If you only spent time there on Saturday nights, you could easily think that 11th Street between Folsom and Harrison was a place to get wasted without being especially discriminating about what you’re drinking, because it’s full of clubs like Slim’s, DNA Lounge, and Audio. Not that we don’t go to these places for the music, but let’s not forget Butter’s deep-fried PB&J and Frito pie. However, there is another ecosystem of fancy joints: Bar Agricole is on that same block, as is Bergerac, and Una Pizza Napoletana and SoMa StrEat Food Park are only one block away in other direction.
Buzzworks, a new, upscale beer emporium on 11th Street, falls right in between. A project from Butter’s Vlad Cood, all its bartenders are certified cicerones, and the rotating tap list — 35 strong, with another 100 bottles available — is very impressive. Now that virtually every neighborhood in San Francisco seems destined to get its own microbrewery before long, it’s more important than ever to aim high to get people to venture out, and Buzzworks is nothing if not a man cave — albeit one with unisex restrooms.
These taps run California-centric, with lots of Lost Coast (Great White), Fort Point (Standard Pale Ale), Calicraft (Ginger and Shiso Kolsch), and Lagunitas (Tuberfest) among the mandatory out-of-state breweries like Allagash (Lil’ Brett, White Ale), New Belgium (Citradelic Tangerine), and Deschutes (Sagefight Double IPA). As is to be expected, there is a great array of IPAs, including Ghost Town Brewing’s Final Rites Rye, which hits the palate in a round, smooth way. It happens to be one of the least-hoppy IPAs I’ve ever tried, and incidentally flows out of a badass, coffin-shaped tap head.
As a sports bar with a Tuesday night Geeks Who Drink pub quiz, what you see is what you get — on one of 30 screens. (However, on a warmer-than-usual Monday evening, even the NFL got pre-empted by the presidential debate, allaying Donald Trump’s fears of low ratings.) Hoppy Days, little discounts sprinkled through the week, include “22’sdays” (10 percent off all 22-ounce bottles) and “Fonzie Fridayyys” (50 cents off small cans).
And Buzzworks appears to have ensconced itself into the local beer world barely two months after opening. On Wednesday, Oct. 5, from 5-10 p.m., for example, it’ll play host to a beer release for a kettle sour called Golden Sunshine (a collaborative effort between 21st Amendment Brewery and Cigar City Brewing of Tampa, Fla.) with plenty of flights of 21st Amendment’s other beers.
While the snacks, for the most part, stick to bar classics — chips and salsa, hard pretzels with a spicy cheese sauce for dipping, pickles — there are also some conspicuously healthy alternatives, like banana chips and dried fruit. (Overall, it feels like a placeholder menu for the opening period, since the beer side of the equation was probably a massive undertaking.) But a $10 meat-and-cheese platter would go great with a $10 Bloody Mary — beef jerky stick included — on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Apart from pool and foosball, there’s pinball. Not quite enough to call Buzzworks an arcade, but half a dozen games (Fish Tales, The Addams Family, Star Trek) should be enough to keep you all from fighting with one another over who gets to play first.
With the Mid-Market restaurant graveyard only a few blocks away, you can bet anyone opening something on this scale is a bit nervous about the possibility of another high-profile flameout. Buzzworks has actually been in the works for some time — more than two years, as it happens — but its ambition level feels right on target. We’re psyched enough for Stone Apologetic Double IPA, and looking forward to a fulfilled promise of ordering in food from neighborhood restaurants. That could mean the tantalizing possibility of your own tasting menu of 11th Street mac ‘n’ cheeses from Bergerac and Butter’s menus, if you so desire.
Buzzworks 365 11th St. 415-558-1533 or sfbuzzworks.com