Falling in love with craft beer in SF 

click to enlarge Bartender Stellar Cassidy has made craft beer her specialty. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Gabrielle Lurie/Special to the S.f. Examiner
  • Bartender Stellar Cassidy has made craft beer her specialty.

You will not find a sign with Church Key's name on it, but if you search enough North Beach storefronts, you may eventually stumble across the illuminated, old-fashioned key that subtly announces the presence of this cozy beer bar. Originally from Southern California and educated at the University of San Francisco, bartender Stellar Cassidy is no stranger to cool things that fly under the radar. Her work has appeared in numerous alt-lit magazines, she has published two books of poetry and her involvement in the local spoken-word scene has included hosting open-mic nights at Brainwash and performing street poetry at 16th and Mission streets.

You must get a lot of comments and questions about your first name. Yes, I have hippie parents. My dad's an old hippie and my mom's a Generation X hippie.

Being from Los Angeles County, was it hard to adjust to San Francisco's different pace and culture? No, we traveled to San Francisco a lot because my parents were always going to hippie gatherings, and I've always wanted to live here. It's always felt like home to me.

What did you major in at the University of San Francisco? Creative writing. People always jump to, "Wow, that's really lucrative," but I don't give a fuck. I don't regret it at all.

What led to your becoming a bartender? When I was still in school, I happened to go to Church Key and one of the bartenders at the time, Matt Coelho, made me fall in love with craft beers. I also fell in love with the place itself and would spend lots of time at the bar reading or doing homework. The whole beer scene and community, the way people talked about beers and shared them, that really excited me.

How, exactly, did Coelho make you fall in love with craft beers? He held up two bottles and said, "Pick one of these." I picked the one with the Flemish painting of a woman on its label. That turned out to be Duchesse de Bourgogne, and it struck me like a wine or a kombucha. When you serve that beer to somebody for the first time, they immediately start asking you questions.

Are there any other beers you serve that you're particularly excited about? I would think more in terms of there being certain styles and breweries I like to keep my eye on. We have 10 beers on tap, but our selection is always rotating.

Is there anything we should say about your wine list? We have red, white and bubbly. There's not a lot of room for a huge wine selection.

So you have the wine on hand to avoid losing that person who gets dragged to the bar by a friend but doesn't like beer? Perhaps, but all of our bartenders are well-equipped to convert a customer who thinks they don't like beer. I always try to convert people!

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