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Food & Drink

A year after fire destroyed its taproom, this San Francisco craft brewery is back in action

The former Local Brewing taproom, seen in October 2023, has been shuttered since a fire upstairs raced through the building in December 2022. | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard

Nearly a year after a fire destroyed its South of Market taproom, San Francisco’s own Local Brewing Co. is once again a thriving enterprise—one expanding beyond its well-known lagers and IPAs into boozy new domains. 

Pouring beer at the Golden State Warriors’ season opener this week, Local co-founder and brewmaster Regan Long is free to move on from the Dec. 3 tragedy that began in the artist studios above her Bluxome Street brewery

“It’s going to take them several years to restructure that building,” Long told The Standard. “So what I’ve been up to in the last nine or 10 months is closing down that space and researching potential spots for a brick-and-mortar.”

That wasn’t the case at first. 

While a crowdfunding campaign enabled Long to pay her suddenly jobless staff several months’ pay and help get some hired around town—Bay Area brewing is, as she put it, a “tight team of hustlers”—every other element of winding down the business was nothing short of debilitating. 

In partnership with Richmond’s East Brother Beer Company, Long has been able to re-release Local’s prized Loud N Clear IPA, along with 69 Pils, a dry pilsner whose impish name evokes the burned-out brewery’s street address. She’s worked with Bayview’s Laughing Monk and with Bernal Heights’ Barebottle, the latter on a cider that should be released later this year.

Local has revived the relationship with its distributor to get its beers back into restaurants and bars across California while also shipping directly to fans. (You can already drink some at Thee Parkside, Mother and elsewhere.) On Friday, Long is hosting a special release event at Tiger’s Taproom in Oakland’s Jack London Square, a sort of “we’re back!” shout of joy.

Once again in production, Local Brewing's beers have a new look. | Source: Courtesy Local Brewing Co.

In Local’s eight years, Long and her team put out no fewer than 90 different kinds of beer as one of the few women- and LGBTQ-owned operations around. At the same time, Long says, the Bay Area’s beer scene is in flux. 

“The long and the short of it is, brewing spaces have evolved. People are getting into a diverse array of different beverages,” she said, ticking off things like sparkling juices and fermented beverages with probiotics or electrolytes. “Every couple months, we’ll bring back some oldies but goodies—but we’re going to see how we can appeal to people of different age groups and palate profiles.”

So for now, it doesn’t make sense to reopen a brick-and-mortar. But with a fuller portfolio of beverages down the line, Long is open to the possibility of another taproom. 

All this has transpired under the shadow of a contraction among Bay Area craft brewers. 

Exactly a year ago this week, Seven Stills announced that its ambitious expansion had gotten the better of it, while Dogpatch’s Harmonic announced its demise this summer. And of course, there is Anchor Brewing, a former colossus that’s now an empty Art Deco shell partway up Potrero Hill.

Apart from its signature Anchor Steam, the famed brewery was known for its perennially tweaked Christmas Ales, which are now no more. Maybe that means less competition on the shelves for Local’s award-winning, graham-cracker-and-vanilla-filled imperial porter Winter Sweater, but Anchor’s disappearance leaves a big hole. 

The craft of brewing is, if nothing else, a guild where rivals are actually peers.

“It tugs at my heartstrings,” Long said of the loss, adding that she and a friend who had worked at Anchor were working together on a Friendsgiving-themed beer for November that will be brewed at nearby New Belgium in Mission Bay. 

That way, she added, "Anchor won't be completely gone."