Can San Francisco Brewing Co. Make Ghirardelli Square Cool Again?

A 12,000-square-foot taproom and self-serve tap wall make that bet seem likely.

Inside S.F. Brewing Co.’s taproom (Peter Lawrence Kane)

Although it’s near Fort Mason, arguably at the edge of the main tourist zone, and buffered from the tchotchke shops by local favorites like Gary Danko and the Buena Vista, Ghirardelli Square has not maxed out its full potential. Famed chef Jonathan Waxman gave it his all upon his return to S.F., but Waxman’s — which was two restaurants in one, really — never took hold.

That space, in the Mustard Building, is destined to become a dim sum restaurant, an offshoot of Daly City’s Koi Palace. But there’s still another hole to fill. Lagunitas threw a pop-up beer garden in summer 2016, but the brick-lined charm of the multi-tiered former chocolate factory otherwise lay fallow, a staging area for visitors queuing for mediocre fudge.

San Francisco Brewing Co. aims to shake Ghirardelli Square up with a huge new taproom. The six-year-old craft brewery, which up till now had been what’s known in the industry as a “gypsy” operation — a term that probably ought to be retired — has gone into a 12,000-square-foot space in the Cocoa Building, restoring it to its former artisanal glory. Having poached head brewmaster Justin Boehle from heavy-hitter Gordon Biersch, founder Josh Leavy, his wife Jennifer, and his brother Aaron — who’ve had brewers in the family for nearly a century — await pleasant summer evenings with fire pits, zesty Tabasco onion rings, and lots of pizzas.

Is that enough? Will beer fans flock to the northernmost reaches of San Francisco for a pint, all of which is made on-site? Whetting your appetite for Alcatraz Amber and Kable Car Kolsch, the brewery has installed a self-serve tap wall that uses prepaid cards, enabling beer fans to pour their own samples in increments by ounce.

You’re going to want some fish and chips with that. Better still, S.F. Brewing Co. is open until 10 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with brunch, lunch, and brewery tours kicking off once things get rolling. Smile! There’s beer.

San Francisco Brewing Co.3150 Polk St., 415-484-2337 or sfbrewingco.com

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