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FEB/MAR 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 | Visit Website
1398 Haight St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 864-PINT

Angela Wagner is a San Francisco–based writer/photographer.

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