San Francisco Stars #3: Black Hammer Brewing Hella Sexy, Munich Helles, San Francisco, California
Date: June 30 , 2019 —
The Story— New small breweries rarely operate in the center of cities unless they’ve found a huge source of capital or have already established a successful operation elsewhere. In most cities the new startups operate in industrial parks that stretch into the outer suburbs, but in San Francisco some small breweries survive in relatively low-rent neighborhoods that are not all that far from the center.
Black Hammer is in an area that is seeing its share of declining older businesses and perhaps more than its share of Pollyanna small business ventures. But it’s a short bus ride from the Union Square area and quite walkable from the Giant’s Oracle Park. Leans to German style beers and does them well. but not-so-Deutch beers such as a porter and a double IPA turn out nicely as well.
We were most impressed, though, by their Munich Helles. It’s a style that brings us back to Munich year after year. The city is captivating for many reasons, but the beer gardens and beer halls that pour helles lagers that leave you unscathed in the morning are unlike the dominant beer style of any other city we have been to.
We didn’t have the time to drink enough of this gem to see if it would treat us well in the morning. It did, without question, treat us well that night.
The Beer– Malty and bready with a hint of fruit and just a bit of the well-exploited 18 IBUs in a lingering metallic aftertaste. As it drinks, its’ chewy, slightly malty and so very authentic. Ellie celebrated the hops and malt going hand in hand into the Ewigkeit (German for eternity).
Value — very good. Seven bucks for a half liter would not be a bargain for a good Helles in Munich, but drinking this here saves just a bit on airfare.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.
We just got back from a week in San Francisco. We hadn’t been there in eleven years and the remarkably vibrant beer scene we experienced then has become, well, even vibranter. Ellie, poor girl, had to work long hours during the day while I got to roam the streets checking out the best places to find great beers. At least when Ellie got off work I had places to take her before she crashed for the night. We’ll post a week or two of Beers of the Day by the Bay before returning to research for our book on Inns and Breweries of the Mid-Atlantic.
Interestingly, the downtown area of San Francisco, while awash with beers from the surrounding areas, has few brewing spots of its own. In that regard it reminds us of New York, where you have to leave Manhattan and go to Brooklyn to really find a nest of breweries. Away from downtown, several brewery taps thrive and public transportation gets you almost anywhere. Beyond the city limits, of breweries ring the city, and many of them produce exceptionally good beers and the myriad of tap houses all over town tend to focus on local beers. Name the style you like and you can find an excellent version of it, though at a price.
We’re often asked to share our tasting notes on over 33,000 beers; this blog is in answer to those requests. Not all our notes, though. The great beer writer Michael Jackson admirably followed the Thumper Rule, and we’ll try to do the same. (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”) All the beers we post are from the top half of our ratings and most are from the top quarter. Of greater value, we think, are the stories behind the beers, and we try to give you enough about the brewery, the style and the places to find great beer to help you on your own beer journeys. At CulturAle Press we try to write books and publish posts that will help you “Drink Well and Travel Safely.”