In a beer scene that often exalts the heavy and the hoppy, the first batches of craft brew coming out of San Francisco’s newest Union Square restaurant, Bartlett Hall, are transforming traditional styles by fusing complex tastes into lighter beers.
With a scotch ale and an extra pale ale in the current lineup, and a Kolsch style West Coast pilsner in the pipeline, Chris Wike, the brewmaster of Bartlett Hall’s beer venture, is pairing his taste for unique spins on traditional beers to the restaurant’s craft dining and cocktail setup.
The newest member of the San Francisco Brewers Guild, the restaurant opened in June and features a seasonal lunch and dinner menu crafted by Executive Chef Emmanuel Eng, of Maverick and Boulevard prior. The full bar features craft cocktails and over a dozen beers on tap, in addition to the seven barrel system that produces the house crafted brews.
“The idea was to meld the crafting in the kitchen with crafting beer,” Wike said. “We want to give people as fresh beer as we can, take everything we brew, push it through the beer motors and dump it to the bar.”
Each beer produced by Wike at Bartlett Hall is a direct result of his homebrewing experimentation, and producing beers through his own venture as Golden Gate Brewing Co. The results are hand-crafted brews that Wike has produced through years of recipe fine-tuning and refining.
Both the Hoppy Scotsman scotch ale and 2nd First Try extra pale ale are on tap, clocking in at 6.5 and 6.0 percent alcohol respectively, and are staples of Wike’s unique spin on frequently explored styles of beer.
The Hoppy Scotsman differs from the traditional scotch ale, closer resembling the fruity and hoppy textures of a Belgian golden ale with traces of a stout-like backbone. Venturing in a different direction than traditional pale ales of the bright and floral types, the 2nd First Try extra pale ale is satisfyingly quenching in its juicy hoppiness. While not nearly as bitter as an IPA, the 2nd First Try has a fresh hop presence that makes it more nuanced than a standard pale ale, while maintaining easy drinkability at lower alcohol content.
The stacking of flavors in his beers along with his original takes on different beer styles are part of an art form and process that Wike has exercised throughout his various careers and jobs, including a stint working for award-winning chef, Sandor Zombori.
A homebrewer first and foremost, Wike fine-tunes and crafts his recipes through his “pilot system” that allows him to track and replicate his brews. The methodical process is not foreign to Wike, who through his education and jobs has always gravitated to and utilized the sciences.
Originally a marine biology major, Wike moved to biology before developing interest in engineering, to eventually graduate with a degree in construction management. He currently works in the construction industry, in addition to brewing beer for himself and Bartlett Hall.
While the restaurant currently features over a dozen other craft offerings on tap, the Hoppy Scotsman and 2nd First Try currently account for nearly a third of the beer sales at the restaurant.
Wike hopes to increase the beer offerings produced at Bartlett Hall in time, alongside expanding the current three beer brewing systems in place.