This content was originally published by The Hop Review, a digital magazine that joined the Hop Culture family in March 2020.
This piece was written by Jack Muldowney.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
“DETOURS” is a travel series by The Hop Review. Being a weary traveler almost always calls for a reward in the form of a pint at the end of the day. Here, we will document those beer breaks–as we travel the U.S. and beyond–with quips, photographs and Q&As. Cheers, to the adventurous beer trekker.
1398 HAIGHT ST., SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94117
In San Francisco’s fabled Haight Ashbury neighborhood, sits a craft brewing staple in the heart of Haight Street, Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery. The famed brewpub began on this corner back in 1997, founded by longtime homebrew fanatic, Dave McLean. And with the brewpub’s 20th anniversary this year, we couldn’t pass on the opportunity to drop by on a recent visit to San Francisco.
I should first mention that we couldn’t help but start the day up the road, exactly 8 blocks east on Haight Street: at Toronado. After beginning our day at the legendary craft beer bar and garnering tips from local regulars, we made the 15 minute walk west to Magnolia, just in time for lunch. A perfect late morning craft beer pairing if you ask us.
The walk is quintessential San Francisco. Colorful Victorian walk-ups, tree-lined boulevards, rolling avenues and a peek at Buena Vista Park. Upon arrival, Magnolia greets you with its Old World charm. Stained glass window accents, mosaic porcelain floors and dark wood remind you of a British pub, but still emanate a uniquely ‘San Fran’ vibe. The aesthetic is fitting, given the brewery’s British-inspired and cask-conditioned ales. It’s cozy, with quirky artistic accents.
After taking in the atmosphere, we darted straight for an open booth and wasted no time ordering flights, to go along with our order of bacon wrapped dates, Scotch eggs and BLTA sandwiches. When the food and drink pairing arrives, it’s tough to choose where to reach first. The grub at Magnolia is as good as anywhere, truly. This is a next level brewpub–the food is given as much attention as the beautifully balanced beers. We sample through milds, session pale ales, a kölsch and an oyster stout among others. We leave the table fully satisfied.
Quickly thereafter, we meet with Head Brewer, Darren Cummings, for a quick tour of the brewery. Then it dawns on us, where is their brewing setup? It’s nowhere in sight from the bar or dining area. Darren reassures us to follow him. Through the kitchen and down a flight of stairs, we end up in the basement and right in the middle of the operation. Their 7-barrel system is nestled into every available nook and cranny and beneath the surprisingly low ceilings. And until a few years ago, nearly all of their 2,500 batches came from this small setup. Now, Magnolia has a 10,000 sf production facility and taproom on the other side of town in the Dogpatch neighborhood.
A brief history of Dave McLean’s founding days, the neighborhood changes, and the brewing approach all the way up to their current canned lineup–then we make our way back upstairs from the tiny brewspace. Darren couldn’t let us hit the road until we each shared another pint of Sara’s Ruby Mild.
As we make our way back out front to Haight Street, we realize a familiar feeling once again–we’re simply…satisfied.
What We Drank
The Landlady Best Bitter – There were some attention worthy beers in our sampling, but the one that stood out most was the cask-conditioned Landlady Best Bitter. A classic UK ale with a modern twist. Despite its malty backbone, it was still surprisingly refreshing–we’re guessing in part to the subtle bite of the Sorachi Ace hop addition. It’s crisp and peppery and delicious.
Photography by Jack Muldowney.
Authored by Jack Muldowney & Paul King, collaborator for The Hop Review. Paul is a beer fanatic born and raised in London, England. This is his third contribution for THR–he had also provided insight for the previous piece, “London’s Craft Boom Apparent on the Bermondsey Beer Mile.” & a DETOUR to London’s Howling Hops.