The grand-daddy of west coast beer -- and according to some, all of craft beer -- is a San Francisco beer, but have the younger breweries passed Anchor Steam by? There's a vibrant brewing community in the bay area, and some "big smalls" in the city are nationally recognized. Using this list of San Francisco breweries, I set up a custom leaderboard. You'll soon (very soon!) be able to do this yourself on our leaderboards, and use the URL to share your leaderboard.
For the very now, though, your top 10 San Francisco craft beers, sorted by Beers Above Replacement:
|1||Farmer’s Reserve No. 3||American Wild Ale||Almanac Beer Co.||6||0.26||3.6|
|2||Anchor California Lager||Golden Lager||Anchor Brewing Company||4.9||0.45||3.48|
|3||Brew Free! or Die IPA||American IPA||21st Amendment Brewery||7||0.28||3.42|
|4||Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine||American Barleywine||Almanac Beer Co.||12||0.38||3.35|
|5||Hell or High Watermelon||Fruit Beer||21st Amendment Brewery||4.9||0.31||3.29|
|6||Hop Crisis||Imperial / Double IPA||21st Amendment Brewery||9.7||0.23||3.17|
|7||Bitter American||American Pale Ale||21st Amendment Brewery||4.4||0.28||2.94|
|8||Barrel Noir||Belgian Strong Dark Ale||Almanac Beer Co.||10||0.28||2.74|
|9||Vendetta IPA||American IPA||Speakeasy Ales and Lagers||7.6||0.28||2.54|
|10||Anchor Steam Beer||California Common||Anchor Brewing Company||4.9||0.21||2.42|
Almanac is a strong contender for San Francisco's best, and they brew in San Jose in Hermitage's brewery. No matter, they're based in the city and there might be a tasting room in the city shortly. And obviously, they make some great beers. Known a little more for their "farm fresh" philosophy, it's nevertheless their sours and barrel-aged beers that do the best at the top of the San Francisco leaderboard.
But a brewery is also only as good as the worst beer you've had of theirs. And the Almanac Honey Saison was worst in our sample, as you can see in the full leaderboard at the end of the piece. If that was your introduction to the brewery, you might never drink their Farmer's Reserves, which would be a shame.
So perhaps it's 21st Amendment. It's probably the first brewery that comes to mind when you think of innovative craft brewing in San Francisco. Their Hell or High Watermelon and Brew Free or Die are distributed beyond the bay area and are obviously well-regarded. A BAR of three belongs to an above-average beer that can taste like an all-star in the right situations.
Since BAR is tied to the number of check-ins, it's a counting stat in effect. And since BAR gives credit to score in beer style more heavily than number of checkins, this is not a crazy idea: let's add up the BARSs for the different breweries in San Francisco and see who comes out on top?
|21st Amendment Brewery||17.46|
|Anchor Brewing Company||15.54|
|Almanac Beer Co.||13.31|
|Speakeasy Ales and Lagers||4.04|
|Magnolia Pub and Brewery||1.26|
|Pacific Brewing Laboratory||-0.47|
|MateVeza Brewing Co.||-0.73|
|Triple Voodoo Brewing||-1.72|
|ThirstyBear Brewing Company||-5.63|
And so we have it. By having a high number of excellent beers, and good distribution, 21st Amendment Brewery wins the battle for San Francisco. Anchor Steam, the giant of the craft beer scene and one of the very first American microbreweries, rides the score of its top two beers to one-third of their overall total score, and that seems about right. Speakeasy is more loved than hated, but maybe more liked than loved. Magnolia does well in some styles that were not so common -- if you sort by wOBAR over BAR, the unweighted numbers push Magnolia's Kalifornia Kolsch to thirteenth, and their English Bitter up to 20th, while keeping their IPA around 15th. That puts them comfortably above replacement.
There are some good breweries at the bottom of this list. Triple Voodoo's Inception Belgian Tripel is nice, MateVeza's Yuerba Mate IPA is at least interesting and could be a positive beer if it finds a few more fans, and Pacific Brewing Squid Ink Black IPA is firmly on more than a few wish lists.
But if you're looking for the best overall collection of San Francisco craft brews in one place, there's a bar right near the ballpark that'll serve your needs. All while celebrating the amendment that repealed prohibition!