In many ways, Fort Point Beer Company’s reputation precedes it. The Presidio-based craft brewery’s strong San Francisco identity and ubiquity on restaurant and biergarten menus has led to a perception that Fort Point is a much bigger brand than it is, leaving many of us speculating whether it will be the next small brewer to be purchased by Heineken or Anheuser-Busch. But as SF Beer Week kicks off, the founders of Fort Point said they feel at once grounded in the Bay Area and ready to think beyond the IPA.
In January, Fort Point released two hard ciders: the Super Dry and the Super Natural. The former is a classic variety that Fort Point co-owner and head of brand Dina Dobkin calls a “Swiss Army Knife cider,” likening it to the brewery’s popular standby, the KSA, or Kolsch-style ale.
Super Natural is sort of Super Dry’s fun younger sister, a spritzy and summery rosé-style cider with more body.
As director of innovation Mike Schnebeck told The Standard, cider has been on Fort Point’s wish list for a few years.
“We figured now would be a good time to branch out,” he said. “Like beer, cider has a rich tradition of production and a cultural tradition that spans the globe. There’s a good tradition of apple growing in Northern California.”
Schnebeck’s team devoted more than a year to cider R&D, a process that paralleled beer-brewing in several ways. After all, cider is simply another fermented beverage. Because Fort Point doesn’t own its own orchards, Schnebeck took a yeast-driven approach to developing the cider. He said the brewery also aimed to fill a niche in the Bay Area’s craft scene.
“We had a specific idea of what we wanted our cider to be and found that there wasn’t truly a dry cider made here that’s not overly sweet,” Schnebeck said, adding that the dry quality aligns with Fort Point's beer as well.
“The fine-tuning came on the fermentation side,” he continued. “That’s what makes the cider the most distinctive—a subtle, floral fruitiness that marries nicely with the crispness of the apple.”
Launching a cider might seem like a left turn, but this isn’t the first time Fort Point has defied the definition of a craft brewery. The company began as a homebrewing project by brothers Justin and Tyler Catalana in Mill Valley in 2009, and within the local scene, it’s become something of an antidote to the craft beer snobbery that’s typically hung up on trading rare cans and logging lagers in apps like Untappd and Beer Buddy.
“We often talk about how Fort Point is the 'beer for the 90%,’” Dobkin said. “People who pick up Fort Point cans often don’t identify as beer drinkers. They say, ‘I like the orange can, or the blue can.’”
Still, Fort Point’s standing looms larger than its distribution, which, domestically at least, currently spans only California and a bit of Arizona. However, like fellow Bay Area originals Blue Bottle and Tartine, the brewery has attracted drinkers across the Pacific, and now has a limited distribution in Japan.
Justin Catalana chalks that geographic outlier up to the sister city relationship between San Francisco and Tokyo, also noting that Japan’s biggest city is currently in the midst of a craft beer revolution. Ultimately, he said Fort Point plans to stay Bay Area-centric for now.
“There’s a common misconception that we’re much bigger than we are,” Catalana said. “We like to think of ourselves as a local hometown brewery.”
This Saturday, as part of Beer Week, Fort Point will once again co-host its popular dim sum beer brunch at hometown haunt Hong Kong Lounge in the Richmond, marrying the beloved eatery’s Cantonese-style dumplings and pork ribs with a subtly sweet cider to cut through the spice.
📍 5322 Geary Blvd., SF
🗓️ Saturday, Feb. 18 | 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]