Ah, North Beach. Best known to tourists for Italian food, Coit Tower, and cable cars. Best known to locals for strip clubs, complete lack of parking, and dudes who say “brah” a lot. But North Beach is a lot more complex than that, and one of the things adding to its appeal is a handful of downright spiffy beer-drinking establishments within a block of its main drag, Columbus Street.
You can start on either end of Columbus St. The northern end of the crawl is quite close to Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, and the Cable Car terminal, and the southern end is closer to the Financial District and Chinatown (as well as BART & Muni’s subway lines). Here, I’ll head north to south.
Jack’s Cannery Bar
441 Jefferson @ Hyde
Jack’s claims to have 68, 84, 85, and/or 110 taps, depending on the sign you happen to be looking at. Basic pub grub is available, and there’s a patio, as well as more indoor seating than you’ll know what to do with. The food and beer are indeed consumable, but neither is special. The taps are generally filled with breweries you can find anywhere else in SF, but with more offerings from each. So you’ll find Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA and a seasonal along with the ubiquitous Pale Ale, but you’re not going to find, say, Midas Touch or Harvest Ale. Jack’s is conveniently located near the end of Columbus Street, which is also next to Hyde St’s Cable Car turnaround, a block west from Jack’s. Poke around there, then head east half a block to where Columbus meets Beach and start walking toward the Pyramid.
1040 Columbus @ Chestnut & Taylor
Kennedy’s is an odd place. It’s an Irish-pub-slash-Indian-restaurant with air hockey, foosball, pool, a patio, and $2 Guinness at happy hour. There’s a smallish Irish bar with a fairly big, and surprisingly decent beer selection, a counter where you can get Indian food to go, as well as a full-service dining room. Past that, there’s a game room, and beyond that, there’s one of the few usually-sunny patios in a San Francisco drinking establishment.
800 Greenwich @ Mason & Columbus
Here’s where the real fun begins. Jack’s and Kennedy’s have about 140 taps between them, but you’re not going to find anything that’ll really blow your socks off. La Trappe, on the other hand, has 15 taps and 400 bottles- mostly Belgian- listed in a well-organized binder, complete with a table of contents. There’s a dining room at ground level, but you’ll want to head down the dark and perilous staircase to the beer cave below, which has the bar and more tables. There’s a full, high-quality dinner menu as well.
673 Union @ Powell
Rogue is a fairly typical pub kind of a place, with a slightly more upscale menu and a full lineup of Rogue beers as well as a roughly equal amount of guest beers, mostly from the west coast. Rogue Spirits are also available, and several times a year they clear out their bottle inventory by selling them super cheap. Slightly upscale American menu, and there’s a dog-friendly patio in the back, as well as two large dining rooms inside (plus, of course, a bar).
1402 Grant @ Green
Church Key’s a great little lounge with a great not-so-little beer list. It’s small, cozy, and red, with a nice window booth and barely enough room for a bar downstairs, and an upstairs lounge area with waitress service at peak times. There’s ten taps and 50+ bottles available, with a little bit of everything represented. Highlights include pot pies and “Grampa’s Suds” served in a champagne flute.