2005 | REGIONAL | WEST COAST
Magnolia Pub & Brewery Celebrates Seven
By Angela Wagner
It is with great joy that I write about the seventh anniversary
of my “local,” the Magnolia
Pub & Brewery in San Francisco, located in the Psychedelic
’60s, Upper-Haight District of the City. Every visit
to Magnolia feels like a summer day of love.
Opened by Master Brewer Dave McLean in November of 1997,
the pub is a reflection of his love of true English-style
ales and his passion for the Grateful Dead. Magnolia sits
in a charming and very warm, pre-earthquake Victorian. As
you sip your cask-conditioned ale at the wide wooden bar,
you can’t help but be filled with awe as you gaze at
the stunning Jon Weiss mural, capturing the many dreamlike
lyrics of the Grateful Dead. One’s imagination then
wanders beyond. As Dave says, “The mural is a reflection
of my ideas on music, mostly The Dead, but Jon took artistic
liberties that give Magnolia a free-form quality.” The
pub is open to interpretation and has evolved sweetly, as
a magnolia should, over the course of its seven years.
Dave strongly adheres to traditional English-style brewing
techniques for his cask-conditioned ales. He explains that
coming from the ubiquitous hoppy boldness of Northern California
brewing, he was intrigued by the more understated and sublime
nature of English ales. “Despite their low-gravity alcohol,
they’re all about flavor,” he says. So after a
handful of trips to England over the years, including stops
at Young’s, Fuller’s and his favorite English
brewery, Hook Norton, Dave opened Magnolia. The pub offers
up to five different cask-conditioned ales at one time. The
product moves, and it’s been a pleasure to see the style
become so popular in a part of the world where cask-conditioning
is still considered a little esoteric.
In addition to the cask-conditioned offerings, Dave’s
draught beers range from his Cologne-style Kalifornia Kolsch,
a true-to-style, low alcohol, fruity and dry beer with great
subtlety, to his Proving Ground IPA, which comes in at 100
IBUs. Lots of other flavorful twists and turns get poured
at Magnolia, including their special holiday ale, Winter Warmer;
a Belgian-style Saison de Lily (named after the newest McLean);
and occasionally, a gruitbier known as Weekapauge. Just a
little creativity goes on at Magnolia!
This last fall, Magnolia was held out as the Northern California
brewing representative of the Slow Food movement at the biannual
artisanal food fair, Salone del Gusto, in Turin, Italy. This
experience, too, has been part of the pub’s evolution
and was a reinforcement of Magnolia’s commitment to
traditional and wholesome styles of both brewing and cooking.
For McLean, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that engendered
great pride in sharing a worldwide respect for producing food
and beverages artisan ally.
McLean feels a certain responsibility toward the patrons
who frequent his establishment. He explains that the fact
that people are willing to try a different type of beer and
remain loyal to it and the pub shows how important a good
pub is in the community. “It tells me that people place
a certain trust in a pub that makes them feel comfortable,
and I’m keenly aware of the responsibility that comes
with it.” It’s from this sensitivity to the community
he serves that McLean gets the bountiful energy to improve,
create and foster the evolution of Magnolia.
In a nutshell, the pub is really a culmination of, as Dave
says, “all the thoughts and energy of the people who
interact with it: customers, staff, neighbors, family and
me. It’s an ensemble work.” As for myself, being
part of the community of Magnolia, my feelings when I go there
are, “I’m Truckin’, I’m a-goin’
home. Whoa, whoa, baby, back where I belong.” Thanks,
Dave, and congratulations.
Magnolia Pub & Brewery
1398 Haight St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
Angela Wagner is a San Francisco–based