Fourth Time A Charm?

On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, we made a dash up to the City to visit the newest brewery on the San Francisco scene, Social Kitchen & Brewery.

Social Kitchen & Brewery in the Inner Sunset

Social Kitchen & Brewery is the fourth brewpub to occupy the Ninth and Irving location in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset. The original brewpub was Golden Gate Park Brewery, followed by Eldo’s Grill & Brewery and finally Wunder Brewing Company. We made it to Golden Gate and Wunder, but the one time we showed up at Eldo’s,  we were turned away at the door. They were closed for a private party.

The bar at SK&B

Many people, myself included, openly talk of a curse. In reality, the reason the previous brewpubs failed was probably more mundane. San Francisco has a plethora of options for the beer geek and the beers at the previous establishments had always been less than memorable.

Merideth and I were joined on this mini adventure by our friends Renee and Matt. Arriving just past the early evening opening time, there was already a good-sized crowd occupying the tables and bar stools on the lower level. Our foursome sat at the beginning of the bar, on both sides. This cozy arrangement seemed odd at first but it worked out well because not being in one long row, no one had to shout down the bar to the person on the other end. The only problem was the bartender was of a similar size to me. This made it difficult for him to pass behind me to get to other customers.

The modern, wood decor had changed little from our previous visit two years ago during the Wunder era. Strikingly long and narrow, the main floor is overlooked by a balcony level opposite the bar. The brewery itself occupies the back end of the balcony level.

The Social Brewery lineup

The bartender offered us a welcome snack of pretzels with house-made mustard. Our beer sampler followed soon thereafter. The sample set included all five of their beer offerings: Kölsch, Alt, Belgian-style Dark Ale, Belgian-style Golden Ale and an IPA.

Before I read the blurb on SK&B’s menu, the best word I thought of to describe their beers was ‘accessible.’ None overly challenged my palate, but were enjoyable.

Imagine my surprise when I read that Social Brewery’s aim is to “brew accessible beers that are food-friendly and full of flavor.” It appears they’ve succeeded in their goal.

Drawn to bigger beers, the Rapscallion, the Belgian-style Golden Ale and Easy IPA were my favorites. Rapscallion was nicely spiced and not too sweet. Easy IPA, not the ubiquitous hopbomb, was a subtle, easy drinking brew at 65 IBUs and 7% ABV. The one beer that missed the mark for me was L’Enfant Terrible, the Belgian-style Dark Ale. Merideth, ever the Germanophile, was very happy with Social Kölsch and Old Time Alt.

Accessible is the word on SK&B’s brews

As for the food, I have to admit I was holding out for sausages and tamales at Toronado. The pretzels and mustard were fun. And we did end up ordering a couple of appetizers. First up was the Bavarian Cheese Obaster, a cheese/butter spread. One of our staples while in Germany, their version of the heart-clogging Bavarian obatzda was probably the best we’ve ever had in the States. We also had the Beer-Battered Sweet Potato Tempura, another appetizer we would highly recommend.

One month old at the time of our visit, Social Kitchen & Brewery was pleasant and will probably weather the usual growing pains of a new establishment. Our group had a good time and there were definitely enough pluses to warrant a return visit. Especially with their the session brews, the Kölsch and Alt, Social Kitchen & Brewery is a great place to hang out with friends and shoot the breeze.