A Tribute to a Friend

Before we knew it, the second weekend of SF Beer Week was upon us and we returned to the City with a full schedule of events for the final three days. Friday afternoon, we headed to our first event: the Bill Brand Tribute at Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro. Bill was a Bay Area beer writer who tragically died last year shortly after the inaugural SF Beer Week.

The selection of Bill Brand brews

I was hoping there would be a special Beer Week event for Bill because we are forever grateful for his belief in us. He was one of our early fans. At the time, Merideth and I wondered whether chronicling our beer traveling lives mattered to anyone besides ourselves and a few friends. Bill’s plugs for us and his words of encouragement in his columns and in person meant a lot in those early days.

Bill was honored in a number of ways during SF Beer Week. The SF Brewers Guild made a collaborative beer, an Imperial Common, and breweries were encouraged to make a special brew as a tribute to Bill. Spearheaded by Rodger Davis from Triple Rock, approximately a dozen breweries made a memorial beer for a great friend of the Bay Area beer community. Ten of those beers were available at the Drake’s event.

Enjoying a brewery fresh Drake’s IPA

Our last visit to Drake’s was back in the mid 1990s when it was still Lind Brewing. Owned then by the personable and quirky Roger Lind, the brewery was known for making some of the best beer in the Bay Area. A lot has changed at the brewery from those days with one exception: they still brew great beer. While the staff was still getting the memorial beer bar sorted out, I took the opportunity to enjoy a brewery fresh pint of their excellent IPA.

I sampled four of the ten memorial brews. The Hoppy Dark Lager was a nice beer from Iron Springs. Drake’s and Triple Rock each created very interesting blends. Drake’s offering, called Barrel Aged Blend, was a combination of Brett Zommer Blonde and Pine Tar Blend with raspberry. Triple Rock weighed in with the wonderfully hoppy Bill Brand IPA, a blend of IIMAX, IPAX and Moody’s.

Merideth enjoyed the Linden St. Bill’s Amber Glow, a XXXX, and Devil’s Canyon’s Bill’s Brown Ale in addition to the Iron Springs beer.

The other star of the day

Valley Brewing provided a consensus favorite of our group with Bill Brandbic, a lambic-style brew. A sour blend that included pomegranate juice, this memorial beer was nothing short of spectacular.

There was one more star of the Drake’s event, the chocolate cupcakes made with Drake’s Imperial Stout. Created by Cupkates, an East Bay mobile cupcakery, the Stout was incorporated into the batter. One just wasn’t enough, so I had a second cupcake and Merideth tried out their red velvet cupcake as her encore.

All in all, we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon and evening of beer, cupcakes and chatting with friends. I imagine that at least one tribute event to Bill will become a permanent feature of SF Beer Week.

A good turnout for the Bill Brand Tribute

After the Drake’s event, we were off to the San Francisco’s City Beer Store for Bay Area debut of Alaska’s Midnight Sun Brewing.

We first tried Midnight Sun two years ago on our Year in Beer trip to Anchorage. Of the many excellent brews we tried on that trip, Midnight Sun made the the biggest impression on us. Merideth, besides liking the brewery’s sun logo, was drawn to the Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter.  I fell in love with their “Seven Deadly Sins”, a one-time series of mostly Belgian-style beers. We were excited to try their beer again.

Hanging at City Beer with the Celebrator’s Tom Dalldorf and Ken Pajak from Cafe Amsterdam

Meeting us at City Beer were some of our Anchorage friends: Jim Roberts, better known as Dr. Fermento, and Ken Pajak, owner of Cafe Amsterdam. Down for the Toronado Barleywine Festival, they were already hanging out at the crowded City Beer when we arrived.

Over Midnight Sun’s CoHoHo Imperial IPA for myself and Panty Peeler Tripel for Merideth, we got caught up with Ken and Jim.

The night ended with our traditional Tommy’s Joynt visit with our Alaska friends. More beer, more conversation, a great start to the final weekend.