A San Francisco brewery with ties to Burning Man and the LGBTQ community will soon greet drinkers at a Bavarian-style indoor beer garden in the Castro. Black Hammer Brewing, whose SoMa brewery and taproom opened in 2015, is behind the new beer bar and restaurant, called Willkommen. It’s currently under construction in a shiny new corner space at 2196 Market Street.
When it opens (in the next month or two, after more than a year in the works) Willkommen will serve 10 of its own beers (and maybe a few guest taps) with an emphasis on classic German styles, plus sausages like cheddar brats and knockwurst in partnership with popular Bay Area mini-chain Rosamunde. A full menu is below.
With floor-to-ceiling windows on a sunny, southern-facing flatiron corner of a residential building, Willkommen will channel head brewer/owner Jim Furman’s experience frolicking through Munich’s beer gardens, outdoor drinking areas strewn throughout its public parks. “Imagine you’re walking through Golden Gate Park and stumble across 150 people enjoying beers with friends in the woods,” says Furman: That’s what it’s like in Munich, and what he hopes to recreate in San Francisco.
Just one problem: The city’s infamous fog. So, “in lieu of providing blankets and hats and umbrellas for everyone, we thought, let’s do it inside.”
To recreate an outdoor feel inside Willkommen, Furman and product manager Cody Laxo will install two live, 14-foot redwood trees and a living wall to be maintained by the same horticulturalist as the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.
“We want it to be lively and light,” says Laxo. With beer garden tables imported from Germany, it will be “almost like you’re going to Octoberfest.”
To drink, Black Hammer will pour fan favorites like Nectar of Life, a kolsch, Hella Sexy, a Munich helles (or light lager), and Sparkle Pony, a Belgian blonde Ale. That last beer — and Black Hammer’s name — are gentle nods to its Burning Man roots. A Sparkle Pony is burner speak for a beautiful but useless festival goer. Hammer, meanwhile, is Furman’s burner name, and Black is a reference to the Black Rock desert in Nevada where the annual DIY bacchanal is held.
“Our beers have been to the desert every year,” says Furman, whose theme camp’s contributions to the festival are its rollicking parties and Furman’s own craft beer. Black Hammer’s Playa Pilsner, for instance, makes particularly easy drinking on hot desert days.
“We’re the Burning Man brewery,” says Furman — and a look around the somewhat psychedelic Black Hammer brewery and taproom in SoMa (which Furman and team designed, built, and maintain themselves) confirms the assertion.
But Burning Man doesn’t tell Black Hammer’s whole story. “We don’t want to say everything about us is Burning Man,” says Laxo. “There’s much more to us, but we like putting those subtle hints out there.”
For instance, there’s also Black Hammer’s emphasis on gluten-reduced beers. Many if not most of the brewery’s options are brewed to reduce gluten to about three parts-per-million. If beer were food, regulated by the FDA, they’d be allowed to call these beers gluten free. But instead, beer is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which draws the line at the gluten-reduced label.
And then there’s Black Hammer’s ties to the queer community. “We’ve been a really big advocate of the LGBTQ community,” says Laxo, “and I’m also part of the community.” Through Black Hammer, “it’s been fun to fundraise and do special events,” and that will continue in the historically gay Castro, Laxo says.
In the world of brewing, a field sometimes criticized for its straight, male homogeny, Laxo says he’s seen more diversity over the last few years.
“Working at so many of the festivals for the last three years, it’s been really awesome to see more queer presence; every year it feels like there’s more. It’s pretty rad.”
Stay tuned for updates on Willkommen, and in the meantime, Black Hammer’s beer can be found in SoMa and at a Polk Street pop-up, Hammertime, which the team hopes to continue for “as long as they can.”
When Black Hammer opens, hours will be Monday through Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Thursday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Wilkommen Food Menu by on Scribd