San Francisco’s Toronado Endures as a Monument to Characterful Beer

From our Love Handles files on the world’s best places to drink great beer: Steadily approaching four decades in operation, this influential bar continues to combine unpretentious atmosphere with a powerhouse selection of independently brewed beers.

Joe Stange May 12, 2024 - 2 min read

San Francisco’s Toronado Endures as a Monument to Characterful Beer Primary Image

Photo: Joe Stange

What it is: One of the OG American craft-beer bars, approaching a venerable 37 years—though it spent the first two as a dance club with advanced taste in beer—the Toronado is still going strong on Haight Street. The dance floor is long gone, thankfully, but its DNA is intact as an expression of owner Dave Keene’s love of dive bars, Belgian ales, and American craft. Its annual barleywine festival is equally legendary, recently notching its 30th year. No food here, but you can bring it in from nearby—including the German-inspired Berliner Berliner next-door, featuring bratwurst and döner kebab—pretty much guaranteed to go well with whatever you’re drinking.

Why it’s great: The divey patina is earned, with layers of Trappist ale signs, brewery stickers, vintage bottles, and more that has accumulated over the years—you can’t design this vibe; you can only nurture it over decades. Yet the main attraction remains the beer: The 50 taps, three cask handpulls, and 90-plus cans and bottles celebrate the best of California and around the world, including hits from Allagash, Alvarado Street, Cellarmaker, Monkish, North Park, and Russian River, and on to Cantillon, Schneider, Tilquin, and more. If you only have time for a beer or two, you’ll leave with a deep sense of longing to return, soon. May it last another 37.

Hours: 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m., daily
Address: 547 Haight St., San Francisco
IG: @toronadosf