In oversized brewery news, New Belgium is taking over the massive new space from Little Creatures in Mission Bay. The Australian brewery, named after the mini organisms in their floral brews, was able to sell a few crowlers in the spring, but went dark over the summer. A tipster spotted a sign indicating a change of ownership in the Little Creatures window, which a representative for New Belgium the company has confirmed. The cherubic beer brand is officially taking wing and departing San Francisco.
Little Creatures was the first U.S. outpost for the Australian brewery, opening only last summer at an ambitious 6,300 square feet. New Belgium, of course, is the Colorado-based brewery known best for its bicycle theme. But this is not a sad tale of small breweries struggling during the pandemic; it’s actually a brand merger, which was already in the works. New Belgium insists this takeover is, in effect, keeping it all in the family, as both breweries are now owned by the same parent company.
Both Little Creatures and New Belgium are owned by Lion in Sydney, which is a subsidiary of Kirin in Japan. (As an aside, Anchor Brewing, our 100-year-old historic brewery, is owned by Sapporo, another Japanese giant.) New Belgium was acquired at the end of 2019, after several decades as an employee-owned operation. Lion is now rolling it up into a group called Little World Beverages, which includes New Belgium, Magnolia, and Little Creatures. And while local beer fans were excited to try Little Creatures, far more are familiar with New Belgium, making it the stronger fit for San Francisco, the company says.
Still, it may be a sad closing for some. Little Creatures was a serene industrial space, washed in blues and drenched in sunlight. It received solid reviews in the short half-year that it was able to have doors open, under the unfair circumstances. And there are surely fans who will miss the arugula-peppered steak sandwiches, beer-steamed mussels, and sticky toffee pudding, as well as the several dozen beers on tap, a few specifically crafted on site by brewmaster Dennis Stewart.
This is New Belgium’s first full-service restaurant, aside from its taprooms in Fort Collins and Asheville, which feature a few food trucks. The brewery isn’t just slapping on a fresh coat of paint: it is under construction for a full renovation and will be debuting a totally fresh menu and space. They are currently narrowing down a shortlist of chefs and brewmasters, and plan to feature existing beers, as well as introduce a few specifically brewed on site. True to the brand, expect its usual bicycle decor. The pandemic keeps pushing back the timeline, but New Belgium is hoping to open by the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021.
By coincidence, that might be when the Warriors are finally back in action at the new Chase Center. What might be most remarkable now is how time seems to have skidded to a stop in the neighborhood. A year ago, when the new Chase Center burst wide open, Mission Bay saw a rush of new restaurants, inside the stadium, outside the stadium, and in the surrounding neighborhood, from outrageous underground wine vaults to a deluge of soup dumplings. Little Creatures was one of two massive new breweries to land in the area, with Seven Stills opening its huge new flagship location only a few months later.
A representative for Chase Center confirmed that of the dozens of food and drink vendors previously opened and announced, only one is in action right now — Dumpling Time. Thrive City has still been hosting its farmers’ market, attracting regulars from the neighborhood, as well as a few healthcare workers from neighboring Kaiser. The Warriors have been coming in for individual workouts and just started “mini camp” group practices last week, in the hopes that the next NBA season will tip off in December as promised.
But in the meantime, the $1.4-billion-dollar Chase Center stands mostly empty, waiting for thousands of sports fans and concert goers to return for craft beer and fried chicken sandwiches.