A.F.R.: 3/ 12/ 2020



Dear Friend,

Happy New Year. It has been a very busy start to 2020. It’s a treat to finally be able to sit down and share my thoughts with you as we move forward into Spring. We all have a lot on our minds. As you know, our first year has been thrilling, for us and for this big-little National Park ‘nubbin’ in San Francisco. My brother and I grew up in North Beach, not far from Fort Mason, and it is wonderful to see this part of the City at the beginning of a much-needed Renaissance. Matt and I always understood that the creation of a new restaurant here on the waterfront – in the shadow of Greens’ formidable legacy – was going to be a massive challenge. Steward of the world’s largest urban National Park, the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture is not just tasked with providing a diverse schedule of events, performances, and classes for the general public; it also must choose very carefully the partners with which it plans its future. As I look out from across a 300+ year old solid ponderosa pine bar at this National Park to my right, and an entire Golden Gate to my left, I feel it too. The bar (no pun intended) has been set.

I’m proud to report we are confident Radhaus has exceeded Fort Mason’s ambitious expectations. We have very quickly become a distinctive thread in the Fort’s social fabric – a welcome gathering place for Fort Mason and Park Service staff as well as local residents. This is an extremely dynamic, world-class location and we are very lucky to have its Executive Director, Rich Hillis, believe fundamentally in our (unconventional) model. He also happens to be the brain trust behind the City’s push to implement the hugely successful Proxy Project in Hayes Valley where our sister restaurant, Biergarten found its home at the launch of the project nearly ten years ago. It is now no surprise to learn he was recently appointed as San Francisco’s new Planning Director by Mayor London Breed – who is also a champion of Biergarten’s positive impact in her home district.

Radhaus has quickly garnered some impressive recognition. It has received notice from some of the most prestigious Design and Architecture publications in the world. I was honored at the discovery that “Architectural Record”, “AD–PRO” (Architectural Digest US), “Dolcevita” (Czech architecture + design magazine), AD Russia (Russian Architectural Digest), ENKI magazine (UK monthly architecture + design magazine), and Holzmagzin (Austrian Woodworking magazine), have all published one or more full articles about our restaurant, the materials we used, the Artisans with whom we worked as well as Radhaus’ general design impact. Wow. We were also “short listed” for the very prestigious (international) DEZEEN awards for “Restaurant and Bar Interior of the Year 2019” – out of thousands of incredible creative nominees we landed among the top five. Very impressive. Our project has not only been recognized by the Design community, but by food and beverage publications and organizations from all over. Of note: The Golden Gate Restaurant Association awarded Radhaus its “Saucy” award for “best tap list” in the Bay Area. No small feat. The very prestigious industry magazine, Imbibe lists Radhaus in its “Imbibe 75 List of People, Places and Directions that will shape the way you drink in 2019.”

From the very beginning my brother and I always intended Radhaus to be steeped in the tradition of family Wirtshauser, and the convivial beer halls of Alpine Bavaria, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Where beer is regarded as a living magic elixir. Part of life. We have kept the focus on the very best-of-the-best in brewing tradition. Beer is the lifeblood of our beverage program and elevating its story, importance and presentation will always be the main focus. All of our beers are very carefully selected for their purity, quality and history. Many of them have been brewed in the same location, using the same ingredients by the same monastic order for nearly a thousand years. This is a sacred beverage. We have traveled to each brewery and gotten to know many of the Brewmasters and brewery owners personally over the years. Every classic Bavarian style is represented – some of them available in the U.S., only at Radhaus. We are considered a showcase for Bavarian brewing tradition in America and have already been visited by high-level representatives from every brewery we serve (that’s actually a big deal for these little producers, who don’t want to see their beloved Bier mistreated or poured unlovingly so far from home). The focused beer program is the conceptual foundation my brother and I use to inform the spirits program Radhaus now proudly serves. Starting very small, with rare distillations from some of the breweries themselves, it has grown slowly but with purpose to now include a full-service cocktail bar. All of the producers we have chosen happen to be small, family owned, and some of the most respected in the world. We look first to products from Southern Germany, Austria, and the Alps, and keep the list unique in San Francisco. When choosing spirits not traditionally produced in the Alps (like rum), we also lean toward small, family run, exceptional producers focused on high quality traditional craftsmanship. Our Bourbon, for example, is produced in Wyoming by a couple of guys with a mandate to source pure water and high quality grain from fewer than 50 miles of the distillery. They employ the highest altitude storage sheds of any American Whiskey maker. This imparts a unique character found only by aging in, and being created out of Wyoming’s dynamic climate. This might sound familiar. Not only to lovers of fine lager, but wise drinkers of wine. So, our approach to the wine program is equally as focused on the best of things from the Alps. Wine and producers not normally encountered in California and styles that fit our cuisine form the backbone of the list. We think – as with our beer selections – that our clientele are curious discerning souls and would like to be introduced to some lesser known, but fantastic historical growing regions. Austria and Germany produce some of the most interesting and under-appreciated styles that, for their quality, are an amazing value. As with the beer and spirits, Radhaus has a soft spot for small family-owned traditional vintners. My brother and I have taken the time, whenever possible, to meet with the makers and understand their approach and their goals. Many are Biodynamic producers and stewards of their region’s land and history going back generations.

We are happy to report, in the last few months, we were able to acquire the final bits and pieces of equipment needed to make all of our sausage in house. Some months before that our ice cream machine went online. We now have an incredible malted barley ice cream Sundae, that you really must try. The potential of both of these capabilities have just begun to be exploited. The kitchen is chuffed about the “signature” elements of what they can offer and are very excited about the possibilities that the Seasonal Festivals offer. Plus the Fort Mason Farmers Market lands at our doorstep every Sunday. Farmers love beer.

I am not the first or only person to notice an acceleration of recent changes to the restaurant landscape in San Francisco. It’s no small thing that some of the oldest, most respected and beloved SF dining destinations have unceremoniously closed over this past year. In the Foodie scene (and in fact everywhere in the SF/U.S. culture) a “new digital-living paradigm push” has softened today’s guests’ conventional ideas about hospitality. Now concepts around basic things, from communication, to relationships, to health, to entertainment, to Free-time have been brought up to be intellectually “re-imagined” – apart from historical and physical realities. While I cannot speak to any specific case; from our perspective, as folks scramble to reflect these new world trends, it may look to most like some part of the restaurant model in this city is broken. It may be, it may not. When my brother and I contemplate these things we always stop and make a point to consider our businesses as more than just “restaurants” in the traditional sense. We feel that the DNA of a destination like Radhaus is much older, deeper and more personal than the post-modern American food service establishment. What the author Edward Abbey calls, “A Sense of Place.” He was writing about the Utah desert, but the appeal of eating and drinking in communion with your fellow humans in warm welcoming environments, designed for everyone, cannot be easily categorized either. It is the elusive “third space” about which civic professors lecture – the Holy Grail of hang-out coffee shops and student unions. The feeling I’m getting at pre-dates the limited contemporary concept of a restaurant. In these times of media over-saturation and emphasis on the rat-race of disconnected cerebral pursuits separated from the natural world, meeting places like Radhaus are not only significantly different from most “main street establishments” – but are, we would like to think, an antidote to them. Fort Mason’s geographical conditions, cultural and military history naturally echo the gravitas, intellectual perspective, physical separation and protection of a Monastery’s cloister wall or a Medieval castle’s fortification – safe and warm, apart from everyday life – a place of pilgrimage to be visited again and again. Radhaus serves the very same food and the very same beer that has been encountered by hungry European travelers for centuries. Healthy hearty fare, sustaining drink and a break from the busy world of work are ancient and modern necessities – something for which hungry souls will always yearn. Let’s have a Bier !!

... of course, much more to come in the following months. A Loyalty Club Program, Starkbierzeit, Mayfest, Oktoberfest, Fort Mason Site programming, Off the Grid Events Partnership, group bicycle rides, special beverage tasting(s), Bier tickets, new secret hats and much more ... this is where I asked my brother to fill in and give you a few design(y) related thoughts. He just gave me a short quote I know I’ve heard him use before – and I didn’t really think any more about it. Here is the quote:

“If your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.”
- Henry Kaiser, Industrialist

It’s a cliché. That doesn’t make it untrue. So, this is how I will end it. Now I feel like we have said too much. Thank you for reading these secrets.

               Aaron Hulme
               Matt Hulme