It probably won’t surprise you to hear this: San Francisco and the Bay Area, the center of gourmet, sustainable, and innovative food and drink, are home to some of the best craft breweries in America. And we’re not just saying that! These breweries have the medals to prove it.
In celebration of our local Northern California breweries, we looked back at the past three years of winners at Great American Beer Festival, a national beer festival and competition held in Denver, Colorado each year. Below, you can learn about the Bay Area winners and find out which beers earned them gold, silver and bronze medals. Cheers!
2010 Williams St, San Leandro + 563 2nd St, San Francisco | Facebook
Winning beer: El Sully, American-Style Cream Ale 2016 (gold) and 2018 (bronze)
Founders Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan met while they were both pursuing their beer dreams right here in the Bay Area. Inspired by local, pre-prohibition era breweries, Nico and Shaun wanted to build a brewpub that was the neighborhood gathering place—a brewery that defined the flavor of the community. Today, with a brewery in San Leandro and a brewpub in SoMa, 21st Amendment beers define the flavor of the entire Bay Area. Their summer seasonal Hell or High Watermelon Wheat has become well-known across the country, and El Sully has taken home the bronze and gold medals in the American-Style Cream Ale category at GABF.
2704 24th St, San Francisco + 651 W Tower Ave, Alameda | Facebook
Winning beer: White Label, Mixed-Culture Brett Beer 2016 (silver)
Photo courtesy of Almanac Beer Co.
Almanac was founded in 2010 by Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan on the ideals of farm-to-barrel brewing. This means they source the best in Northern California fruit and blend it into beer recipes that are inspired by the great brewing traditions of the world. From homebrewing all the way to the San Francisco Taproom and Beer Garden, and across the bridge to their Alameda Barrel House, Brewery and Taproom, this team knows good beer.
1525 Cortland Ave | Facebook
Winning beer: Muir Woods Coastal Red, Other Strong Beer 2016 (bronze)
Photo courtesy of Barebottle Brewing Co.
This San Francisco brewery was born after the brewers and owners discovered a secret in the craft beer community: the most impressive and innovative brews in the country were being created by homebrewers. Using this as their driving force, they created Barebottle, a venture they call a crowd-inspired craft brewery. Today, they’re producing some of the best beers in the city and winning awards all over the country.
200 Railroad Ave A | Facebook
Winning beer: Chux, Imperial India Pale Ale 2017 (bronze)
Locally owned and operated, Danville Brewing Company was born from decades of craft beer and homebrewing knowledge. Today, the Maita family and their team have created a downtown destination for great food and award-winning craft beer. Head brewer Matt Sager, a UC Davis Master Brewers program graduate, even landed them a bronze medal in 2017 for Chux, an outstanding IPA.
1933 Davis St #177, San Leandro + 2325 Broadway, Oakland | Facebook
Winning beers: Santa’s Brass, Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer 2018 (gold) and Rye Robustito, Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer 2016 (bronze)
Recognized throughout the Bay Area and across the state as one of our best breweries, Drake’s operates their on-site brewery and taproom Drake’s Barrel House as well as Drake’s Dealership, a full-service restaurant and open-air beer garden in Oakland. The Drake’s story began humbly in 1989 with just a 15 barrel brewing system and draft-only English-style ales, and though the brewery’s focus has evolved and their reach has grown, the team is still creating some of the best brews and best barrel-aged beers around.
2501 Monarch St | Facebook
Winning beer: The Penske File, International-Style Pale Ale 2018 (bronze)
Opened in 2013 inside a 25,000-square-foot Marine Corps helicopter hangar on the old Alameda Naval Base, Faction Brewing quickly jumped to the top of the Bay Area craft beer scene. After dabbling in just about every style of beer there is, the team has developed award-winners like The Penske File and locals-only favorites like A-Town Pale, only available in Alameda.
Six locations | Facebook
Winning beer: Good Conduct, Specialty Beer 2016 (silver)
Fieldwork was born right here in Berkeley as a brewery that would focus on exceptional and honest beer making. Through the years, their reach has grown to include taprooms in Berkeley, Monterey, Napa, Sacramento, San Mateo and San Ramon and their original motivation has earned them multiple awards, including a silver medal at GABF 2016.
No tasting room | Facebook
Winning beer: Wolfback Ridge, American-Style Strong Pale Ale 2017 (silver)
Named after the jaw-dropping Marin Headlands, this hometown brewery was created by two guys from the Bay Area who were searching for a way to celebrate great beer and to honor their surroundings. So, Headlands Brewing was born and proved right away that beer is a social and fun, inspiring and adventurous endeavor whether you’re brewing it or drinking it. Though they don’t have a tasting room yet, you can use their online beer finder to track down their cans.
1627 S 7th St | Facebook
Winning beer: Sour Cherry Sour, Fruited Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer 2018 (silver)
Headed by Brewmaster Peter and Cellarmaster Greg, the team at Hermitage is constantly experimenting to create beer that is outside of the mainstream. And that’s what they’ve been doing since their first brewpub opened in 1987 when they began brewing for other Bay Area brands. Then, in 2008, they opened their production facility in San Jose and never looked back. Their volume puts Hermitage in the top 5% of breweries in the country which means they have access to technology, people and hops that not many breweries have. This winning combination has landed them multiple awards around the state and the country, including a silver medal for their Sour Cherry Sour.
292 4th St | Facebook
Winning beer: Call of the Void, Other Belgian-Style Ale 2018 (silver)
Photo courtesy of Original Pattern Brewing Co.
Family and employee-owned, this Oakland brewery and tasting room was founded by Ryan Frank, Caitlin O’Connor, Max Silverstein and Margie Silverstein with a mission to build a brewery that focused meticulously on quality and freshness, where the team can personally share their beers directly with the local community. That means when you stop in the taproom, you could meet the person who brewed your beer, and that beer will always be innovative, fresh and impressive—even impressive enough to take home a silver medal at GABF 2018!
725 4th St, Santa Rosa | Facebook
Winning beer: STS Pils, Kellerbier or Zwickelbier 2018 (silver)
Famous all over the country thanks to their must-try Double IPA, Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing Company is the brewery that made California’s wine country famous for more than just wine. Though you can find Russian River bottles and drafts all over the Bay Area, California and the country, we recommend swinging by the Santa Rosa taproom. If you do so at the beginning of February, you’ll be joining more than 12,000 craft beer lovers who make the pilgrimage to taste the exclusive annual release of Pliny the Younger, a Triple IPA.
101 E Alma Ave | Facebook
Winning beer: Alviso Mills Hefeweizen, German-Style Wheat Ale 2018 (silver)
Owners, brewers and craft beer lovers Tom Clark and Steve Donohue have garnered impressive awards, accolades and experience all on their own, but through Santa Clara Valley Brewing, they do so together and with their entire team. Born from a desire to do just that while honoring the South Bay’s industrious and agriculture history, this brewery offers a rotating selection of handcrafted beers made with the highest quality ingredients.
1326 9th Ave | Facebook
Winning beer: Mr. Kite’s Pale Ale, Classic English-Style Pale Ale 2017 (gold)
Photo courtesy of Social Kitchen & Brewery
As one of the city’s best brewpubs and home of award-winning Brewmaster Kim Sturdavant, Social offers contemporary comfort food, inventive cocktails and a wide variety of craft beers—all inside a spacious and intimate setting in the Inner Sunset neighborhood. So, next time you want to pair some of the city’s best food with some of the country’s best beer, grab a seat at Social.
280 14th St | Facebook
Winning beer: Hefeweizen, South German-Style Hefeweizen 2018 (bronze)
Headed by Master Brewer Paul Duatschek and industry professionals Mark DeVito and Dave Azzam, Standard Deviant takes traditional recipes and brews them with subtle twists. Whether year-round or seasonal, each beer stands out as an exciting addition to San Francisco’s craft beer scene, and even landed them a bronze medal at GABF in 2018.
1132 4th St | Facebook
Winning beer: Awesome Beer Rice Lager, Light Lager 2018 (silver)
Inside this hip gastropub in San Rafael, you’ll find award-winning house brews bearing patriotic names alongside craft cocktails, wood-fired pizza and American eats with global twists. Because this innovative team dips their toes in just about every style, you’ll find everything from Pilsners and IPAs to Porters and ciders on tap.
610 3rd St | Facebook
Winning beer: Annadel Pale Ale, Classic English-Style Pale Ale 2017 (bronze)
This dog-friendly, award-winning craft brewery and kitchen strives to balance tradition with experimentation. Starting with the strong bases of classic Anglo-Celtic and West Coast style ales, Third Street crafts both approachable beers and brews that don’t fit cleanly into one category. But Annadel Pale Ale certainly nailed the Classic English-Style Pale Ale at GABF in 2017!
Do you have a favorite?
If you have a favorite Bay Area brewery, tell us about them in the comments below!