Tuesday 29th May 2012
There are some strange stories behind the names of some pubs and this is right up there with them. It comes about after there was a newspaper report of a man being bitten by an escaped circus bear. Victor Kozlov was just about to enjoy a beer in Kharkov, Ukraine, when he got a fierce slap on the back and saw a Brown bear was after it. He refused it so it bit his hand. The other patrons then gave the bear a large container of beer and it went away happy. It was recaptured after it fell asleep in the adjacent park.
Ron Silberstein, the founder of the company, read the story in 1991 and cut in from the paper and attached to his fridge. He had always intended to name Thirsty Bear for is his business and this finally came to fruition on 13th September 1996 when the brew-pub opened.
Ron spent some time in Spain and this is where the pub's cuisine originates from, as the menu is based on tapas. It is very innovative and even has a section that pairs various different cheeses with the appropriate beers and it is offered as a combined deal.
The pub is now the largest brew pub in San Francisco, when it comes to volume brewed on site. It is also a fully certified organic brewery, also the only one in the city. To add to that, it has also won awards for the greenness of its processes. Although the pub is modern it has a very comfortable feel about it. There are two floors and I found the bar on the lower level to the left of the room. I noticed that the brewery was located behind. I sat at the bar and perused the extensive beer menu.
There was great selection offered and I am so grateful that I could taste them by the means of a sample tray. This is what I had and what I thought of them:
Valencia Wheat (5.0%). This didn't have a very strong wheat taste, it was very mild. It is in the Belgian style and is made with yeast from that country and unmalted wheat with coriander and orange peel added.
Brown Bear (6.3%). I thought this was nice, having a subtle Brown Ale taste and it wasn't too malty. It is made in the British style with brown and caramel malts.
Golden Vanilla (4.5%). I was surprised with this as, although it had a strong vanilla taste, I quite liked it.
I continued with:
Polar Bear Pils (5.7%). This was quite good for the style with a medium body and some bitterness in the finish. It has early hopping and uses Pale and Munich malts.
Meyer ESB (6.4%). I liked this, but I thought it tasted more like a Red Ale than an E.S.B.
Kozlov Stout (6.3%). There was a slight vanilla taste and it had a medium body with a nice dry finish; it was very good. It is made in the Irish style using roasted and black malts and served by mixed gas.
Then I had:
Howard Street IPA (7.0%). This was excellent beer with citrusy West Coast hops to the fore; I loved it. It is also served by mixed gas.
Ocean Beach Porter (5.1%). This beer is actually a commissioned beer from the Local Brewing Co. of San Francisco and was brewed on the Thirsty Bear plant. It was dark and dry; very good. It uses many different malts with Galena hops added.
Golden Hallucination (7.7%). This is a beer in the Belgian Abbey Trippel style with an authentic taste. They have used original Belgian yeast. It had a bit more bitterness than I expected, and was a good interpretation of the style, although it isn't really my type of beer.
During the consumption of these beers I spotted a lonesome hand pump on the bar. This is a not uncommon situation in the USA as pubs often offer a cask beer on a specified night of the week. As is normal, there was no pump clip.
Although nothing was advertised, I thought I'd ask anyway and was rewarded with the response that it was Red Ale made with Hallertau hops, an experimental beer. Well, that couldn't be missed, so I ordered one. It had the genuine Red Ale taste and was very smooth; superb.
So that, along with the number of beers on the sampler tray had taken me by surprise, and I had spent a bit longer in this pub than I first estimated. As I was on my way to SFX airport this could have been crucial, but I had added a bit of recovery time into my schedule and when I arrived there I found that International departures were close to the BART station, so I needn't have worried. So it was that my last beer on US soil was a cask ale and naturally, so was my first on UK soil.
This is a great pub for its beers, and one day I'd like to return to sample the Spanish food.
Thirsty Bear Brewing, 661 Howard Street. Tel: 01 415 974 0905
Open: Monday-Thursday 11.30 to 22.00; Friday 11.30 to 23.00;
Saturday 12.00 to 23.00; Sunday 17.00 to 22.00
Howard Street is one block south of Mission Street and two blocks from Market Street, with all of its transportation options, so is easy to reach.