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Jul 15, 2011 6 min read

Southern Pacific Brewing

Southern Pacific Brewing
All photos by Blair Sneddon Photography. The brew tanks.
Table of Contents

This section is written by Erin Archuleta, half of the talent behind local outfit ICHI Catering and ICHI Sushi. Outside of the food world, Erin works full-time championing kid literacy at 826 National. Keep up with her @erinarchuleta.

SOUTHERN PACIFIC BREWING is set in what could have been described as the “brewing district” of San Francisco at the turn of the century. They’re located on the site of a massive machine shop tucked away behind John O’Connell High School (which was built atop of an old brewery site itself.) Bottle caps from the long-defunct Enterprise Brewing Company and Broadway Brewery nearby can still be found when digging up Folsom Street. In naming their brewery for the former train tracks running through the Mission, friends Anthony LaVia and Chris Lawrence want to evoke the history of the place. In fact, while the guys were digging, they found an old railroad sign three and a half feet down. And, another fortuitous sign: they found the footing for old brew tanks! Southern Pacific Brewing Company (on the site of the old Broadway Brewery) wanted to keep that industrial feel that made the Mission District what it was so many years ago. And they get it right; they’re keeping all the production here in SF.

You could almost miss the brewery—it’s tucked away at 620 Treat Street (near Folsom and 19th Streets). Crazily enough, Anthony was a neighbor, and hadn’t realized that the massive, close to 10,000-sq. ft. machine shop warehouse was there. When they found it, it didn’t take long for them to decide this was the right fit. They only checked out a couple of other sites before realizing the opportunity that this mixed-license warehouse space offers them—the ability to be a restaurant, bar, and full production brewery with distribution.

In contrast to that quick decision, their elaborate build-out is a labor of love and a saga of permitting with the city two and a half years in the works. Boor Bridges is the architecture firm behind the transformation. (You might recognize the work of architects Bonnie and Seth at the new Four Barrel parklet on Valencia Street.) A major must for the Boor Bridges duo was bringing the light in with generous skylights and a stunning, custom-built glass front wall framed in galvanized steel for the gigantic, metal-wrapped, formerly dark edifice. The concept is centered on creating an indoor/outdoor feel no matter where you’re dining. There’s patio seating in the front, a lengthy bar along the right wall as you enter, and a dining room both downstairs and upstairs under the high ceilings. To the left is the giant roll-up door from which all that great beer will roll out into SF. Behind the downstairs bar area and bar-height dining area, the kitchen is housed under the mezzanine bar above. The mezzanine level has a stunning view through the glass front wall and will be available for private parties. (Think: best bachelor party ever.) And in the back is where all the brewing will take place.

All throughout the space, one of San Francisco’s horticultural darlings, Flora Grubb, will be doing up the landscape. On the patio and creating a little bit of green in betwixt all that elegant steel and glass will be a full spectrum of Flora’s work. In the middle of the dining room, two trees will grow up. Other elements warming the space include large reclaimed lumber from a 100-year-old redwood barn from Mendocino for the back bar and the face of the bar, as well as reclaimed wood pieces that were actually the joists from Anthony’s old house in Noe Valley, also about 100 years old, as accents in the bar and dining room.

And, in a favorite move for all those ladies who hate to wait in line: there’s a communal sink between the bathrooms. No waiting with legs crossed while someone ahead of you takes fooooorever to reapply her lips. Thank you very much, once I’m my third beer in. And, that’s pretty much a guarantee, as Anthony and Chris plan to produce all types of beer with some initial styles including IPAs, pale ales, and lagers.

When I met up with the guys, they were in the process of framing out the walls and getting up the sheet rock. HVAC was being installed, and the last bits of the machine shop were being removed.

In a stunning kitchen touring moment, this author found herself standing in the largest walk-in structure she’s ever seen (and I’ve been in some pretty huge warehouse kitchens…). The walk-in was 17-ft. wide x 31-ft. long x and 18-ft. tall. That’s a lot of precious beer to keep chilled for the Bay Area folks who will be drinking ‘em.

The kitchen will be full-service and will feature a pizza oven. The guys are still seeking a chef, and anyone interested can reach them by email. There’s a 15-ft. hood, and a pretty standard kitchen with a couple of fryers, grill burners, and whatever else the chef decides on. Plus, in your most favorite of Scooby Doo dreams, the kitchen staff will regularly use a dumbwaiter to run food up to the mezzanine level.

The guys have a long history in the beer business, Chris at Speakeasy as a sales manager and at Matagrano as a wholesaler. Anthony owned Cafe La Onda before turning it into Gestalt Haus, then sold that and bought the Arrow Bar at 6th Street, turning it into Matador and then selling it, as well. It’s clear that these guys know their way around a perfect pint. They are planning not only to brew and sell their own beer in-house, but to distribute it themselves, too. They say they’ll start locally in the Mission and then expand organically. Being able to keep the beer moving keeps it fresh.

The tanks, three fermentors and seven brights, are repurposed from the old Potrero Brewing Company. They’re beautiful showpieces (in fact, they’re the sister system to 21st Amendment), which are going to work hard to produce up to 2,000 barrels back behind the restaurant. The dry storage area in the back will allow for barrel aging in the cool, insulated section of the building.

The building being zoned as mixed-use made the build-out a bit easier for the guys, who have been managing the massive construction project themselves. Obtaining a Small Beer Manufacturer license made their vision possible. Other spaces they looked at that had Wholesale or On-Sale Beer and Wine Eating Place licenses were close, but not quite the right fit. The mixed-use license was perfect because it allows for in-house production, beer and wine sales, and distribution. With the other license types, the guys would have had to develop their brand in-house and then open another brewery. Chris and Anthony will also have a full liquor license for the bar for those of you who just need that shot of Jamie or Jack or Jim to go with your brew.

One positive aspect of a long build-out was the ability to source just the right equipment. They were able to watch for the best barrels from all over. This allowed them to save money and do some good for the planet by scouting great reclaimed materials and giving themselves the opportunity to be choosy.

The guys are excited to be adding their brewery, restaurant, and bar to a neighborhood full of other large and lively projects, like Southern Exposure’s arts space and the upcoming bowling alley project. Missionites are cheering the arrival of another tasty and outdoor option in the ‘hood, and are prepping their budding beer guts for the opening slated for late summer/early fall.

All photos by Blair Sneddon Photography. The brew tanks.

View from the mezzanine level out toward the front of the building.
The walk-in frame obscuring a view of the brewing facilities in the back.
View from the kitchen looking toward the front of the restaurant.

Southern Pacific Brewing

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