Beer and Cheer- A Walking Tour with SF On Tap

SF on Tap - Beer and Cheer

Food and drink are two of the things I love exploring most when I travel. And when it comes to foodie and drinkie finds, San Francisco never disappoints. It’s as much a foodies delight as it’s a beer drinker’s heaven. The craft beer scene has rocketed into orbit in recent years with beers both flavourful and plentiful.   Doing a brewery tour is just one of the things I wanted to tick off  on my 101 Things to Do in 1001 Days list so when I discovered a San Francisco walking tour that combined sightseeing, local lore and local brews, I was in quicker than you could say  raise your glass and say “cheers.”

Founder of SF on Tap, Adam Marca has a  tour motto,  “learn, drink and celebrate” and you can certainly expect to do all three on one of his tours. Adam offers three different tours exploring SoMa, the Haight and Fishermans’ Wharf/North Beach. If I’m honest, I wanted to do all three, but with the limited time I had available, I settled for the Fisherman’s Wharf tour because the time, dates and planets aligned.

SF on Tap - Adam

You can expect to visit three bars/breweries on one of Adam’s tours and sample 3-4 beers in each. Adam is quite the beerologist and is keen to share his extensive knowledge about the individual beers tasted, brewing and the SF brewing scene in general. Best of all, he’ll email you the deets of everything you drink on the tour, the day following it, so you can forget about having to remember everything and just savour the sip.

SF on Tap - malts

It should be noted though,  that SF on Tap is as much is about the hood as it is about the brews, so non-drinkers are most welcome (and pay a reduced rate.) If beer isn’t your bag, you can opt for a soft drink instead, still have a top time and get the inside scoop on San Francisco’s iconic neighbourhoods. If you are planning on getting stuck into the beer, remember you have to be 21 or over and bring some ID to prove it.

SF on Tap - North Beach

First things first, it’s very important to begin your Craft Beer Tour with your stomach fully lined. Adam provides tour members with a list of foodie fuelling options but my pick is the bread bowl full of clam chowder from the Boudin Bakery. It’s a real treat (even when it’s a toasty 31 degrees celcius!)

SF on Tap - Clam Chowder

The cafe is a few minutes walk away from the first bar in the tour and where we meet Adam and our new beer buddies. You can expect to meet peeps not just from all over the US, but from all around the world and some locals too because these tours aren’t just for tourists! It doesn’t really matter whether you’re flying solo, part of a couple or joining the tour with a few of your friends, because by the end of the tour, everyone will have bonded over beer. On this tour, you’ll beer taste like a boss, improve your beer knowledge and see and learn so much about the hoods of San Francisco, plus you’ll be extending your social circle with all the new mates you’ll make!

SF on Tap - The Rock

After the introductions, and the first two beer tastings, we venture out, taking our third beer to go! You read that right, Pier 39 is private property so it’s perfectly legit to walk around with a beer in hand and of course, a visit to Pier 39 isn’t a visit to Pier 39 without an obligatory photo stop for the money shot of “The Rock.” Talking of The Rock, any of the craft beer tours can be combined with an Alcatraz tour so you can explore the prison island in the morning and enjoy some beer and cheer in the afternoon. This is a cracking combination, and also a neat way to score those hard to come by Alcatraz tickets.

We head round to see the sea lions, my personal Pier 39 favourite. The first sea lions arrived in October 1989 and since then they’ve just keep on coming. Although we don’t see as many as the all time record of 1,701 set in November 2009, there’s enough to keep us entertained!

Taking stock - pier 39

I’ve always thought Fisherman’s Wharf too touristy for my taste but it has a fascinating history. When Adam shows us and tells us about the real  Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s so  different from the tourist strip we’ve come to recognise it as today. Adam’s got some great tales to tell, but my favourite given my lunchtime delight was how following the quake and subsequent fires of 1906, Louise Boudin chucked some of the sourdough starter in a bucket and escaped just before the Boudin bakery building fell to the ground. It’s good to know that when chowing down my lunch, I was actually eating a little bit of Gold Rush history.

SF on Tap - Fisherman's Wharf

We have a quick stop and step back in time in Musee Mecanique, San Fran’s antique penny arcade and one of my San Fran favourites. A few quarters here can bring unbridled amusement, it’s amazing what people took for entertainment back in the day!

SF on Tap - Musee Mecanique

We walk by the restaurants famous for their Dungenesse Crab and then head on to bar number 2 for more tastings and some snacks. Being that we’re at the wharf, it’s oysters, with some sides of fries which backs up my theory that no matter how posh your seafood, it always needs a side of fries!

SF on Tap - Snacks

We then head into North Beach which isn’t a beach at all, but San Francisco’s Little Italy. You know you’re in Little Italy when the lamp posts have Italian flags (sideways.) We stop for the obligatory cable car shot, watch the cars being turned, learn about their history and muse why they cost so much to ride.

SF on Tour - cable car

We pass some local icons, most notably Saints Peter and Paul Church. Joe Di Maggio and Marilyn couldn’t get married here but they did swing by for their wedding photos and who can blame them?

SF on Tap - St Peter and Paul church

We still have time for one last pub, four more beers and a stack more snacks before it’s a wrap. Of course if you’ve got a second wind, the fun doesn’t stop there, Adam provides everyone in the group with a comprehensive list of eating and drinking options in North Beach. One night just won’t be enough!

SF on Tap - Beer and tots

Just like a well balanced beer, an SF on Tap tour has all the necessary ingredients for a fun afternoon out – it’s the combo of the local stories, great beer and new friends that put this tour in a league of it’s own. And I’ll drink to that!

Have you ever been on a beer tour? Are you a fan of exploring on foot too?

To find out more about SF on Tap and tour dates, options and Alcataraz combos, click here

I joined the tour as a guest of SF on Tap but all opinions are my own.

Linking up with  VanMarcellaLauren and Isabel for Wanderful Wednesday

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    SF is such an amazing city! The food scene there is so good! I must admit I didn’t really explore the beer scene though apart from the Anchor Steam Beer.

    • The food and drink scene is San Fran is so good. I felt that I hardly touched the sides! We tasted some Anchor Steam on our tour. Did you know Anchor Steam have patented the “steam” in their name for that style of brewing. Many other beers in SF are brewed that way too but they’re called “California Common” instead 🙂 It’s amazing the things you learn on a beer tour!

  • Mmm now this is a tour I can get on board with! And I love that you really got beer snacks to go with the beer! #WanderfulWednesday

    • Oh yes! It’s very important to keep one’s stomach lined while beer tasting! I now have tater tot withdrawal!

  • What a fun tour. I know it’s about the booze, but that chowder looks amazing. I went to SF years ago and now my sister lives there so I am due a visit soon!

    • That’s the funny thing, the tour is as much about the hood as it is about the booze. That said, the chowder was a great way to start off my afternoon. If I had a family member in SF, I would be there ALL the time! Such a fun place to visit!

  • What a delicious looking tour, mmmm! I dream of going to SF, it just sounds great and the whole foodie scene there really appeals to me!

    • It was so much fun and so educational. I learned so much about SF and of course, beer and I loved exploring the neighbourhoods on foot. SF is such an awesome place to visit, there’s so much to see, eat and do!

  • This sounds like a lot of fun! I’m not a big beer fan but would love to hear from a knowledgeable guide on his take on the different beers! PS: I so want to try that clam chowder. It’s probably my favourite soup, especially on a cold day!

    • The best thing about this tour is that you don’t have to be a big beer fan to be a fan of this tour. We had a couple of non-drinkers/non-beer lovers in our group and they still had a ball learning about beer and some of San Fran’s neighbourhood secrets. Adam’s beer and local knowledge was tip top! And yes, that soup was a great way to start the proceedings, especially as it was in a sourdough bread bowl!

  • This kind of reminds me of a beer tour I did in Asheville, North Carolina a while back! It was so fun! I’m not a huge beer person, but I do enjoy it from time to time and this looks like the ideal way to try a bunch! That clam chowder bread bowl in the beginning looks AMAZING as well!

    • We definitely tried our fair share of beer and did our fair share of walking because life is all about balance, right?! And yep, that clam chowder is just another good reason to visit SF!

  • Mmm bread bowl clam chowder (which I still haven’t tried)! And of course all of the beers. What an awesome tour! I’ll have to drag Mike out for that one soon. 🙂

    • Oh you must try the chowder so yum! That bakery has all bread shaped as animals and all amazing shapes – worth a visit in itself! The tour was ace. David was so jealous he couldn’t go. I promised I’ll take him next time we’re in SF, and yes, Mike would love it. The SOMA and Haight tours get a lot more locals on board too. It’s great value – 3 hours of learning, walking and drinking!

  • I loveee San Fran and your photos are making me want to go back tomorrow! 😜

  • I knew that food tours were a thing but this tour seems to be an awesome mix of sightseeing, drinks and snacks – I love the concept!!

    • It’s really the tour trifecta – drinking, eating and sightseeing on foot – three of my favourite things!