Food & Drink

A Guide to Beer Drinking

Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery’s Dave McLean teaches us a thing or two about suds

magnolia’s dave mclean!

Tuck away the vino. Say good-bye to your single malt. As SF Beer Week approaches, it’s time to get schooled on ales and lagers. Brewer Dave McLean, owner of Haight-Ashbury favorite Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery and Magnolia Brewery in Dogpatch (with a restaurant slated to open in March), gives us more than a pint of info on what to drink.q&a! What’s a great starter beer for someone who has never really been a beer drinker?‬
I suggest a very well-balanced beer, one that really showcases the fact that beer is fundamentally a harmonious marriage of malt and hop flavors — something like our own Blue Bell Bitter or Bonnie Lee’s Best Bitter. For something a little lighter, maybe our Kalifornia Kölsch.

IPA seems to be all the rage. What do you predict is the next big thing?
I don’t see IPA popularity dwindling anytime soon, but I think we are seeing a renewed appreciation for less over-the-top beers that are balanced and “sessionable,” that is, beers that you can enjoy a couple of without feeling palate fatigue or the effects of stronger beers. We’re remembering as a group that beer has always been a very social and sociable beverage.

What’s an underdog beer you think more people should try?
I love a well-made black lager for its combination of drinkability and complex flavor. Locally, Moonlight Brewing’s Death & Taxes has long been a favorite beer of mine, and I wish more people could drink it.

What do you suggest for a seasoned beer drinker with an adventurous palate?
It’s a golden age for the adventurous palate in the beer world. I’m partial to barrel-aged beers for the many new layers of complexity introduced. Darker beers in whiskey barrels have become a thing, maybe the baseline for barrel aging because the flavors just work so well. But people are doing great things with a variety of different spirit and wine barrels, with or without adding additional ingredients like fruit or botanicals.

guide to beer drinking!

What seasonal flavors are popping up right now?
We’re in winter, and it’s a time for cold-weather beers — strong beers with a lot of malt character and the warming effect of a little extra alcohol. It’s most certainly barley wine season if there is one. We’re about to enter Strong Beer Month (February), a collaborative event we do with the 21st Amendment Brewery here in SF that tosses my love for balanced session beers out the window for 28 days and celebrates assertively flavored, big, sturdy beers that are a hallmark of wintertime.

Spring is coming. What do you guys have in store?
March sees me returning to lighter styles like Kölsch-style beers, hoppy pale ales, etc. Spring is a nice time for lighter saisons, too, and other lighter Belgian styles that are food friendly and pair well with spring dishes.

What are some of your favorite pairings?
It varies by day and my hunger level. Beer is such a natural companion to food of all kinds that it starts with What do I want to eat?, and then I am absolutely certain there is a beer for the occasion. I’m particularly fond of the way an English bitter, driven by subtle malt and hop nuances with an assist from a slightly fruity ale fermentation profile, pairs so well with roasted meats. But oysters and a snappy pilsner or dry stout are always great. And so is an IPA with a burger, for that matter.

Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery, 1398 Haight Street, at Masonic Avenue (415-864-7468 or magnoliapub.com).

Photo: Dave Vann / Courtesy of Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery

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1398 Haight St
@ Masonic Ave
San Francisco, CA 94117