The Jug ShopThe Jug Shop has sat a couple of blocks from the western end of the Broadway tunnel, at the foot of Russian Hill, since 1965--before your Humble Author was born, in fact. Short of a big box like BevMo, The Jug Shop carries one of the largest array of wines, spirits, and beers to be found in San Francisco. If you want it, chances are, The Jug Shop has it.
Not only that, the staff is very knowledgeable and helpful. They also host frequent beer tastings, usually on Friday nights, led by Eric Cripe, a certified cicerone (beer somalier) and his brother Evan, who resemble nothing so much as a pair of jolly Vikings. Be forewarned, however, that their tastings showcase anywhere from a dozen to fifty beers (or in one case, ciders and meads), so don't come on an empty stomach, or plan to drive home afterwards. (Tip: If you're hungry, stop off at Cheese Plus across the street beforehand, which has an excellent selection of artisan cheeses, a deli, and is no slouch in its beer selection either.)
1590 Pacific Ave, at Polk St.
City Beer StoreCity Beer Store opened in May of 2006 in the South of Market (SoMa) district, a couple of blocks from the criminal courthouse, an area that had been mostly auto bodyshops and wholesale appliances, but was revitalized by the in-flood of the tech industry beginning in the mid-90s. The original space was not much bigger than a living room, with some shelves, a couple of reach-in refrigerators, a couple of taps, and a handful of seats. Yet even so, they managed to showcase an astounding range of craft and foreign beers, things that you couldn't find anywhere else. They also offered tastings, classes, batch release/tapping parties, even art openings.
A couple of years ago, they expanded the store to probably 3 times its original size, so that their beer selection became even more astoundinger, around 300 beers, quite possibly the widest I've seen anywhere. They also added a real bar with about a dozen rotating taps, with actual seating for maybe 20 or 30. In particular, they feature beers from local homebrewers who've made the jump to professional like Triple Voodoo and Pacific Brewing Labs, as well as craft brews from across the county, and rarities from across the sea. The only problem is that, like so many great and trendy things in San Francisco, they're somewhat victims of their own success, as I don't ever think I've seen an empty seat any time I've gone.
Fortunately, there's always an excellent selection of bottles to take and enjoy at home, away from the madding crowd.
1168 Folsom St, between 8th & 9th Streets