Ale Arsenal

971 Laurel Street, San Carlos, CA 94070
Nearby Places
  • The Refuge
  • Associated Podiatry Group of San Carlos
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Ale Arsenal : One of the Best Beers in the Bay Area

How Ale Arsenal, a tiny bar on a quiet block, landed one of the best beer selections in the Bay Area

“You have probably never been to Ale Arsenal. You have probably never even heard of Ale Arsenal.

The 9-year-old craft beer bar sits on the quiet end of San Carlos’ usually bustling Laurel Street. From the outside, the 49-seater looks like any ol’ neighborhood bar, and from the inside it looks like … any ol’ neighborhood bar, except with a theme inspired by World War II aircraft nose art and a replica bomber payload that perilously hangs from the ceiling (don’t worry, it really only weighs 20 pounds).

The bar is run by Lauren Bozicevic, who opened the place in 2012 with her brother Kyle — a former brewer at Devil’s Canyon who left Ale Arsenal two years in to go launch his own brewery: Belmont’s Alpha Acid. The pair were born and raised in Redwood City, lived together in Santa Cruz while they were in college and started the venture to save them a train trip to San Francisco every time they wanted to drink the craft beers they loved in a bar.

Turns out, the craft beers they loved were in short supply on the Peninsula.

“We were the first bar in San Mateo County to have (Russian River’s) Pliny the Younger,” says Bozicevic, who’s seated outside of the still-closed bar the last week in April. She’s wearing a flowery blouse and finds a rhythm talking about the bar she spent almost a decade perfecting. “We were the first place to have Humble Sea, Alvarado, Altamont, Fieldwork, Sante Adairius …”

Basically if there’s a coveted craft brewery anywhere in or around the Bay Area that’s stacking up beer awards, they’re likely already on tap at Ale Arsenal.

“Now if you want Humble Sea, you’re going to be on a wait list for a year, if you can even get it at all.”

Bozicevic’s tone is less bragging and more beaming — she’s proud because of the work that went into getting all of them on one of the bar’s 24 taps.

“We approached them early,” she explains. “If there was kind of a buzz going around something, we would reach out to them often before they were even open.”

Having a brother for a brewer and business partner certainly didn’t hurt.

“We’re best friends,” Lauren Bozicevic says. “We still constantly ask each other for advice on what he should do over there or what I should do over here.”

Including when the world shut down for 14 months.

Bozicevic kept Ale Arsenal closed for the entirety because of the constantly moving goalposts for bars and a front patio with only eight chairs. She lived off savings before eventually getting a job at her brother’s brewery bartending (“It was really nice working with him again, ‘cause it had been a long time”). She was bombarded by neighbors and social media about if and when the bar would open again, and lost all of her staff to unemployment.

She applied for two government loans and was denied the first, but landed the second — a PPP loan for just under $50,000, according to ProPublica, which Bozicevic estimates isn’t even half of what she lost during the shutdown. She also got a rent reduction from her landlord, though that goes away soon and helped prompt the 38-year-old to reopen the bar for the first time last week.

Bozicevic doesn’t want to talk about the pandemic though.

“Everybody’s been through so much, they don’t need to hear about my problems.”

She does want to keep talking about what people are coming back to though.

“I think what people loved about this place, it wasn’t just the beer, it was kind of their community,” she says.

I drop by to see the community in person Tuesday.

There’s an NBA playoff game on one TV, the Giants game on another, and, of course, Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” on the third. None of them have sound on. Instead, Jurassic 5’s “Monkey Bars” provides the bar’s soundtrack as beers flow from the taps into customers’ glasses.

A decent-sized to-go beer fridge slides open and closed dozens of times as folks pop in for roadies or outdoor cans.

There are eight people seated inside, most of them deep in a heated conversation about how far the Warriors would’ve gone had Klay Thompson been healthy (the answer seems to be “far”).

Bozicevic emerges from behind an employees-only curtain to change two kegs, then pops over to say hello.

I find out her inspirations for the bar were, not surprisingly, San Francisco beer institution Toronado and Oakland’s dearly departed Beer Revolution, and basically her entire staff is made up of former customers.

“Every employee we’ve had was a former customer at one point,” she says. “That’s worked really well for us. I’ve never had to rely on a Craigslist ad.”

I’m half-distracted talking to Bozicevic thanks to a wall of foreign money that surrounds a framed picture of an adorable little dog in a Giants hat. There are lots of local dogs enshrined on the wall, along with origami dollar bills that are surprisingly fun to stare at.

Before I can ask another question, Bozicevic is gone, off to figure out how they’re going to get beers from the long-anticipated Wondrous Brewery in Emeryville.

“You’ve really just got to approach them early,” she says.

From “How Ale Arsenal, a tiny bar on a quiet block, landed one of the best beer selections in the Bay Area” by The Daily: Bay Area’s Best Free Local Newsletter

Top Reviews

Kao S. | Yelp

This has been my new favorite bar since I found out they carry Alvarado Street Brewery. I’ve always heard about it but never made the opportunity to stop by and the last week I’ve been here twice already.

So far it’s been a great experience each time I’ve visited. The staff is very helpful and kind to assist in what I was looking for. Fairly decent size with a long bar top so you can choose where you wanna sit down and have a cool crisp beer.

I can only speak for the advice for now as I’ve only came by for the new release of ASB Sour “pink lemonade”.

The location is in San Carlos at the southern end of the food/shopping strip. It is also next to the Refuge restaurant and bar so you might have a hard time finding parking.

I will be coming back here soon for a sit down cold beer after work some day soon.


Malia L. | Yelp

I heart Ale Arsenal and I dearly miss the staff, the patrons and of course, the awesome beer selection. I have been going here for years and I can’t wait for it to reopen!!

I am looking forward to a cold beer and a cheesy movie. CHEERS!!!!


Lawrence G. | Yelp

This has absolutely been my favorite beer bar in the Bay Area. I’ve been going here since 2013/14 and have made so many friends over the years.

Their craft beer selection rivals any other bar you can think of and they’ve never employed a lousy beer-tender.

Although, it’s not a sports bar, they’ll accommodate any sports fan from 49ers to the Sharks.

Early on they knew that if I walked in that an A’s game was probably on and would switch one of their 4 TV’s without me even needing to ask.

They also love playing obscure cult classic movies for other customers and it was always a treat to see what they would play next.

It was this bar that I had my very first date with my fiancee in 2017. We spent hours chatting non-stop as if we’ve been friends for years. Suffice to say, this bar holds a special place in my heart; I even convinced her to let us engrave the coordinates of this bar on our wedding bands!

COVID-19 may have postponed my wedding and temporarily closed Ale Arsenal but if there’s anything I’m sure of, it’s that I love my fiancee and I love Ale Arsenal!


Kyle P. | Yelp

Incredible beer selection, fun events, good people, great movies/music! This place is my happy place and I will be back enjoying pints there as soon as they open back up post-COVID closure!


Chris C. | Yelp

Ale Arsenal is the best craft beer bar on the Peninsula, period.

The owners have great relationships with all of the best breweries state wide, and that means there are 20+ amazing, well curated taps of IPAs, sours, stouts and more on at all times.

They also have an amazing bottle and cans selection for in house consumption or to take home.

It is a great place to watch a Giants, Warriors or Sharks game any night of the week, with a few big TVs. Ale also has a nice patio, and let you bring in food from any of the nearby restaurants.

The regulars are friendly and the bartenders are the best. I can’t wait to get back there for a beer in the near future!


Robert M. | Yelp

Best beer bar in the Peninsula, and that’s not hyperbole. I’ve been drinking amazing beers at Ale since 2013 and it’s still my favorite bar in the area.

Constantly amazing selection, super knowledgeable and friendly staff, even has a superb bottle selection at Fair prices.

Note that there is no food, but the bar is super friendly with takeout food (Get a cheesesteak from the Refuge next door and bring it in the bar). If you just want fantastic beer, this is the place to go.


Tyree Jordan | Google

Was visiting a friend in San Carlos. Looking for something to do while said friend was at work. Nice vibe, service, and it was obvious the Staff had rapport with their regulars.


Scott D | Google

All other beers strive to be as good as Ale Arsenal and while many are almost as good, they’ll never be #1 like this one!


Keilan Freeman | Google

Cool spot! Excellent selection of beer on tap and to go, friendly service, cool venue, byo food.4.5/5. If they did 4-5oz pours it’d be a 5.Lots of great cans in the fridge and they do singles – score!


Naz Ra | Google

Ale Arsenal is such a unique bar. They have a great selection of craft beers that changes regularly. I love that they offer half-pints and allow bringing food from outside. The staff are very friendly and helpful. Keep up the good work Ale Arsenal.


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