I have a soft spot for the Social Kitchen brewpub, even though I don't go there all that often. The location seems perfect, right in the heart of the Inner Sunset and perhaps dangerously close to the N-Judah MUNI line, and yet over the years it seemed to have been cursed. 6 brewpubs have tried to make a go of the space, beginning with Golden Gate Brewing back in the mid-90s, then Eldos, and Wunder (and one that never even opened its doors). I heard horror stories about the people who owned the building. But with Social, they seem to be making a decent go of the place - every time I go, it's moderately busy, the food is a decent pub-grub menu, the beer is good, and they seem to be building a dedicated following. Rich Higgins, the original brewer, was a very nice guy, and one of the founders of the San Francisco Brewers Guild, which I think has done a lot to build the community of craft brewers, home brewers, and beer afficianados. Hopefully the new brewer Kim Sturdavan, who started in May after working at Marin Brewing, will continue the tradition.
Since I happened to be in the neighborhood this past Sunday, and am now there a couple of times a month thanks to my RPG group, I decided to break down for a couple of growlers. Which is how they come to be my first review, for their The Smell IPA. (I also picked up their Ramsgate Rye pale ale, but I haven't cracked that yet.)
Now, I'll warn you all up front that I'm a real hop-head - I like IPAs that make lips pucker and teeth squeak as you run your tongue over the resin that sticks to the enamel. My currently favorite is probably Green Flash Palate Wrecker. I realize, though, that that's a little much for most folks, so I will try to give a considered review.
The Smell is a fine, well-balanced IPA. It's got a nice coppery color, and strikes a middle ground between bitterness and aroma. The nose is more citrus than grass or pine, and it's not overpowering. It's got a good body, solid without being syrupy. At 7.2% ABV, it's mildly warming without knocking you over the head (remember, though, that I'm a 6'2", 200 lbs, seasoned beer drinker). It's not outstanding in any particular category, but it's a good beer.
(Note: I decided that I'm not going to do any kind of numerical rating system, since beers are just too subjective, and an imperial IPA or Flemish red that makes me swoon might make you gag. So, I'm just going to describe my experience, and you can decide if that sounds good to you.)
The Smell IPA, from Social Kitchen. 60 IBU, ABV 7.2%.