With Social Kitchen, Rich Higgins Aims to Invent the Next-Gen Brewpub

Categories: Beer, Opening
Rich Higgins.
Rich Higgins, brewmaster of the upcoming Social Kitchen and Brewery in the Inner Sunset, wants to reinvent the brewpub: "Brewpubs do not appeal to a large section of the population," he says. "A lot of women don't patronize them, for instance. The food is often heavy and intense, and the bar is filled with guys who sit around and get drunk. I want to create a social, convivial experience that is inclusive of lots of different types of diets and crowds."

He's talking on the phone from the tank room at Social Brewing on Ninth and Irving (the old Wunder Brewing space), where he's itching to get started. The state Alcoholic Beverage Control has issued all the permits he needs, and all he's waiting for is the blessing of the ATF. Once the tanks are full it should be about a month until opening day ― perhaps as soon as mid-March.

Higgins, president of the San Francisco Brewers Guild, a vet of Thirstybear and Gordon Biersch, and a beer consultant to Delarosa and Starbelly -- more on that tomorrow -- is not the owner of Social Kitchen, but he seems to be its guiding hand. "I have artistic license over the beer program," he says, "and am helping to put together the menu, selecting the glassware, and consulting with the owners on the interior. [The owners] really want it to be a beer-driven restaurant, serving what the Belgians call cuisine à la bière."

But it's also going to be cuisine à la San Francisco: All beer will come from the brewpub's own tanks, Higgins claims the food will be largely sustainably and locally sourced, and vegans and vegetarians should have something to eat other than fries (a chef hasn't been named yet). More importantly, the connection between food and beer will be a major focus. "It's not just about big hops and strong beers that kill our palate," Higgins says. "This is very much a brewery brewing food-friendly beers, as well as interesting beers that are underrepresented," styles like kölsch and low-alcohol Belgian brown ales. Also in the works is a robust educational program: beer tastings, brewery tours, monthly brewing days where customers can come observe Higgins at work, beer-and-food pairing dinners, and something Higgins tentatively calls "global beer history exploration nights."

SFoodie will keep you posted on Social Kitchen's opening date as it nears.

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