Food & Drink: Big draw

Pint Size Lounge: Not so little when it comes to beer

By Tanya Henry

At first glance, Pint Size Lounge on Fourth Street in San Rafael looks like a typical dive bar that serves Bloody Marys to its regulars by midday. But that observation couldn’t be further from the truth. For starters, this neighborhood favorite doesn’t even serve spirits; instead, as its clever play-on words-name suggests, it’s all about the beer.

“I want to give our community the best beer selection possible,” explains owner Adam Violante, who took over the space in the mid-’90s when it was Copa Cafe. “It was kind of like the tree fort we all hung out at in high school.” Violante’s goal was to transform the café into something akin to San Francisco’s Toronado.

Pint Size has an impressive selection of beers (around 16) on tap that range from stouts and IPAs to porters, lagers and more. Violante’s carefully curated offerings include highly rated brews from as far as Michigan, and as close as Berkeley. Bottled selections from Belgium and Ireland are also available.

Violante has introduced a Tap Takeover program, where specific brews are showcased for consecutive nights. A recent Stouts & Doughnuts special featured nearby Johnny Doughnuts (holes) paired with a choice of three different stouts, and a Beer 101 class will be offered on April 17.

I should mention that if beer isn’t your thing, there is wine, too. The attitude-free bartenders are welcoming and happy to offer up tastes of tap selections. With its dark interior, five flat-screen TVs, haunting artwork from local artist Miguel Farias and a handful of tables, the place has an organic, authentic feel that defies categorization. And last, but not least, the bar’s jukebox is a big draw—and unsuspecting customers’ musical picks regularly get hijacked by pranksters with an app that allows them to move their songs to the front of the queue.

If you’re looking for a handcrafted, ingredient-driven cocktail prepared with a specialty vodka and created by a mixologist with an apple cider shrub and muddled herbs, this place isn’t for you. But if you want to discover new craft beers served by friendly bartenders, and don’t mind if your song selection never comes on the jukebox—hey, you might discover some new music too!—then Pint Size is the neighborhood dive for you.

Pint Size Lounge, 1615 Fourth St., San Rafael; 415/457-2673.

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