THE ALEMBIC is a roughly 18-month-old restaurant & bar in San Franisco’s Upper Haight neighborhood devoted to strong ales and high-end, locally-grown “small plate” food. Given its location at ground zero in the former hippie hotbed among the professional homeless, street punks and hipster shoppers, prices are way in line with what most area diners can afford, and now that I’ve finally supped and imbibed there. I think the value-for-money quotient is outstanding. I’d happened into this place before to try a couple beers; it’s an offshoot of the MAGNOLIA PUB & BREWERY only a few blocks away, and thus, serves a bunch of that brewery’s ales, along with others from California, Belgium and beyond. Wine-drinkers and cocktail-lovers are taken care of as well, so nobody goes wanting.
I had my first in-person meeting with Chris Devlin, a.k.a. THE BEER RETARD, who was down from Seattle for all manner of beer-related hijinks and shenanigans. While we nuanced & chewed on the finer points of beer arcana, I tore into an excellent heirloom tomato salad, featuring those sweet green tomatoes you always think are going to taste sour & never do. Along with a buttery piece of codfish and an incredible salted chocolate pudding, I gave into temptation, supplication and damnation all at once, and enjoyed bountiful glasses of RUSSIAN RIVER PERDITION and SALVATION. Naturally, and as reported previously on this site and on many others, these beers are superlative, and among the best anywhere, from one of the top two brewers in the country. ALEMBIC, to my glee, is not just a place for beer hounds nor for romantic couples on a mid-range budget. It’s a great restaurant and beer-drinking destination in its own right, and I’m gonna make sure I recommend it to any San Francisco beer travelers who should happen seek my counsel from this point forward.