It’s beginning to look like specialty, microbrewed craft beer is entering another heyday in the United States, the second renaissance since the initial early 90s explosion that brought great beer and microbreweries to American towns hither and yon. I haven’t collected all the evidence yet, but the leading indicators are the growth of the “gastropub”, complete with beer sommeliers (of which New York’s Cafe D'Alsace is only the most recent example); the stats that keep pouring out showing this is still the fastest-growing segment of the beer market; the megabuck purchases of small microbreweries like Blue Moon by macrobreweries like Coors (remember this was going on a bunch in the early 90s too, during craft beer’s first strike into the heartland); and the opening of amazing new beer-only stores like San Francisco’s CITY BEER. Can you imagine supporting an entire business made up of sales to beer snobs alone? Craig Wathen can. He’s created a palace of beer at 1168 Folsom Street, between 7th and 8th. I just had to pay a visit last Friday, and not only did it exceed my expectations (you can drink there!), but Craig turned out to be a pretty stand-up guy. He’s an army of one at this place, and he’s turned a longtime passion for high-end beer into a true community resource where others can catch the bug too. It’s got chairs, couches, beer on tap (6 ounces only at a time, due to weird-ass liquor laws), and Craig’ll even tap a bottle of anything in the store for you for a dollar. He’s open until 9 or 10 most nights, so I expect this to become the San Francisco beer dork hangout of choice when the Toronado gets to be a bit much.
I’m going to write more about City Beer if Craig accepts my request for an interview, but for now – highly recommended that you check this place out if you’re around town.