Thirsty Bear’s founder, Ron Silberstein, was grinding out a living as an immigration attorney, feeling that he was doing good work but it was not exactly making him a happy camper—or in his case, happy brewer. He’d been homebrewing for several years, and dreaming of switching careers, when a headline in the local newspaper caught his eye: “Thirsty Bear Bites Man for Cold Beer.” That was 1991. He clipped out the article and hung it on his refrigerator as an inspiration for the next phase of his life. When he finally opened his brewery five years later, in 1996, he named it Thirsty Bear after that incident, which had involved a circus bear in Ukraine that, according to the story, bit a patron on the hand and made off with his beer. Police found the bear sleeping it off in a nearby park that same night.
Silberstein opened his brewpub with a simple philosophy: he wanted to combine two of the most social foods and beverages, beer and tapas, or appetizers. Having lived in Madrid for a few years, he found that Spanish cuisine was a perfect fit, because the tradition for small plates to be shared was a natural for his concept of beer as a social lubricant. It was also as far as possible from the typical “pub grub” that so many other brewpubs were offering at the time. Since opening, Silberstein has continued to place great emphasis on the quality of the food, and the entire brewery and restaurant is certified organic; in fact, Thirsty Bear was San Francisco’s first brewery to achieve this. And it shows, as Thirsty Bear’s food is a cut above the average, with everything on the menu being well thought out, using local ingredients whenever possible, and most important, tasting delicious.
Brenden Dobel, who trained as a brewer in both California and Germany, joined Thirsty Bear more than ten years ago and has really put his mark on the beer. Although he’s a native San Franciscan, his mother is German, and as a result, he spent some time as a child living in Germany and also worked in Bavarian breweries for a year before returning to brew in the Bay Area. While Dobel brews a variety of beers in different traditions, what sets him apart is his German-style lagers, which few brewpubs take the time to make, along with the cask-conditioned beers that are served at the brewery restaurant. His beers are all food-friendly and seemingly designed to pair perfectly with the eclectic menu.
Everything about Thirsty Bear is unique—the beers, the extensive and tasty menu, the entertainment available, the whole experience—and it’s unlike any other brewpub, probably due to the fact that Silberstein’s approach is a little different. He thought first about the experience people visiting his place should have and has designed the elements within his control to give people something different. It’s not just your average brewpub, and in this case that’s a very good thing.
Suffering as a result of the Covid pandemic, ThirstyBear closed for good late 2021.
We are proud to be a San Francisco certified green business. Our house beers include ales, lagers, Belgium inspired beers, seasonal specials and cask conditioned ales. We have a full bar and offer select California and Spanish wines. ThirstyBear serves eco-friendly kegged California wines by the glass