Strong Women Brew Strong Beer

Women making beer is really nothing new. Centuries old, actually. But, twenty or so years ago when I first got into craft beer, female role models in the industry were far and few between. Heck, I really didn’t even have any female friends to drink beer with!

The glamour part of brewing (photo by Ivy Villegas Borges)

Decades later, women are becoming increasingly more visible in the craft beer community: girl beer geeks, homebrewers, professional brewsters, journalists, judges, and Cicerones. And it’s about time we celebrate this!

The weekend before last I had the pleasure of joining a group of women at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing’s Strong Women Brew Day.  Listed as an SF Beer Week event, the goal of the annual gathering is to encourage women to take up homebrewing and carry on the tradition that strong women drink strong beer.

The day started with a tasty continental breakfast with the brewers. Participants connected with friends and perked up with some freshly brewed local coffee as the brewery’s co-owner Emily Thomas welcomed us and told us about the day. While we were all lollygagging around, Maggie, Emily’s sister and one of SCMB’s brewsters, started her brewday. The work must go on after all!

Learning to brew

Out in the beer garden, Nicole Todd, an SCMB brewer who also sits on the board of Seven Bridges, the local homebrew co-op, commenced her home brew demonstration. This was no stand around and stare at the homebrewer demo, though. Women crowded around Nicole asking questions along the way and scribbling furiously in their notebooks. With no plans to become a homebrewer, I occasionally left Nicole’s presentation to watch Maggie brew inside.

Mid-day, we were treated to a healthy (very Santa Cruz-esque) spread of cheese, fruit, hummus, tahini and pita bread. Samples of Santa Cruz Mountain’s brews also started making it through the crowd. In addition to tasting their regular line up (Wheat, Amber, Pale Ale, IPA, Brown, Stout and Porter), we were also treated to a couple of seasonal beers.

Valentine’s Day release Love Potion, is a beautiful ruby-colored ale brewed with rose hips, hibiscus, and raspberries. Weighing in at a very drinkable 5% ABV and with just a hint of sourness, it was my favorite of the day. Another seasonal offering included in our sampler was Singular Sensation, a single hop amber made with the new organic hop Rakau. A tasty brew with a nice hop flavor (and without the bitterness), it was an easy drinking 6% ABV.

We wrapped up the day in the early afternoon with a big round of applause to ourselves. A day hanging out at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing with a group of intelligent women serious about beer and brewing was a treat indeed. Be sure to put Strong Women Brew Day on your SFBW calendar for next year. I know I will!

A big thank you to Emily, Maggie, and Nicole for hosting a great day!

View all the images from the brew day…

Bring on the Hops!

San Francisco Beer Week is upon us again. Gone are the gonzo days when we participated almost every day, making a multitude of trips to the Bay Area from our home on the Monterey Peninsula. Now, Merideth and I pick a few events to attend. And the event I will always choose is the Bistro’s Double IPA Festival.

A busy day at the Bstro

Merideth and I have always had a brilliant plan for the Double IPA Fest: show up right at the start when everyone else is still hung over from the opening night. We have the run of the festival for a few hours until mid-afternoon. However, as testament to the draw of SF Beer Week, we arrived at the Bistro a little bit before 11am to find the line already out the front door.

Adjusting to the fact that our plan no longer seemed valid, we joined the line. It moved fairly quickly and in no time I had in my taster glass my traditional DIPA Fest first beer, Pliny the Younger.

The cool morning transformed into a warm, sunny afternoon under brilliant blue skies. Hayward’s blocked off Main Street was soon packed with beer geeks, all enjoying the uber-hoppy brews.

Traditional first beer of the day: Pliny the Younger…

Eighty-two hop monsters were available to sample, including 23 Triple IPAs. I managed to drink 15 of them. My highlight brews were:

  • Pliny the Younger, Russian River Brewing
  • Double Tap IPA, Berryessa Brewing
  • Hop JuJu, Fat Heads
  • Citra DIPA, Kern River
  • The Roustabout, Societe Brewing

As for awards, Societe’s The Roustabout took gold for Double IPA, followed by Firestone Walker Double Jack and Pliny the Elder. Triple IPA was won by Pliny the Younger with Boneyard’s Notorious and Knee Deep’s Simtra coming in place and show. Kern River’s very popular Citra DIPA was the people’s choice winner.

Congratulations to our friends at Hollister Hills Taproom and Brewery for making their Bistro debut!

It was a great day of hoppy brews, sun and friends. Can’t wait for 2014.

View all the images from the Bistro…