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Drinkin’ in Dogpatch and dancin’ on the Third Rail

By Zannah NOE

Over the last 6 months I have setup a new art studio at Hunter’s Point Shipyard. The up coming Fall Open Studios has been the cause for beating a path along Third Street to the old Naval Base with great regularity. All the artists out on “The Point” are working diligently in order to complete works for the Fall Open Studios. My Commute turned into an inspirational urban exploration of the waterfront, Dogpatch Neighborhood and the surrounding industrial landscape.

It’s a bumpy ride over metal plates and gravel patches while Mitchell Engineering is working hard to complete the Third Street Rail by next year. (An ominous name given its lethal association. Perhaps whoever named it thought a gigantic arrow shot into our San Francisco shores symbolizes friendly intentions.) In driving on Third Street, I started noticing places with names like the Dogpatch Saloon, Sno-Drift Club, Sublounge Bar, Dogpatch Studios, and Speakeasy. It was the Speakeasy Brewery on Evans Avenue that finally caused a detour off the beaten path.

The non-descript building displays an enormous black and white vector graphic of two eyes looking to the left as if seen through a speakeasy peephole. There is often a swank PT Cruiser parked out front displaying “SSSSHHH! Speakeasy Brewery”. On my first visit, ironically, I could not see a way in. Knocking on an unmarked door to no answer, I resorted to calling the number on the side of the car, leaving a message.

The following week, Speakeasy’s co-founder, Steve Bruce called and invited my visiting friend, Captain Kevin Ward and I to a private tasting and tour of their brewery. During the visit, we discussed the history of San Francisco’s brewing and the effect of Prohibition on brewing forcing pubs underground that became known as Speakeasies.

In the early 1900’s breweries were plentiful in San Francisco with over forty independents cranking out lots of beer. By the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the numbers had dwindled to a mere eight. Federal raids in the city put both bartender and patron alike behind bars. Yet even the Fed’s couldn’t dampen the thirst. During this “Dry Time”, San Francisco developed an active underground nightlife, Café Du Nord, The Cable Car Theater and North Beach’s Specs to name a few of the legendary San Francisco Speakeasies.

Microbreweries in the Bay are numerous. Some notable breweries are The Anchor Brewing Co. with their well loved Porters, Steam and Wheat beers. Tours are available of their brewery, call and make an appointment. They are located at 1705 Mariposa St. Tel 415-863-8350

Take the Larkspur ferry to Marin Brewing Co. located right in Larkspur Landing. Sample popular brews like the Mount Tam Pale Ale, San Quentin Breakout Stout, and Blueberry Ale. Tours are available by appointment. Located at 1809 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur Tel (415) 461-4677

Gordon Birsh Brewing has an excellent restaurant and outdoor beer garden with a stunning view of the Bay. The inspirational beers are German-style lagers. Located just down the street from the Ferry building, at 2 Harrison St., San Francisco, Tel (415) 243-8246

Searching for that small vanity brewery that’s miles above a hobbyist’s basement experiment? Check out Pacific Coast Brewing Co. Drive by and pick up a six-pack of the favorite “Grey Whale Ale” You’ll find them at 906 Washington St., Oakland, Tel 510/ 836-2739

Brew pub explorations would simply not be complete without a stop and the Thirsty Bear Brewing Company, located at 661 Howard Street, San Francisco, near the Moscone Center. (415) 974-0905 They have growlers, which is jug, of bearish beer to take home that can be brought back for refills.

In addition to the October 2nd, Tiburon Octoberfest, see the calendar for more on local October fests.

Brothers Steve and Michael Bruce, Eric Chang and Forest Gray founded speakeasy Brewery as a four-way partnership, in 1997. The partners set out to make their home-brew habits into a bigger operation while maintaining the artisan quality of brewing in small batches. Originally, the Bruce brothers were running a home-brew store on Clement Street when they decided to join forces with their best customers, Eric and Forest. Idealistically they started as a “draft only” brewery reminiscent of the old-time taverns, but distribution demands the ease of bottles. Last year they made approximately 5000 barrels of beer. Compared with Anchor Steam’s annual 100,000 barrels, it puts in perspective that these guys are crafting beer in small batches.

Speakeasy is home schooled, producing handmade and definitely local beer. Their first specialty beer came out in 1997, called “Prohibition Ale.” It is an amber-ale of a hoppy flavor with imported malts that sweeten the spice. Another of their brews depicts the waterfront scene with a fedora-clad gent gracing the bottle of a pale ale called “Untouchable”. This golden blond ale has a blend of English and Belgium malts with a long hoppy finish. The gangster on the label of “Big Daddy” serves up a visual warning that this Indian Pale Ale is no pushover. It’s a busy beer with four blended hops that make this brew dry and flavorful with imported Munich Malt.

Those able to handle very strong beer may be able to put away a “Double Daddy”. This draft only IPA has double the hops, double the yeast, and damn near doubled everything a regular IPA has. It’s like a depth charge in a double espresso. It makes the lips numb. A critical mind would dissolve at the end of a pint of “Double Daddy”. We thanked our gracious host, Steve, and made our way out into the dwindling light. Captain Kevin and I resumed our testing and research at the Dogpatch Saloon till we had enough. At the end of the evening we went out into the night to dance along the third rail on Third Street enjoying for the moment, the 71 years of freedom post Prohibition to openly imbibe.

In our times of tight regulations plan on walking, dancing, cab, ferries or choose a designated driver for the trip home after exploring the Bay Area’s many micro-brew pubs and October fest celebrations held in October.

Speakeasy Brewery is located at 1195 Evans Avenue. Visit their website at www.goodbeer.com for more information on tours of the brewery and where Speakeasy brews are distributed. Also check their site to get the skinny on Speakeasy’s Giants Friday pre-game BBQ and Beer Tasting during the baseball season. Tel: 415-64-BEER-1

Hunter’s Point Open Studios is October 23, 24. Check out http://www.sfopenstudios.com for more details. A limited quantity of Speakeasy Beer will be available during Open Studios at building 104, studio 1208 where Zannah Noe’s art will be on display. Come early for a Big Daddy. Zannah Noe is a freelance writer and artist zannah@velcrow.com