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Craft Beer Brims with Community in San Francisco’s Dogpatch Neighborhood
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Craft Beer Brims with Community in San Francisco’s Dogpatch Neighborhood

Jackie Berkery
Published 4 months ago

Once San Francisco's former industrial and port district, the Dogpatch is now brimming with construction cranes, millennials, and neighborhood watering holes. With a growing young tech demographic and enough space for large-scale brewing equipment and generous tap rooms, the neighborhood is quickly becoming home to a growing craft beer community.

The three brewers currently calling the Dogpatch home are Harmonic Brewing, Triple Voodoo Brewery, and Magnolia Brewing, each of which has a distinct approach and story to tell. But while the beers and experiences are unique at each tap room, they do share a common thread: community over competition. As neighbors, they support each other, drink each others’ beer, and even reach out sometimes to borrow a cup of sugar—ahem, grain.

“We don’t see each other as competition,” says Eddie Gobbo, founder and head brewer at Harmonic Brewing. “The more the merrier. We love telling people they can walk over to Magnolia, followed by Triple Voodoo.”

The sentiment is echoed by the teams at Magnolia and Triple Voodoo. In fact, the three breweries have collaborated several times in celebration of SF Beer Week. In 2017 the trio worked together to produce a small-batch ale called the Patchwork Hoppy Red, which was distributed only in the neighborhood. This year, they created an Iron Chef-esque competition in which each brewer used the same ingredients to come up with their own unique beer featuring local malts from Alameda-based Admiral Maltings. From the same ingredients, Triple Voodoo produced a pale ale, Harmonic brewed a saison, and Magnolia made an IPA. All were a hit.

For the full Dogpatch community experience, take a self-guided walking tour of the neighborhood to taste your way through each brewery. Or check out the Drink SF Beer Shuttle, a monthly shuttle operated by the San Francisco Brewers Guild, which encourages beer drinkers to explore the breweries in a variety of neighborhoods.

HARMONIC BREWING

When Harmonic Brewing opened for business in 2015, it was important to Gobbo and his co-founder Jon Verna that they find a home in the Dogpatch. The personality of the neighborhood, paired with the sense of community among makers, made for a perfect fit.

With a team boasting backgrounds from brewing to chemical engineering, Harmonic brings a meticulously scientific approach to brewing beer. Consistency is king, and pretension is notably absent.

“The mantra has always been drinkability and balanced flavors,” says Gobbo, noting that their beers aren’t meant to be sippers or novelty. When prodded for a favorite among their current release, Verna says that he’s loving their newest lagers, which feature local Admiral Malts. It may not be the sexiest beer, admits Verna, but with a back-to-basics approach, the Harmonic staff has dubbed this their recent favorite.

Their Dogpatch space is home to 100 percent of their production, which is expected to reach 1,000 barrels in 2018. While Harmonic does distribute, they’re selective in who they choose to partner with, making sure that their appreciation for quality is matched. Their main focus remains on brewing good beer and creating a “mothership” tap room environment, which helps them grow from within.

The tap room itself is an airy space, featuring high ceilings and wood accents. The guys at Harmonic worked with their neighbors at ShopFloor Design, a custom metal work shop, to create the tables, bar, and signage that you’ll see throughout their tasting room. The staff know their regulars by name and are always happy to make a recommendation, especially for those new to the craft beer world.

“The experience here is equally as important as the beer, and we’re focused on keeping quality high for both,” says Gobbo.

TRIPLE VOODOO BREWERY

Before opening their flagship production facility and tasting room, Triple Voodoo was a “gypsy brewer,” renting other brewers’ equipment and distributing throughout California. But that business wasn’t satisfying to owner Greg Kitchen—he wanted to have a personal connection with the people who were drinking his beer. So in early 2014, Kitchen laid down roots and opened his brewery on 3rd Street in the Dogpatch. Teaming up with Head Brewer Phil Meeker, they created a portfolio specializing in the best of West Coast and Belgian-style beers.

The name Triple Voodoo has a unique story. “Triple” was inspired by the fact that the brewery had three original founders, and the latter part came from one of the original brewers, who poetically described brewing beer as a “voodoo science,” in which simple ingredients are used to create complex flavors. With a naming story like that, it was undoubtedly important for this brewery to keep trying new things.

For example, Meeker’s team recently produced a new style of beer that’s gaining popularity in San Francisco, a Brut IPA called Lighten Up. Residual sugars are removed after the fermentation process, leaving an ultra-dry beer. The final gravity of the beer—or sugar content after fermentation— is close to zero, creating a light, easy-drinking and crisp beer, in a way mimicking its sparkling wine namesake. With just a handful of core beers accented by 8-12 seasonal beers, the tap list is constantly rotating to make room for innovative beers like Lighten Up.

“We produce as much beer each year as Anchor Brewing spills on the floor,” jokes Kitchen. That’s about 850 barrels, give or take. The Triple Voodoo tasting room itself is small, as is the brewery’s team of six, which means there’s plenty of opportunity for interaction with the staff.

“Our staff is really well-educated, understand the brewing process and many are home brewers themselves,” says Kitchen, emphasizing the educational aspect of the tasting room experience. It’s important to him that his patrons learn something about the beer they’re drinking.

SMOKESTACK AT MAGNOLIA BREWING

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing is the second outpost for this long-time San Francisco brewery, whose original brewpub has been in Haight-Ashbury for more than 20 years. Recently bought by New Belgium, Magnolia now has the benefit of increased resources while still enjoying the flexibility and independence to experiment and innovate from within. Magnolia’s roots are in English-style beers—bitters, milds, stouts and ports—and this recently formed relationship with New Belgium has allowed them maintain those roots while also expanding their portfolio to a variety of other styles, both traditional and experimental.

It’s an exciting time for Magnolia, according to Seth Wile, Magnolia’s head brewer in the Dogpatch. As a former a wildlife biologist and the son of a mechanic, Wile finds that he’s able to transfer his science and mechanical background to brewing beer. He’s most proud of a new pale ale called Fivey Time, which was named for the Magnolia staff’s tradition of drinking 5 oz. pours together at opportune moments during their shifts at the brewpub. Wile also tapped an Extra Brut IPA this month called Bombay Bubbles, Magnolia’s formidable contribution to this new, innovative style popping up around San Francisco.

Magnolia takes their food just as seriously as their brewing. Smokestack, as its name suggests, isn’t just home to top-notch beers—they also serve up killer BBQ, sustainably sourced and smoked in-house. As a former factory, the space itself is full of character, featuring steel windows, distressed fixtures and wooden communal tables. While the focus is obviously on the beers, their full liquor license allows them to serve wine and liquor, as well.

As the largest brewer in the Dogpatch, Magnolia is producing roughly 5,000 barrels a year between their two locations. The rotating, small-batch styles primarily come from the Haight brewpub, while the Dogpatch location produces the higher volume beers. And while they do delight in testing some unique beers—like an IPA made with guava purée and habanero—they don’t lose touch with their roots in sessionable beers.

“Making cool, innovative beer is our only real goal,” says Wile. “We’re just trying to be creative, have fun with it and bring people along for the ride with us.”

Admiral Maltings,
Harmonic Brewing,
Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing

About the Author

Jackie Berkery

Jackie is a freelance writer and and digital marketer based in San Francisco. She loves exploring new cities, learning to cook local dishes, and telling stories through words and images. When she's not hanging in SF with her dog, Milo, you'll find her racking up airline miles to anywhere with palm trees and sunshine.