SF Beer Week, a week long boondoggle featuring nearly 500 beercentric events, was recently held throughout the Bay Area February 8th through February 17th. The number and variety of events was impressive, considering SF Beer Week was initially held in 2009 and in its fifth year running has more than tripled in size from the original 150 events. As one of the first events of its kind, SF Beer Week has inspired over 100+ beer weeks in other cities all around the world. In fact, San Francisco was the first city to organize a “Beer Week”, which dates back to Beerapalooza in 2003, a week long craft beer event organized annually by Celebrator. The name was changed to “Beer Week” with the notion of taking Beerapalooza to the next level. Arguably one of the leading events of its kind, SF Beer Week never ceases to amaze me despite attending three consecutive years.
If you’re planning a trip to the Bay Area to do some beer tasting, consider attending SF Beer Week 2014. With the various events happening throughout the Bay Area (Strong Beer Month during February at 21st Amendment and Magnolia Brewery, Pliny the Younger release at Russian River Brewing Co. and SF Beer Week), there is no better time to visit. With all of the exceptional beer available in the Bay area, be prepared to leave your heart in San Francisco.
What were some of the highlights during SF Beer Week 2013? Whether you are local or traveling to the Bay Area, an excellent way to kick off SF Beer week is the SF Beer Week Opening Celebration. The event sold out in advance and featured over 80 local breweries in one location, the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco. Highlights from the local breweries included Pliny the Younger and Hopocalypse Black Label. For the serious hop heads, The Bistro in Hayward holds an annual Double IPA Festival. This year included over 60 double and triple IPAs on tap, competition and live music. Routsabout by Societe Brewing took first place in the Double IPA category and Pliny the Younger took first place in the Triple IPA category. For three years in a row, Kern River Double Citra Double IPA won People’s Choice.
Another interesting festival, and a new event this year, was the Wine Barrel Aged Tastival presented by Brewpublic & Beer Revolution. All 48 of Beer Revolution’s taps were taken over by beers aged in wine barrels. My favorite was Upright’s Blend Edmunds, served by Angelo himself.
For the sour lovers, Sour Sunday, traditionally the first Sunday of SF Beer Week, has expanded to include many events at various venues throughout the Bay Area. My personal favorite is Sour Sunday at Triple Rock Brewery and Jupiter Brewpub. The two locations featured over 80 sour and barrel-aged beers. Purchase of admission included a commemorative “Sour Sunday” glass, tasting tickets and admission to both locations. Considering the volume of sour and barrel-aged beers available, the event continues to improve logistically each year. Some of my favorites from this year included High Water’s Le Petit Diablotin, Fantome’s Extra Sour and Sante Adairius’ West Ashley (which adorned the label “16e Belgian Specialty Ale”).
There were many brewery events, including meet the brewer nights, held in various locations. My favorite (and somewhat biased) locations for brewery events include Beer Revolution (yes, 48 drafts of Sierra Nevada is possible), Toronado (you will feel a lot of emo-tions if you miss out on Russian River’s ‘Tion night), City Beer Store (the owners’ relationships in the beer industry is apparent in the featured offerings, including a special tapping of Firestone Walker’s SLOambic, where patrons had the opportunity to meet David Walker), The Trappist (have you heard of Mikkeller Bar SF?), and Harry’s Hofbrau (there are many locations, but the prime tap takeovers are held at the Redwood City and San Jose locations). There are many other notable locations, so my advice for those attending next year is select which breweries you want to sample beers from and find the nearest location (ideally within walking distance or along a bus route).
If you’re looking a premium snack to go with your beer, many venues offered beer pairing dinners or tasting menus. I had the opportunity to attend the Craftsman Brewing Company and Sante Adairius beer pairing dinner at St. Vincent, pair Upright’s Fantasia with delicious mussels at Starbelly’s Barrel-Aged Beer Hall and sample 12 interesting Zymatores at La Trappe Cafe which were paired with various cheeses.
If you’re looking to finish off SF Beer Week big, Toronado holds an annual Barleywine festival. This year, the 20th Annual, featured 40 high-octane beers which were served in a “small” 3 ounce pour or a “large” 7 ounce pour. The event was scheduled to begin at 10am according to Toronado’s website, but those familiar with the term “Toronado Time”, were finally rewarded approximately 2 hours later when the doors finally opened. Focusing my sampling of barleywines on rare drafts which I have not previously encountered, my favorite of the bunch was Glacier’s Big Woody. The two guys in line behind me waited for over 2 hours in hopes of Pliny the Younger. Despite checking the Toronado website while waiting in line, the two guys had unfortunately misread the website and left the Toronado in rejection. A limited amount of Pliny the Younger was available at the Toronado daily from the first Friday until the last Friday of SF Beer Week, from opening until the daily allocation was served.
Cheers to another excellent SF Beer Week!