While most 21-year-olds are content to just sit in a bar and drink beer, Mike Johannsen was a bit more active about his newly legal status. As soon as he came of age, he started brewing in his dorm room at CalPoly San Luis Obispo. Over the years, he has explored almost every angle of the business, from equipment maintenance to cellaring, packaging, and quality assurance. In 2013, he founded Schubros Brewery alongside Ian Schuster, a London Business School grad and craft beer aficionado.
In the short time that Schubros has been operational, they have already done a lot to distinguish themselves from other breweries. For starters, all their brews are organic: varietals include Diablo Sunrise, a chocolate-orange imperial stout, and 680 IPA, a mahogany ale with notes of caramel and toffee. Schubros also gives 1% of their profits to various local organizations. Customers can go online to vote on where the money should go each quarter; options include environmental groups, school districts, and fire departments.
Master beersmith Peter Catizone discovered his passion for brewing while making homebrewed batches of beer in the 1980s. Eventually, he developed his hobby into a craft and his do-it-yourself recipes into a microbrew powerhouse with a mantel full of awards. Today at Faultline Brewing Company’s lively taphouse, the staff pours samples from a smorgasbord of more than 20 beers, ranging from the clear, clean taste of a Rhineland-style kölsch to the malty richness of an inky-black irish stout. Offerings from the lunch and dinner bills of fare complement the local brews with Louisiana-style seafood gumbo, flatiron steak with swiss chard, and generously portioned Angus beef burgers. On Friday and Saturday nights, live musicians serenade guests as they enjoy beer flights and frosty pints on the open-air patio or in the lounge.
Pyramid Brewery and Alehouse tantalizes tongues with a malty medley of seasonal and year-round beers, which splash about beside no-nonsense, pub-raised plates. The bright, renovated warehouse space enhances the simplicity of any dish, from the robust bowl of spicy beef chorizo dip, blended with warm cream cheese, provolone, peppers, and bacon ($9), to the Haywire Hefeweisen-infused honey-cilantro chicken, which pairs well with the light body, full flavor, and unchecked telepathy of the Crystal Wheat Ale ($12). Likewise, the zesty aioli suffusing the spicy amber halibut answers the call of the wild by teaming up with the hulking hops and malty tones housed inside the MacTarnahan's Amber Ale ($15).
Since the brewery poured its first pint back in 1896, the business has changed hands, shut down, reopened, relocated, and retooled countless times. The first brewers, Ernst F. Baruth and his son-in-law Otto Schinkel, Jr., ran the original location for about a decade. Then it all fell apart—Baruth died unexpectedly, a fire destroyed the brewery, and Schinkel was killed by a streetcar. The bad luck didn’t stop there; the next generation had to weather Prohibition, effectively ending Anchor's operations for 13 years. The brewery then operated from 1933 until 1959, when it shut down yet again due to the rising popularity of mass-produced national beers, which were systematically pushing out local brewers.
The lean times and sudden upheavals finally began to level out in 1965, when Stanford graduate and Anchor aficionado Fritz Maytag rescued the operation from the clutches of bankruptcy. From then until his retirement in 2010, Maytag carried the business onward and upward, expanding its selection, hiring a larger staff, and even opening an in-house distillery. Today, Anchor operates out of same Mariposa Street location it opened in 1979.
Anchor's iconic copper brewhouse hybridizes hundreds of years of traditions and wisdom. The machinery itself is handmade and decades old, but the quality-control systems are anything but dated. Brewers use state-of-the-art methods, including open fermentation, to ensure the beers are as pure and fresh as possible. Still, they manage to marry both the antique and the modern by using an ancient process called dry hopping. A process akin to steeping tea, dry hopping is the art of adding bagged hops to maturing ales—a practice that’s existed for centuries but has just recently come back into vogue.
In 1973, when Anchor only brewed one type of beer, visionary owner Fritz Maytag was seeing the future. Mark Carpenter, Anchor's brewmaster for more than 40 years, recited Maytag's prophetic vision to SF Station: "Down the road there are going to be hundreds of little beers around the country and I don’t just want to be known for Anchor Steam—I want to be known for Anchor Steam, and porter and ale [and so on]."
And indeed, since then they've led the microbrewery revolution. "So many of our beers that were the first of their varieties in the U.S. have gone on to be huge,” continues Carpenter, “Liberty Ale is probably the most copied beer in the world—cascade hops are used everywhere now, and we were the first. Old Foghorn barley wine was the first barley wine in the U.S., and we created the first wheat beer."
The Vibe: This space designed by Kelly Malone mixes reclaimed and recycled wood with exposed ductwork and hidden hideaways to create a functioning nod to the speakeasies of old.
The Food: There’s no kitchen at the taproom, but food trucks frequent the nearby streets. Guests can also bring their own eats from home or steal a picnic basket on the way over.
Where to Sit: After entering through the peephole-equipped door, belly up to the solid-wood bar to watch the bartenders pull from 12 taps. Guests can also sneak away to one of the many nooks and crannies, including a lounge-style area with pallet windows and plush banquettes.
While You’re Waiting
What to Drink: You can’t go wrong by sampling anything from the current draft list, which Zagat called one of the most “awesomely-curated” beer lists in the city.
The Vibe: When Imbibe magazine’s editors selected Magnolia as one of their 75 favorite breweries in 2014, owner Dave McLean told an interviewer that he wants to replicate the “comfortable and convivial atmosphere of a true ‘public house’,” complete with pints, brewery tours, and growlers to go.
Inside Tip: Magnolia doesn’t accept reservations. So if you want to get a seat without long waits, avoid peak dining hours.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Grab a whiskey and some stick-to-your-ribs barbecue at Magnolia’s sister restaurant, Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Co. (2505 3rd Street).