San Francisco Beer Week kicks off on Jan. 22 with 112 Northern California brewers—40 more than last year—tapping at least 300 of the area’s best brews. On Jan. 11, the San Francisco Brewers Guild held a media preview event at ThirstyBear Brewing Co. to showcase some of the delicious beer that will be available during next week’s event. As I sipped my way through the evening, I found at least five San Francisco breweries that not only offer beer tastings for groups, but can also double as event venues.
- Magnolia Brewing Co.: This brewing company has served up beers for more than 16 years in its prime location on Haight Street, but it also opened a second location in the Dogpatch neighborhood in spring 2014. Dubbed Smokestack restaurant, this second Magnolia Brewing mecca dishes out barbecue specialties made from locally sourced meats, and its 20-beer tap pours only Magnolia beers. Luckily for groups, the modern, industrial facility makes up more than 10,000 sf of space and features wooden, communal tables, ideal for networking.
- Black Sands Brewery: Opened this past summer in Lower Haight, this brewery has a very neighborhood feel to it, perfect for groups of about 50 to 60. Several black stools provide a sleek contrast to the long, white bar top and expansive white walls—all of which create a transparent feel that the owners want visitors to notice. After all, these brewers focus on beer education so much that they give out their brew recipes in hopes of inspiring customers to make their own beer with the homebrew equipment and supplies they sell next door. Head brewer Cole Emde even teaches group classes for about 12 people right out of the space.
- Barrel Head Brewhouse: This Nopa neighborhood brewery opened in March 2014 with floor-to-ceiling windows. Its upper mezzanine area is ideal for events up to 65 people, while the space is also available for a complete buyout. Attendees will want to taste the Pumpkin in a Pear Tree Belgian Ale, which perfectly blends pumpkin and pear flavors for a taste of fall alongside delicious dishes such as vegetarian risotto or pulled pork stuffed naan.
- Social Kitchen & Brewery: The only brewpub in the Inner Sunset neighborhood, this brewery just won a Gold Medal for its Mr. Kite’s Pale Ale at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Attendees won’t want to miss the beer’s notes of nuts, honeys, flowers, oranges and berries. Apart from the brewpub’s delicious beers, it also offers an extensive menu ranging from sandwiches and burgers to fried chicken and beef short ribs. The restaurant’s mezzanine has space for about 60 people, or the restaurant can do full buyouts.
- Local Brewing Co.: Groups can finally taste Local Brewing Co.’s brews from the source at the company’s new SOMA location, which opened this past summer. This warehouse-style brewery brings the production and brewpub experiences together so that customers can provide feedback to the brewers and even ask questions about the beer they’re drinking. In fact, every batch of beer created only produces 20 kegs, which means the beer is fresh and can be crafted to accommodate feedback into the next production cycle. The brewery offers a laidback vibe, with 16 beers on tap, and can host events for about 100 people as well as tastings for smaller groups of about 30 to 50.