It’s hard to believe, but Social Kitchen and Brewery in the Inner Sunset turns 3 on May 15. The third year anniversary celebrates the most recent and most successful iteration of the brewpub, which opened its doors in December 1997 as Golden Gate Brewery.
But the brewpub on 9th Avenue near Irving struggled to find its footing for several years.
The first order of business for the current owners (some of whom came from Zebulon, which was displaced from the Financial District due to construction of the new bus terminal) was to get the beer right; if a brewpub doesn’t pour good beer, nothing else much matters. In 2010, Master Cicerone Rich Higgins stepped in as brew master and soon the 15-barrel system above the restaurant was churning out excellent beer in daring styles that were markedly different from the uber-bitter ales typically found in brewpubs. Higgins’ first beers were Social Kolsch, Old Time Alt, Rapscallion Belgian Dark, Easy IPA and L’Enfant Terrible Strong Belgian Golden.
The owners also turned their attention to the kitchen, which had been a bit of a revolving door. In the fall of 2011, they recruited Chris Wong, a co-owner from Luella, as head chef.
When Higgins left to become a consultant in 2012, he left the beer making in the capable hands of his handpicked successor, Kim Sturdavant of Marin Brewing, who had spent time in England learning to brew authentic English-style ales.
Some of Higgins’ styles continue to make regular appearances on SKB’s rotating beer menu, albeit with Sturdavant’s distinctive touch. Sturdavant’s current lineup includes the excellent SKB Pilsner, Manchester Session Ale, Beach House Blonde, Mr. Kite’s Pale Ale and Waterfront Porter. Sturdavant continues to explore the varied flavors of beer and last fall teamed up with his wine-making friend James Davids of Oro En Paz to make a saison with Semillon.
Almost from the outset, Wong and Sturdavant seemed to be on the same culinary page. Wong’s cuisine is a combination of upscale pub food and Asian-inspired comfort food, like his signature Pork Belly Fried Rice and Short-Rib Hash, featured on the Sunday brunch menu, and Sturdavant’s beer is a frequent ingredient in Wong’s recipes, especially during SKB’s Brewmaster Dinners.
Stop by on Wednesday to celebrate Social Kitchen’s third anniversary, during which the brewpub will feature its beers for $3.