Before the pandemic, a slew of new restaurants and bars flooded into Mission Bay, a neighborhood cementing itself as a dining destination in the city. The Chase Center landed with the reverberating thud of a spaceship in fall 2019, and with the promise of Warriors games and concert crowds, eateries proliferated inside and out of the new stadium. Then COVID-19 hit, and the neighborhood went eerily quiet. Many of the restaurants that were lined up to open in Thrive City, the area just outside the stadium, never opened doors, while many in the surrounding neighborhood closed temporarily. Dumpling Time was one of the few restaurants to actually open in Thrive City during the pandemic and consistently keep slinging juicy XLB this past year.
But now, with the Warriors back in action, the Giants hitting their first home game of the season, and eased restrictions on indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, the neighborhood, which has seen a lot of new development and construction over the past few years, might be ready to strike back. For all those keeping score, three massive breweries are now betting big on Mission Bay: Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing opens today, April 9, San Diego’s Ballast Point is slated to open by end of year, and they’re both joining the local Seven Stills, which at a little over one year old, holds the home-field advantage (its owners are local to San Francisco).
New Belgium Brewing opens today just in time for the Giants first home game of the season, and just across that short 3rd Street bridge to Oracle Park. Little Creatures, which closed in fall of 2020, formerly owned the 6,300-square-foot space. Colorado-based New Belgium, known best for its bicycle-themed Fat Tire amber ale, is part of a big global brand these days: Lion in Sydney, a subsidiary of Kirin in Japan, now owns New Belgium, Magnolia, and Little Creatures. (Keep in mind that Magnolia also has a location in Dogpatch, only a mile away, so Lion is committed to the area.) This New Belgium Brewing location aims to draw in baseball fans with its favorite Belgian-style beers, fresh West Coast IPAs, wagyu burgers, and bacon-wrapped hot dogs.
Ballast Point is slated to open later this year, in a newly constructed space at 705 16th Street, which is closer to the big Kaiser medical center in Mission Bay. It’s taking over the ground floor of the Exchange, a freshly built four-building complex that is notably home to Dropbox headquarters, and just sold for more than $1 billion. Ballast Point is currently finishing construction on the 12,000-square-foot space; the brewery, based in San Diego, is known best for the fish-emblazoned Sculpin IPA. The SoCal brewery has been trying to move into San Francisco for several years, first under its former owners Constellation Brands (Modelo, Corona), and now it’s finally making the move under the Chicago-based group Kings & Convicts. In addition to wild IPAs, let’s hope for Baja-style fish tacos.
A little further from the ballpark, but the biggest of them all, Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery opened late 2019, just a few months before the pandemic hit. It’s technically on the border of Mission Bay and the Design District, in another complex of new buildings that’s also home to Adobe. The owners are Bay Area locals: Tim Obert and Clint Potter are college buddies who came through the brewing program at UC Davis. The independently owned Seven Stills brews beer and distills whiskey, so it has the distinction of being the only combined brewery and distillery in the city, and a massive one at that: 22,500 combined square feet, which Obert says cost $11 million to build out.
Seven Stills struggled through the pandemic, closing a couple of locations, running into trouble with licenses, and even making hand sanitizer for a while. These days, it’s open at the new flagship location at Mission Bay and at an outpost in the Sunset, but unfortunately, it ran out of beer — at least, its own. Obert says they are still hustling to get equipment up and running at Mission Bay, but in the meantime, the pair have have got their own whiskey coming out of barrels, a selection of their favorite local beers on tap, and a full restaurant serving oysters, little gems Caesar salad, and even the occasional crispy duck leg.
Obert says he’s hopeful that the neighborhood will come back even stronger than before businesses had to temporarily close, given the construction still underway. He says that from his vantage, offices, apartments, and student housing all appear ready for people to return. “The reason we were willing to take the risk [to open here] was because we’ve got Adobe upstairs, and we’ve got the Giants five blocks away, and we’ve got the Warriors five blocks away,” he says. “With the Giants coming back and the stadiums starting to reopen, it’s exciting that more is happening. It’s proof of concept ... that this neighborhood is going somewhere.”