I’d like to start with a confession; we had never been to the Bistro in Hayward. It opened the same month, January 1994, we left Oakland to move back home. In the subsequent 16 years, we spent quite a bit of time in the East Bay. But, we never thought of stopping in Hayward. Even with the Bistro’s legendary beer festivals, we never managed to attend any of them. But this year’s SF Beer Week, for us, is about trying new things.
The Bistro’s Double IPA Festival is one of the anchor events of SF Beer Week. The 2010 edition was the 10th Annual and featured 58 beers, most Double/Imperial IPAs. There was also a few oddball strong beers thrown in. Earlier the week, our attendance looked like it could be in jeopardy. A 70-80% chance of rain in the forecast didn’t bode well for this outdoor festival. I just didn’t see myself sipping hop bombs in the rain.
Saturday morning dawned overcast and drizzly, not the heavy rain that I thought was forecast. The weather no longer seemed to be a problem. But we encountered another hurdle. The previous evening Merideth and I thought it was a great idea to head down to 21st Amendment after SF Beer Week’s Opening Gala to try some of their Strong Beer Month brews. Needless, to say, both of us were hurting a bit on Saturday morning. We fought the urge to spend the whole day in our hotel room and sleep. A little before noon, we hopped on BART for the ride over to Hayward.
Walking through the Bistro’s small bar and out the side door, we entered the closed off side street. First thing I noticed was the crowd was smaller than anticipated an hour and a half into the festival. Where was everybody? Did they feel worse that I did? The fact that I wouldn’t have to do beer festival battle from moment one lifted my hungover spirit. Going over to the ticket buying tent, I passed on the 5 tickets for $35 and ambitiously purchased 15 tickets for $50. Each ticket was good for a six ounce taste. Merideth and I were joined by our friends Renee, Other Chris and Philippe; our partners in crime from the night before.
Another confession; my brain wasn’t working at all on Saturday. Thus, my ‘tasting notes’ are going to be even more sparse than usual. Since it was a Double IPA festival, the brews were all REALLY hoppy, some citrusy and others piney. A few of the brews had more of a malt background than the others.
It was time to taste some hop bombs. First up was Hop Juju from Cleveland’s Fat Head’s Brewery. The surprise winner of the Bistro’s IPA festival over the summer, I was curious to try my first Midwest hoppy brew. Surprisingly, my body didn’t reject the first beer of the day and it went down pretty easily.
I really like what Drakes is doing these days with hop bombs. I recently enjoyed a growler of Denogginizer courtesy of a friend. At the festival, Drakes had two other Double IPAs, Hopocalypse and Quasar. These were my two favorites.
I have heard a lot about Kern River Brewing recently and their Double IPA was my first time trying one of their brews. I remember it being the maltiest of the bunch.
As mid-afternoon approached, there seemed to be a correlation between the less chance of rain and the growing crowd. Between 2 and 3pm, blue sky could be seen and the festival started to get packed. We hoped to stay at the festival until 5pm to see which Double IPAs took away the awards, but playing human pinball started to take its toll. After only eight Double IPAs, I gave away my last six tickets. For those doing the math, I later found the 15th ticket in my pocket.
We would later learn that Welcome Back Wipeout from Pizzaport Carlsbad took first place. It was the only winner that I tried. A nice beer, it wasn’t my favorite. Pliny the Younger from Russian River won the People’s Choice Award.
With our friends, we headed back to the City. Food was needed as the energy derived from the scone and coffee I had earlier in the morning was starting to wear off. Those who have been to Toronado probably have purchased a sausage from the place next door, Rosamunde. They recently opened a new sausage grill in the Mission complete with 20+ taps. We had planned to visit sometime during Beer Week and now seemed like the perfect time.
Prior to visiting, I had pictured the Lower Haight Rosamunde with beer taps squeezed in somewhere. But the Mission location is much, much larger, even having tables.
The service was quick and friendly and I was soon enjoying my first real food of the day. A Brat with sauerkraut and onions, Italian with sweet peppers and the pickle paired perfectly with my Racer 5 from Bear Republic. Rosamunde is an excellent addition to the beer scene in the City.
The real reason we were in the Mission was for Humphry Slocombe ice cream. For SF Beer Week, they created special ice creams that incorporated beers from craft breweries. I am not sure how many different flavors were made but five were available when we visited. A tasting flight of four cost $4.50. Since I was still famished, I had to get a flight. All the flavors were excellent but Merideth and I agreed that Faie Coffee Porter (Iron Springs Brewery) was the star. We’ll have to find time to make it back the second weekend of Beer Week.
Merideth and I finished off the night with a quiet beer with our friends at the Church Key in North Beach. The first weekend of SF Beer Week was great but being ten days, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. After sprinting the first night, we settled for a mellow ending of day two and headed back to our hotel for a good nights sleep.