SAN FRANCISCO — When early settlers first came to the area we now know as the Sunset District, they looked at its barren dooms and gloomy fog and dubbed it, “The Great Sand Waste.” Even visitors today unfamiliar with the avenues might find the hood to be eerie and sleepy, a hotspot for hot pots and other Asian delicacies, but not much more.
I say all of this to set the stage for change, to set the stage for Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company.
The Outer Sunset is not a neighborhood bereft of bars — we’ve all enjoyed a night or two in some dark pub or another — but SRBC is a true diamond in the rough. Once you walk inside their reclaimed wood and sturdy iron work interior you are immediately struck by the thought: “Am I still in this neighborhood?” General Manager Katharine Prochaska says that’s a common question. “Yes we look out of place,” she says laughing, “but we think that’s a good thing.”
In it’s second month of operation, SRBC is doing well by all accounts. The diversity of the crowd that bellies up to the bar are emblematic of the kinds of people who live in the Outer Sunset; bikers fresh off the trail, friends bundled up in knit hats, and at least one baby at every table. The family-friendly vibe was important to bar owner, Hilary Cherniss, who has four young children of her own. As I sit at the bar with my flight, I see Cherniss buzz into the bar making a quick stop at the kitchen to scan tonight’s menu, shaking hands with the bartender, and giving the place a general once over before rushing out the door again. It’s 3 p.m. and Prochaska smiles knowingly “school’s out!”.
Cherniss has been a neighborhood staple ever since she started Devil’s Teeth Baking Company. There’s a lovely symbiosis between the bakery and SRBC, and some of the bakery’s excess ingredients can be found in the brewery’s beer. Prochaska says that Head Brewer Aaron Weshnak (a veteran of Russian River, Lagunitas and Lost Coast) uses sourdough starter from Devil’s Teeth to make his Sour Wheat. The result is a light and bready beer with a tinge of tartness that is perfect for even the foggiest of summer days.
Another standout beer of the six usually on tap is their Maibock. This springtime beer is sweet without being syrupy or cloying. It has a beautiful caramel color with ambrosial honey notes and an unctuously thick mouthfeel.
The food at SRBC can be described as American pub fare with a latin influence. Unlike more shady pubs, Prochaska says you won’t find any “plates of brown stuff ” here. Instead, they use fresh ingredients that are found locally. According to Prochaska, the Sunset burger — topped with two patties, bacon, cheese and fresh guac — is a must try. If you like big and messy burgers with freshly baked brioche buns, as many of us do, this is your guy.
Prochaska says this place perfectly embodies the “beachy family vibe” that the neighborhood is known for. SRBC has an available upstairs bar for private parties and ample seating downstairs for everyone else. There’s a rotating gallery of local art on the walls and the inside is bright and trendy. This is a place chic enough to bring your adult friends to and unpretentious enough to bring your kids to.
The brewery is making a good start on it’s way to becoming a craft bar to be reckoned with in terms of both food and beer quality but I only see it getting better with age. And really when you think about it, SRBC is an oasis in the craft beer desert that is the Outer Sunset. When you need an oasis that badly it doesn’t need to be perfect, there just needs to be enough to drink.