I woke up this morning and felt a nagging void. SF Beer Week came to a close yesterday and I didn’t have to plot a course for multiple events and hop trains or buses for a sip of rare beer. While it’s a bit disappointing, I’m actually somewhat relieved. Blasphemy, I know, but the week can be a grind, especially with a nine to five job. It’s time to decompress and make sense of it all.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
When the schedule was posted on January 11th the options were overwhelming. Over 300 dinners, tastings, release parties and brewery nights dotted the calendar. My initial reaction was to do it all or at least what my body could manage. In the end my wallet became a decisive factor.
SF Beer Week can be expensive, at least if you gravitate towards decadent dinners at wonderful restaurants serving limited numbers. I spotted a few of these but couldn’t bring myself to swipe the credit card for $125-$195 per plate. I’m sure they were excellent. Many listed exquisite ingredients paired with incredible beer, but where would that leave me for the rest of the week?
So I decided to forge a more affordable path. Not that I wouldn’t spend a good chunk of change, but I wanted to spread it around and try and bunch of stuff. Here’s a list of the “main events” where I spent my time and money during the week.
SF Brewer’s Guild Opening Gala, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, $65 VIP ticket.
The big kickoff party for the week. Over 35 Northern California brewers poured beer during the event and many were rare one off selections. Pliny the Younger from Russian River Brewing made a brief appearance and a few new breweries launched their businesses. You can find my summary of the night over at BayAreaCraftBeer.com.
Small Batch / Big Thirst, Truc Stop, San Francisco, pay as you go.
This event took place in a parking lot in SOMA and featured two food trucks and five breweries: Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, Muddy Puddle Brewing, Mill Valley Beerworks, Van Houten Brewing, Pacific Brewing Laboratories and Elizabeth Street Brewery. The last three were featured at Breweries of Tomorrow, the SF Beer Week event I planned and co-hosted at Social Kitchen & Brewery. Food was provided by Le Truc and the Rib Whip.
Breweries of Tomorrow Nanobrewery Festival, Social Kitchen & Brewery, $15.
I spent most of January planning and promoting this event and it turned out to be far more successful then I ever imagined. The crowd was immense and the feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive. I wrote up a recap for BayAreaCraftBeer.com.
A day of rest. I don’t care who you are but these are required. After three straight days it was my time.
Botanical Beer Night, Mill Valley Beerworks, Mill Valley, $16 for a taster lineup.
Before hops were introduced into beer all sorts of herbs accented ancient brews. This approach to brewing is making a comeback and Mill Valley Beerworks featured two of their own beers along with some other local approaches.
Cherry Voodoo Launch Party (Media Event), Church Key, San Francisco, free.
Cherry Voodoo Brewing decided to make their debut during SF Beer Week and I couldn’t resist the invite. I’d heard a lot of mixed stories about the brewer and the beer and was glad I could sort them out by myself. They offered three beers: Cherry Voodoo Tripel, Angel and Filth Pig. I won’t offer a complete assessment at the moment, but I think they’ll be around for a while.
Deschutes Brewery Night, Pi Bar, San Francisco, pay as you go.
After visiting Deschutes back in September of 2011 and I wanted to see if they were offering anything unusual. As it turned out, they weren’t, but I ran into a friend who told me about the next event, which was the surprise of the night.
Frickin Firkin Tuesday, Heart, San Francisco, pay as you go.
Heart is a wine bar and they invited Monks Kettle, a reputable gastro pub, to host an evening of cask beer and small plates. The venue was great, the beer list was tight and the food didn’t disappoint.
Sau & Brau, Drake’s Brewing , San Leandro, $40.
The only dinner I ponied up cash for and the whole roasted hog and barrel-aged beer was worth the trip to the East Bay. My dad’s side of the family throws occasional reunions that always feature a pig roast so this event struck close to the heart. You can read all the details and see the appetite inducing photos over at BayAreaCraftBeer.com.
My wife came back from a twelve-day trip to Africa so a break from festivities was in order.
18th Annual Barleywine Festival, Toronado, San Francisco, pay as you go.
One of the premier SF Beer Week events and for good reason. You simply can’t find fifty different barleywine’s in one place on one day. I braved the crowds and sampled about 8 different brews, which were primarily from the West Coast. You can find the whole list and my assessment of the day at BayAreaCraftBeer.com.
New Beer Release: Brekle’s Brown, Pi Bar, San Francisco, pay as you go.
Anchor Brewing decided to release a new beer during SF Beer Week and I had to track it down somewhere since I didn’t go to the brewery shindig. The beer is what you would expect from Anchor, nothing too eccentric, but always rock solid. It’s crisp, nutty, savory and will pair wonderfully with grilled meat. Unfortunately, it’s not clear if Brekle’s Brown will make its way into a bottle. For now its keg only and very limited.
Yes it’s sad, but true. I was tempted to make my way to the Brewers Tea brunch at 21st Amendment or the Celebrator Anniversary party in Berkeley, but I was content to call it quits. I ran around the city and had a good time. You simply can’t do it all.