Having a bar named “Zeitgeist” carries with it a certain responsibility and attitude – even more so when it’s located in San Francisco’s Mission District, not far from the seedier side of Market Street. Zeitgeist, the German noun, means the spirit of the time, the general trend of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period . Culturally, zeitgeist suggests “the general moral, intellectual and cultural climate of an era,” like the Victorians' faith in industrial progress and American settlers' belief in manifest destiny. The zeitgeist of the Zeitgeist Bar and Guesthouse has a rebellious urban edge, as befits a divey tavern, under the shadow of a freeway overpass, whose clientele mostly gets around on two wheels.Among the brews on tap on a recent visit were a couple of dark beers from Moonlight Brewing Company in Santa Rosa. Although Moonlight’s Death and Taxes California black lager was listed, it wasn’t available. Instead, the bar was pouring Moonlight’s excellent dark lager called Toast and a dark ale that Zeitgeist had dubbed “xxxmas,” a beer I wasn’t familiar with. To clear up the details on the mystery beer, I contacted Moonlight owner and brewer (and just about everything else at the brewery) Brian Hunt, who explained: “Zeitgeist sometimes uses some creative license in naming beers, and last year or before they began calling the Tipple ‘Rated Xmas.’ I think they shortened the name this year and made it more ‘hard core!’"
Hunt described the dark ale (top, with a grilled cheese) as “porterish without going quite that dark. It is aged on wet/dry hops. These are the same hops that were picked at the brewery and put in the aging tanks and filled with Homegrown. The timing works just right so that when the Homegrown is all sold, I refill the tanks with Tipple. There is a resulting freshhop character that makes the dark ale more almost fruity, as opposed to hoppy. It is as if the dark malt flavor masks some of the grassier freshhop notes, and the richer notes are able to surface up with the malt flavors. It was at least three weeks old when first released, likely about five or six weeks old when the last keg went out the week before Christmas.”
He described Toast as a slightly burned strong lager, “an exercise in toasty flavor. I just used all the malts that I felt would make a beer that tasted like Toast. Hops were just minimal enough to round off the dry edges. This beer, however, was a year old. Last year I released two versions: a small amount 3 years old, and the bulk that was 4 weeks old. My intention from now on is to only release it at one year, except for a few extra-old kegs. All aging is in stainless. Both are 6.0% (abv).”
Needless to say, both were delicious and especially excellent sipping in the outdoor patio on a partially gray San Francisco afternoon.
My advice: ignore the attitude, bring a hoodie, buy a burger or tamale and enjoy some great beer.
199 Valencia at Duboce