spanish brewpub. It’s meant to be very upscale, with light tones, subtle lighting, and the pool tables and dart boards reserved for upstairs. On Friday nights the place features a Spanish musician and dancers, which is unique, but I’m not sure it belongs in a brewpub. All in all, I felt the place tried to be something it shouldn’t have been. Or maybe it’s just a bit deuschy.
Being a Spanish restaurant, the main fare are Tapas, small appetizers meant to be ordered in bunches by a group. While good, sometimes I just want a nice big dinner to go with my brew. To satisfy this group of people, they do serve paella and lamb burgers, both of which are excellent, but overpriced.
As for the beer, three words… OH MY GOD! This place has far and away the best beers of any brewpub I’ve ever been to. There are several which I am tempted to put on my all-time top 10 list, but that wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the brewpubs, now would it? In short, the nitrogen-poured Meyer ESB is my favorite of all time. The Black Bear Lager, and Golden Vanilla Ale (which has just a hint of vanilla), and Kozlov Stout could each also easily make the list themselves. So the food is a bit on the skimpy side, but you can easily make up for it with mass quantities of amazing beer!