Rogue Ales Public House: Oregon beer in North Beach

Rogue Ales didn’t start out in San Francisco or even in California, but the Rogue Ales Public House across from Washington Square has in six-and-a-half years developed some of the characteristics of a neighborhood “local” pub: a place you can meet a buddy before going out on the town, or enjoy an afternoon snack and some good beer in pleasant surroundings in the middle of bustling North Beach and Chinatown.
Rogue SF, the southernmost outpost of the Oregon-based Rogue Nation, has a lot going for it in becoming a local hangout. The bar is in a good location (formerly Mel’s Steakhouse and Little City) near Powell on Union and it’s open every day from around midday on. It’s kid- and pet-friendly, and serves better than average beer with food. The outdoor patio gives the ale house a bit of an urban oasis ambience and Thursday night pub quizzes are popular. The pub pushes Rogue’s beer and paraphernalia pretty hard – bottles for sale are lined up all over the pub -- and the staff is eager for you to try the beer.
Servers are happy to oblige with a taste if you’re curious about any of them.
Sometimes the devil is in the details, and Rogue SF is a bit frayed around the edges. The vinyl-covered bar stools are cracked and show considerable wear and tear, the patio is a little dingy, and the whole pub seems a bit tired and very 1980s. Food is typical pub fare, though the Kobe beef chili the bartender recommended was nicely balanced and tasty. Clearly, the chief reason for being here, other than trivia night, is the beer, which you order from the large chalkboard that looms over the bar.
The pub advertises 40 beers on tap, and even though several taps were out, there’s still a lot to choose from. Unlike some other chain pubs, Rogue shares taps with beer from several local breweries, including Anchor’s Old Foghorn Barleywine, Drakes Imperial Stout (Denogginizer was out), Anderson Valley Huger Boont and Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball.
Rogue makes an extensive range of interesting beer, from pilsners to IPAs, porters and stouts. The Dry-Hopped St. Rogue Red Ale I had with the Kobe beef chili was delicious, bringing out the flavors of the dish while at the same time quenching the spicy chili and refreshing my palate. Even though the hops were noticeable in this red ale, they didn’t predominate. At 5.1% abv, it’s a very nice session beer. Rogue makes some excellent stouts and porters, too. Of the 18 Rogue beers listed on the chalkboard, six were porters or stouts. The SF pub served Rogue’s chocolate stout, with imported Dutch bittersweet chocolate, in a hand-pumped cask, and it was delicious. Who needs dessert when you can have your chocolate and your beer all at once?
 Rogue began in 1988 in scenic Ashland, Oregon, the home of the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, but soon outgrew its small surroundings and limited distribution capabilities. Expansion continued apace and the Rogue Nation has established several Oregon public houses, called “Meeting Halls,” in Portland (including one at the Portland airport), Astoria, Newport and Eugene, and in Issaquah, Wash., in addition to San Francisco. Rogue’s beers are available in bottles all over the country. Rogue also grows its own hops (Perle, Sterling, Horizon, and Centennial) in Independence, Ore., and distills spirits at Rogue Distillery & Public House in Portland.
Rogue Ales Public House in North Beach is worth a visit just to sample a nice variety of well-crafted, well-poured beers. The food isn’t spectacular, especially considering the abundant options available in the area. But it’s a good place to duck into for a pint in a cozy atmosphere with some North Beach denizens.

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