Social Kitchen & Brewery – This brand new brewery opened at the beginning of May in the Inner Sunset, adding a welcome member to the small but mighty collection of local brewers. The beers were created by Rich Higgins, President of the SF Brewers Guild and a certified cicerone.
Watch out: opening week alone brought out what felt like the entire Sunset (a strong sign that this kind of place is highly desired), with people piled out onto the sidewalk waiting for tables (no reservations).
A raucous din engulfs the modern, cavernous space. I recommend a table upstairs situated next to the brewing tanks, where the noise is not as overwhelming, and there’s a front row view over the bar.
And then, the beers ($3-5 a glass, in small and large sizes): a light Social Kolsch sports a bright lemon tart, with grassy, white pepper notes. Upon first visit, I liked the Rapscallion best, a Belgian-style golden ale with ginger, fig, pepper notes, and a bitter finish that mellows, evolving with food. I enjoyed L’Enfant Terrible, Belgian-style dark ale, rich and redolent of chocolate, but dry and crisp, unusual for this style of beer.
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On the food tip, what could have gone better with beer than beer-battered Sweet Potato Tempura ($4 – more like breaded fries), with apple malt vinegar? The vinegar’s tart enlivened comforting sweet potato. Classic Buffalo Chicken Wings ($6) with celery and Maytag blue cheese sauce also took on the beers with success. The refreshing Kolsch is ideal when the intense heat of the Buffalo sauce kicks in. Salads, like the piquant Beer Lover’s Salad ($7) – strawberry, jicama, apple, and greens, in a toasted malt, apple-Kolsch vinaigrette – are small but fresh.
Next time (and once it’s open all day for mellower mid-afternoon lunches), I want to try their burger and rock cod sandwich. But I didn’t need anything else after sharing entrees with friends (out of five on the menu, priced $14-17).
Braised Beef Short Rib ($15) is tender under a flaky puff pastry, but came off a bit dry without much jus voer the beef and veggies. Still, the overall effect is heartwarming. Rocky Jr. Chicken Breast ($15) is juicy in a ‘cannot fail’ caramelized onion/raisin/Altbier sauce, though I could have used a lot more of the delicious Anson Mills cheese grits the chicken sat atop of. My table’s favorite was Sonoma Liberty Duck Breast ($17): seared, pinkish, over sweet potato duck confit hash (they had me there), with kumquats and blackberries, in L’Enfant Terrible beer jus.
There are kinks to work out and being one who doesn’t believe in long waits and concert-like chaos to eat, I prefer to return during “off” hours… at least for now, while it’s the hottest thing to hit Inner Sunset.