Castro District drinkers are saying “willkommen, bienvenue, welcome” to a new indoor beer garden from SoMa’s Black Hammer Brewing. Willkommen, as the bar is called, held a boisterous grand opening party on Friday, and it’s now open for 10 beers brewed in SoMa by Black Hammer with an emphasis on classic German styles. To eat, customers will find sausages from the Bay Area’s Rosamunde, whose cheddar brats and knockwurst make easy pairings with beer.
“We want [the space] to be lively and light,” says Cody Laxo, Black Hammer’s product manager, “almost like you’re going to Octoberfest,” while thankfully staying warm and indoors in often foggy San Francisco.
The mostly glass, airy corner of a new development at 2196 Market Street lent itself naturally to the role. Owners imported German beer garden tables and chairs, commissioned a verdant wreath from Chloe Hana Flower, and even brought in potted redwood trees and installed a living wall that’s maintained by the same horticulturalist as the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.
For classic German-style beers, Black Hammer Brewing’s owner and brewer Jim Furman created new options like Lederhosen Lost (a malty doppeblock), OktoberFestive (an Octoberfest-style Marzen beer), and soon on tap, a German hefeweizen (wheat beer) called Heff Bridges.
Notably, most of Black Hammer’s beers are gluten-reduced, designed to remove gluten to about three parts-per-million. If beer were food and regulated by the FDA, Black Hammer would be allowed to call its beers gluten free. But instead, it’s regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which draws the line at calling them gluten-reduced.
Others of Black Hammer’s beers, like Sparkle Pony (a Belgian blonde ale) and Playa Pilsner, gesture toward Black Hammer’s roots — not in Germany, but at Burning Man. Furman, Laxo, and the rest of the Black Hammer team are yearly fixtures at the SF-born, DIY festival, bringing their refreshing beer to the Black Rock desert in Nevada, from which Black Hammer derives part of its name. The “Hammer” is Furman’s nickname on the playa.
Furman opened Black Hammer’s very Burning Man-looking SoMa brewpub in 2015, and last year, expanded to a pop-up on Polk Street called Hammertime. But Willkommen is the team’s most ambitious expansion yet, with more seating than the SoMa original, though no brewing on-premises. It’s also the team’s first foray into serving food: Rosamunde’s tried-and-true sausages, pretzels, spaetzle, salads, and daily roast specials. And finally, Willkommen is just one in a small a handful of German-style drinking establishments in the city — Biergarten and its new indoor sibling, Radhaus, are others.
Willkomen is now open from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday.