Though there are other breweries that have been around longer, Cellarmaker is one of the most highly praised breweries in the city of San Francisco. When I visited recently, I can see why. They have a tasting room in central San Francisco where you can order tasters, pints, growlers, etc. On a Saturday they were quite packed and I could barely find a place to set down my tasters on the ledge by the window. I split my tasting into two separate flights of 4 beers each, with the pale ales and IPAs in the first flight and the dark beers and double IPA in the second flight. Tasters are a little expensive at $2.50 to $3.00 each but understandably they want to push people to order pints, for which they didn’t cheat people by pouring large heads. This is also the city known for high rents so I expect that is part of it as well. The tasting room was fairly noisy and music was blaring, yet I didn’t find that it kept me from chatting or talking to people. They have an interesting wooden fence of sorts on the front of the place that lets in a nice breeze for ventilation.
My first flight included Double Dry Hopped Dobis pale ale, New Beer Smell pale ale, Mo’ Passion IPA, and Pho Momocoe IPA. Second flight included Dank Williams double IPA, Batch 1 porter, Coffee & Cigarettes, and Baby Blamo. All of the IPAs and pale ales were low on the malts as you can be with the alcohol present, with the pale ales and IPAs following the modern style of extracting as much hop aroma as you possibly can from the beers. Double Dry Hopped Dobis was a cloudy yellow and had a bright citrus, tangerine and lemon, flavor with a smooth finish and light bitterness. New Beer Smell was similar though exploding with tropical fruit instead. Both were fantastic and which one you like would depend on your hop profile of choice. The taster board gave accurate descriptions of the flavors you could taste.
Mo’ Passion was a delicious resiny/juicy IPA with hints of mango and medium bitterness. This one was also quite smooth and light on the malts. It is great to see more breweries using South African varieties of hops after tasting how delicious they can be in a beer from Modern Times. I almost got a growler of this one when I left but I chose to go with Dank Williams. Pho Momo Coe is an attempt to make a Vietnamese spiced IPA so besides the hops it includes ginger, lime, and chilies. While I thought everything balanced together nicely, I prefer the more traditional style of the others. Hops were of the juicy/herbal flavor and the ginger came through a lot on the end.
Dank Williams was ultimately my favorite IPA of the bunch. Though it is 8.2% it didn’t seem overly boozy or sweet, just thick, resinous, and super dank. I got flavors of peach on the back, giving it a nice finish. I ended up filling my 2 liter blank growler I brought with me with this beer. When I opened the growler at home it had lost a lot of the peach flavor but was still a delicious dank/resinous double IPA that went down smooth. Batch 1 Porter is one of the more common beers you will find on tap outside the brewery. Though I really like it, I found it was overpowered by the others in the flight. It is a smooth and sweet roasty stout with light vanilla flavors.
Coffee & Cigarettes is one of the more popular beers they offer, and I can see why. It offers a strong yet smooth nutty coffee flavor with a subtle smoke on the back end. It has a nice chewy mouth feel and a bitter finish. On any other flight this might have been my favorite dark beer but then I tasted the Baby Blamo. This coconut stout is really sweet and has a more prominent coconut flavor than any beer of the style I have had before. It has a nice subtle bitter chocolate flavor on the back to finish it off. My husband and I shared a goblet of this before leaving.
If you are in San Francisco and don’t have a lot of time to get out of the city, visiting Cellarmaker is quite easy because it is pretty close to a Bart station. I did not attempt to park there so I can’t say if it is easy to do so. I was very impressed by all of the beers I tasted. They brew a solid lineup of hoppy and dark beers. I was a little surprised that I didn’t see anything from other styles on the menu.