Tale of Two Chalets

The Beach Chalet is located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park where the Park meets the Pacific Ocean at the Great Highway. Originally opened to the public in 1925, the building provided changing rooms and a lounge for beach goers and dining on the second floor with a spectacular view of the ocean and beach.

Beach Chalet customers enjoy an ocean view along with a flight of tasters of handcrafted beers. Photo by Joel Williams

By Joel Williams
Published: March, 2007 

Today the historic building, which sits in the shadow of the famous Queen Whilemena’s Windmill, houses the Golden Gate Park Visitors Center, which still boasts the lovely mosaics and murals completed in 1936 as part of a federal work program.

In 1997, The Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant opened on the floor above the Visitors Center, which had been vacant for 17 years. Ten years later, the outstanding atmosphere, beers, food and views keep locals and visitors coming back for more.

Just behind the Beach Chalet, the Park Chalet offers outdoor seating. But forget about being scared away by misty or foggy conditions, it also offers a variation of open air dining with fully retractable large glass doors and glass ceiling, while maintaining a warm intimate atmosphere with the accent of a huge stone fireplace. It also offers more of a pub-fare menu. Beach Chalet is modern American cuisine all the way. One thing both spaces have in common is: all of the Chalet craft beers are available at both locations.

Head Brewer, Aron Deorsey is a former home brewer, with a chemistry background, who decided to turn his hobby into a career. He started looking for a job in local breweries and soon discovered the familiar Catch 22 when brewing for a living. Most breweries look for someone with experience but don’t consider home brewing real brewing experience. So, it was back to school for Deorsey.

In 2000, Deorsey enrolled in a 22-week extensive brewing program at the University of California at Davis, which gave him the knowledge needed to get his foot in the door at Pyramid Brewing Company in Berkeley. This is where he began his professional brewing career. Then, after working at several other local breweries, he landed the Head Brewer job at The Beach Chalet in 2003.

Deorsey’s house beer menu is well-rounded, offering a variety of Ales. The VFW Light is a mellow, lightly hopped, domestic-style ale designed for those who are used to a tamer brew. Their best seller, Presidio IPA, will satisfy those looking for something with an aggressive hop character and floral aroma, provided by dry hopping with whole leaf Chinook hops.

Landing squarely in the middle of these two extremes is the Riptide Red. Normally, I don’t have much to say about Reds in general or as a style, but the Riptide Red had me doing a double-take. This is a fabulous example of this style of beer rarely found in a sea of mediocre and ordinary Reds available in stores and pubs today. It has a delicate balance of rich roasted caramel flavor that provides a nice, malty body with minimal hop bitterness.

Those who prefer dark beers will like the Fleishhaker Stout, with its rich creamy body and a hint of chocolate. I found the Fleishhaker to be very unique and complex for a Stout, with a slightly smoked or peaty flavor that I found quite enjoyable.

As I finished my tasting session with Deorsey the sun was beginning to set and all eyes in the restaurant seemed to drift westward toward what became a magnificent sunset. I finished my stay with a cask conditioned version of the Presidio IPA and relaxed, enjoying my brew with a view.

Joel Williams was a professional craft brewer for over seven years at several breweries. He earned a Diploma in Brewing Sciences in 1996 from the world-renowned Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago.

The Beach Chalet is located in Golden Gate Park where the Park meets the Pacific Ocean. The famous Queen Whilemena’s Windmill can be seen in the background. Photo by Joel Williams