Toronado: visiting a San Francisco institution, with some amazing beers


I was in San Francisco for a few days, and I wanted some beer action. So where else to go but Toronado, the famous beer bar in Haight. It describes itself as a pub, and I can see why. It feels more like a pub than a bar.

You come here for the beer, not the décor, or the service. It’s gritty and old school. If you are a beer geek, this is heaven.

Toronado was opened in 1987, and a couple of years later it was bought by employee David Keene. It was Keene who was to develop this into the beer destination it is now, with 50 interesting beers on tap.

We spent the afternoon here. These are the beers we drank.


Russian River Brewing Company Pliny The Elder
A double IPA with plenty of malt and hops, this is superb. It’s lively and complex with a tangy, hoppy edge. Fresh and textured at the same time. Brilliant. 9/10

Port Brewing Co/The Lost Abbey Hop 15
10% alcohol and an incredible 180 IBUs. A double IPA with 15 different hops. Very rich and bold; textured and intense with concentration but also some restraint and balance. Spicy, intense, rich, bold and amazing. 9/10

Vander Ghinste Cuvée des Jacobins (Rouge) Sour Red, Belgium
This lambic beer has been aged for 18 months in foudres – it’s a sour red ale. Brown red in colour. So complex, appley, tangy and edgy. Some animal notes and bretty intensity. Tangy and citrussy with some sour cherry. So distinctive. 8/10

North Coast Brewing Co Le Merle Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale
Lots of hops and a Belgian yeast strain have created a spicy, smooth, yeasty beer with richness and warm complexity. Lovely stuff. 8/10

Allagash White
From Allagash in Maine, this is an American interpretation of a Belgian-style wheat beer, with oats, malted wheat, and unmalted raw wheat, and spiced with coriander and orange peel. Fresh, lemony and complex with nice weight. Amazing freshness and lovely lemony flavours. 8.5/10

Toronado, 547 Haight, San Francisco, CA 94117

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