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Magnolia Pub & Brewery is located on Haight St in San Francisco. Every February they and the 21st Amendment(Pub & Brewery) host a Strong Beer Month in February. My beer reviewing compadre went to the 21st Amendment last year and said it had a larger, more mainstream atmosphere. Magnolia was just the opposite so we went there.
Arriving at the pub
It’s an intimate little place, right on the corner and the pleasant sign is a good indication of what’s inside. The upper walls, sides of the booths and inside of the booths are adorned with beautiful artwork(sadly I didn’t snap the best of it, but it’s good).
God plays craps?
A wall and a half are dedicated to the bar and the brews are listed in different colors on a chalkboard. All brews have the alcohol percentage listed so you know what you’re getting into. When we arrive the place was completely packed. I imagine it was mostly for the month-long celebration. Despite the large amount of noise, the place felt very loungey and several people standing next to me would say “hi” and start up friendly conversations. Very laid back feel. I’ll just go through a couple brews here to give a “taste” of what’s on tap(pun intended).
The thickest brew available was the Smokestack Lightning Imperial Stout. This was a massively thick and chewy drink with lots of roasted malt flavor and some sweetness. Almost like drinking a roasted oatmeal liquid. This one was approximately 10% and was a delicious way to end the drink session…although it will stick to your stomach lining. Thick, hearty, strong(of course), and tasty as all hell. A fantastic Imperial Stout it was. What am I, Yoda?
Old Thunderpussy…pardon my French
By far, my favorite was the most powerful brew in the house. It boasts 95 IBUs(International Bitterness Units) and 11.3% alcohol content. I was sure to have this one first as I was expecting a pretty good slap in the face. It certainly didn’t taste as strong as it was. It’s brewed as an English barley wine(basically a very strong beer) and has strong hop flavors that are actually considerably mild but full and rich at the same time. Subtle fruit and sweet flavors come through but don’t give you that sick-to-your-stomach feel that a lot of Belgian brews will. Why the name? Back in the day Magnolia used to be a house of ill-repute and the owner was the head whore. Sorry, I don’t know how to sugar coat that. The brew is made in her legacy. I could certainly feel the power of the old lady halfway through the drink. I had to walk at a slow pace down Haight street after I was done. It’s a tip top barley wine that is obviously made with a lot of care. You do get a warm feeling in your stomach but don’t get the alcohol burn as you’d expect from 11.3%.
Promised Land…we made it
The last I’ll comment on here is the Promised Land Imperial IPA. Can’t say I’ve had an “Imperial IPA” before but this one carried a medium hop punch, as an IPA should, but was not overly hoppy, bitter or thick like a Double IPA. It was slightly sharp but smooths out through the drink and your left with a mild floral aftertaste. This one was somewhere in between 9-10%(can’t remember, dang strong brews).
More artwork in a booth
If your anywhere near or visiting San Francisco be sure to make plans to visit this amazing little brewery. We stuck strictly to the strong beers that were on tap. They simply run the tap until they’re out. I was really glad I tried the Thunderpussy first as it ran out when we returned, in the afternoon. There are 6 brews made specifically for Strong Beer Month and they still serve their regular beers as well.
Due to my small stature and lack of a powerful liver I only made it through 4 the entire weekend. Understandably, the place forbids you to drink all 6 strong beers in one sitting. I just don’t see how it could be done! Aside from the masterfully crafted brews, the atmosphere was excellent, the people were alarmingly friendly, and the bartenders were curteous and kind. I challenge anyone to find a place like that in Southern California. Most people were dressed casually and just there to enjoy some damn fine beers. No chickies with silicone, no guys dressed in pink button up shirts, just a down-to-earth artsy pub. Lastly, while I only had an order of onion rings, they were hands-down the best I ever tasted. If you haven’t guessed by now this is certainly one of my favorite breweries. Now I just need an excuse to fly back up to San Francisco…hmmm.