Six years ago the Bay Area was blessed with the opening of City Beer Store. Since then it has become a hub of the beer community in San Francisco and beyond. Despite no longer living in the Bay Area, Chris and I make a habit of visiting City Beer as often as we can.
Last Thursday, we were lucky enough to spend the evening there drinking beer, chatting with friends, and signing books. Even with all the expansions (shop, staff, and family), Craig and Beth are still the heart of City Beer and it was an honor to have them be part of the launch of Teachings From The Tap.
Big hugs and thanks go to all the friends who came out to support this fledgling author and especially to Craig and Beth for a wonderful evening. Congratulations on celebrating another successful year serving the craft beer community!
Upcoming Meet the Author Events: June 2-Davis and Sacramento, CA, June 5-Sand City, CA, June 7-Sand City, CA, June 9-Monterey, CA, June 21-Seattle, WA, July 6-San Leandro, CA, July 7-Concord, CA, July 22-Oakland, CA. Visit thebeergeek.com to get more information on these events.
We couldn’t make this year’s SF Beer Week.
Thankfully, we had Renee Brincks on the scene.
When San Francisco Beer Week debuted in 2009, I’d just moved to the city. The first event I attended that first year, along with Beer Geeks Chris and Merideth, was at City Beer Store. Following a Pliny the Younger tapping, we sampled New Albion Ale that Don Barkley had brewed according to its original recipe. The former New Albion employee and current Napa Smith brewer was one of the first people I spotted when I arrived at this year’s beer week opener. He also was one of many in attendance who expressed pride in how this annual festival has grown.
The opening celebration, one of more than 300 events on the 2012 SF Beer Week schedule, had an impressive beer menu and smart organization. In the Concourse Exhibition Center, the event felt less crowded than in past years – even with big attendance numbers. Plus, with breweries grouped by region, it was easy to find whatever one wanted.
I especially enjoyed Drake’s Black Label Hopocalypse, Hops on Rye from Firehouse, Bear Republic’s Ryevalry and Moonlight’s Misspent Youth. I also sampled some Pliny the Younger (thankfully, I got in before that line snaked past the adjacent three tables), and I aced a Sierra Nevada blind tasting by correctly identifying bottled and canned versions of its pale ale.
Sunday, it was off to City Beer for back-to-back tastings by some out-of-town breweries that I always enjoy. Midnight Sun headlined the afternoon – the kölsch was a nice way to ease into things after lunch – and the Cascade taps turned on at 6 p.m. I was happy to see Figaro on the menu, and also tried the fruity Winter Gose. Even with City Beer’s expanded space, there was a solid crowd by early evening.
Because SF Beer Week includes so many free events, my budget and I avoided most ticketed happenings – except for one. Drake’s is one of my favorites around here, and I reserved a spot at their Monday night Mission Cheese pairing weeks in advance. The event sold out, not surprisingly, and a lively group packed the place soon after the doors opened. Five beers made the menu: Drake’s Amber, the 1500 pale ale, Hopocalypse, Moscow’s Burning Smoked Imperial Stout and this year’s Dire Straits Barleywine.
It’s tough to pick one pairing that I enjoyed the most, because each was terrific and totally different. But, two that really stood out were the 1500 paired with Pawlet, a washed-rind cow’s milk from Vermont, and Hopocalypse with an organic cow’s milk blend from Weirauch Creamery in nearby Petaluma. Cheers to the Drake’s team for being excellent hosts, as well. One brewery employee looked amused after an enthusiastic guest asked, “Can I visit your factory?” “Well, it’s called a brewery,” he told her. “You can visit our brewery…I think factories make toys or something.”
Tuesday was Valentine’s Day, which is a holiday I’ve never enjoyed. In fact, I told my sweetheart that I’d ditch him if he brought me flowers and candy. Happily, he took that to heart, and we headed to Public House for burgers, bitters and sours. Magnolia’s Billy Sunday Bitter, my go-to during Giants games, was on the list, as were the tart Cuvee de Bubba and a super sour Berliner Weisse from Bear Republic. After dinner, we hit up the Lagunitas night at McTeagues, where founder Tony Magee was on stage with his guitar.
On Wednesday night, it was back to City Beer for a Stillwater Artisanal Ales session. I first met brewer Brian Strumke at a local beer event a few years back, and it’s always fun to catch up. He had just returned from meeting with brewers in Europe, and he was preparing to celebrate his second anniversary in the business. Stillwater’s bourbon barrel-aged Folklore, which is flavorful without being too boozy, and its red wine barrel-aged counterpart topped my list of bests. That whole City Beer evening was a highlight for me, in fact, thanks to good beer and great friends at one of my favorite places in San Francisco. As a bonus, Nosh This was selling sweets in the back. Bacon salted caramels and beer for dinner? Yep.
Due to weekend plans, my beer week wrapped up on Friday with pre-happy hour pints at Toronado. Yes, I had another glass of Pliny the Younger – I’m pretty sure everyone in the bar that day had at least one, actually – and I followed that up with Russian River Temptation and a De La Seven from Upright. People were three-deep at the bar by the time the workday ended, and that’s when we took off.
All told, it was another great San Francisco Beer Week. The celebration gets better every year, partly because of all those creative events that breweries put together, and partly because of this region’s continued interest in craft brewing. At every event, I ran into friends I’ve made at other festivals and local beer bars – it’s an impressive community of engaged and enthusiastic individuals. Happily, SF Beer Week gives everyone a chance to step out from behind the brew kettle, bottling line, Twitter account and Untappd app to enjoy a pint together.
Thanks to the SF Beer Week organizers for
providing my media pass to the opening event.
This past weekend, Chris and I attended the 3rd annual BevMo! Holiday Beer Fest at Fort Mason in San Francisco. I was supposed to write a blog about the fest, but as Thanksgiving Day approached, I became more introspective and thankful. The fest and giving thanks may seem like two completely different subjects. However, as I started thinking about what I was most thankful for, I realized what made the Holiday Beer Fest so special to me this year.
I could say that I am thankful for the mothers of brewers or for the brewers who make good craft beer. Heck, I could even say I am just plain thankful for having craft beer in my life. But what I am really thankful for is the wonderful craft beer people I know. Starting my craft beer life in the Bay Area, events up there are often like old home week. This year’s Holiday Beer Fest was no exception.
At the fest I clunked plastic cups of Almanac’s latest offering, Autumn 2011 Farmhouse Pale, with friends like Bruce “the Beer Chef” Paton. We first met Bruce close to 20 years ago when Barclay’s was our local and he has been a special person in our life ever since. I also received a big hug and a kiss from Betsey Hensley, beer woman extraordinaire and the wife of Marin Brewing Company brewer, Arne Johnson. She also gave me a bottle of Underberg, something I was especially thankful to have at the end of the festival!
Running my beer crafts table I didn’t have a whole lot of opportunity to walk around the fest and taste beers, so I was grateful to be next to our friend Kevin Clark, brewer at Peter B’s in Monterey. Kevin has done an amazing job revamping Peter B’s line-up and I was all too happy to drink his Sundown Hazelnut Brown for most of the night. I appreciate counting Kevin and his wife Corrie as good friends, as well as Kevin’s contribution to boosting our local beer scene down on the Monterey Peninsula. So I guess, I actually am thanking a brewer for making great craft beer. I’ll stop short of thanking his mother for giving birth to him.
I can think of numerous others who I saw during the fest that helped me realize how grateful I am to be part of the craft beer community, but I don’t want to bore you all with an endless list of thanks reminiscent of an Academy Award acceptance speech.
At the risk of being totally mushy, Chris and I would like to say how much we appreciate all our friends with whom we have shared some very special times and beers with, as well as all thebeergeek.com supporters that we may not know personally. You have all enriched our (beer) life in some way and for that, we thank you. We hope you have a very Hoppy Thanksgiving!
View all the images from the 2011 Holiday Beer Fest…
Everyone loves a three-day weekend. They’re perfect for gathering with friends and drinking beer, especially when the weather is beautiful. Add contributing to a worthy cause and it just might be the perfect weekend.
This past Saturday, Chris and I attended our first-ever Breast Fest, a fundraiser for the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic. We didn’t just go to the festival, though, we made an adventure out of it. Knowing that parking would be crazy, we drove to the Fremont BART station and took a one-hour train ride into the City. No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to City Beer, so we made that our first stop.
This visit to City Beer felt different for several reasons. First, owners and new parents Craig and Beth weren’t there. We are so used to seeing one or both of them in the shop that it felt a little odd. Big congratulations go out to them not only for the arrival of their future brewstress, Olivia, but also for their success and planned expansion. They’ve earned a well-deserved break. (Although I’m not sure that taking care of a newborn is much of a break.)
Second, our fellow beer geek and San Francisco resident Renee was not in town to meet us. She always meets us there. And third, because we didn’t have our car, we wouldn’t be making any take home purchases. That meant we actually had a fighting chance to walk out of there with a bill of less than $100. While that’s a good thing in this era of scrimping and saving, it also made us feel like we had to drink everything in sight.
Chris was happy to see Blind Pig on tap. For many in the Bay Area, Blind Pig is not an unusual offering, but when you live in a beer backwater like we do, that beer is like a gift from God. I, on the other hand, started out with a bang and opened a bottle of Auburn Alehouse’s Fool’s Gold for myself. Mistaking it for one of their lighter beers, this 7.8% brew sure made a fool out of me. I should have known then that it was going to be a long night.
The beer Chris was most anxious to get his hands on was the newly released “Summer 2010” from Almanac Beer Company. With the slogan of “Farm to Barrel,” the brewery partners with local farmers for the ingredients in their barrel-aged brews. Almanac’s inaugural brew was a Belgian-Style Golden Ale made with four varieties of Sonoma County blackberries.
City Beer didn’t have any bottles chilled, so we made the best of it and had them put one in the fridge for us. (Remember, we didn’t have a car or backpacks to take it to go.) Thirty minutes really wasn’t enough chilling time, but it was still an amazing beer. Summer 2010 had a citrusy taste from the late addition of Citra hops and the flavor from the berries was delicate, not overly sweet. My only gripe with our visit to City Beer was that Chris drinks faster than I do and kept refilling his glass with the Summer 2010. I think he ended up with most of the bottle.
Soon the time came for us to leave for the main event–Breast Fest. In preparation for our Seattle urban beer hike in a few weeks, we mapped our own three-mile hike to Fort Mason, the site of the festival. The weather was perfect, especially for a San Francisco summer. The sun was shining. The wind was mild and not too cool. We arrived to find that a line had already formed, but in no time it was moving and we were on our way into our first go at the festival that aims to “save the ta tas.”
The good thing about beer events at Fort Mason is that there is lots of space and you never feel crowded. And the good thing about purchasing tickets to the Breast Fest VIP session is that there is plenty of food. Good food. After grabbing our first beers (a Linden Street Urban People’s Common Lager for me and a Triple Rock IPAX for Chris), we headed straight for the table serving grilled chicken marinated in red wine. The guy served me a large chunk and I was more than grateful for the generous portion. This was the same chicken we were lucky enough to try at the Boonville Beer Festival in May and it was just as tasty. That was only the beginning, though. From there we tried some pulled pork, a white bean chili with chicken, and snacked on some yummy chips and salsa.
But, of course we were there for the beer. And the boobs. I had the pleasure of sipping on Needs More Dog Pale Lager from Oakland Brewing Company while I filled out my raffle tickets, the proceeds of which went to the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic, serving low income women with cancer. The highlight beers included Russian River Supplication, Triple Rock JBB Bitter, Moonlight Reality Czeck and Marin Brewing Tripel.
As the VIP session ended and the crowds grew, we retreated behind the Moylan’s/Marin Brewing table to chat with Fraggle from Beer Revolution, Mike Pitzker from the Celebrator Beer News and his wife Lisa, and Jeff Botz from BJ’s. My hat tips an extra special nod to Jack van Stone from Lost Coast. He came prepared to plunder all the beer at the fest in his pink ribbon pirate outfit. But instead of stealing all the treasure, he gave away pink ribbon bottle cap earrings to several very lucky wenches.
As all good things must come to an end, so did our time at Breast Fest 2011. We headed back to the East Bay with Fraggle, stopping at La Trappe for a quick Russian River Damnation and a package of 4505 Meats Chicharrones before heading to Beer Revolution for our final nightcap. It was nice to spend time with Fraggle, as he’s usually behind the bar and way too busy to have more than a tw0-minute conversation. I’m pretty sure I talked his ear off, though, so hopefully he won’t run away next time he sees me walk in the door at Beer Rev.
It’s days like these that make me really miss living in the Bay Area–seeing good friends, drinking amazing beer, enjoying beautiful weather in San Francisco. And to top it off, we supported a good cause. Remember…in the fight against breast cancer, it doesn’t matter if they’re big or small, the goal is to save them all!
We thought our SF Beer Week was over with our Saturday activities. But we couldn’t turn down an invitation to Anchor Brewing’s 140th Anniversary party. So, Wednesday afternoon, I picked Merideth up from work and we were headed back north on Highway 101 to the City.
To commemorate the occasion, Anchor debuted a new brew at the party, Brekle’s Brown. Named after their first brewer, Gottlieb Brekle, the Brown Ale is all malt, single hop (Citra) and comes in at 6.1% ABV.
My first beer was a Liberty, so my first sip of Brekle’s Brown was a quick one as I passed Merideth her beer. My immediate thought was it’s Anchor Christmas without the spicing.
Finally with my own glass of Brekle’s Brown, I would retreat somewhat from my earlier, instantaneous assessment. Brekle’s Brown is a light-bodied, light hopped brew with a lot of malt and caramel notes. It would be a really great session beer if it was 4.1% ABV and not 6.1%.
The food for the evening was the four ingredients in beer themed. Water was Steamed Pork Buns. Yeast was Pretzels made with brewers yeast. Though very delicious, the one stretch was malt: Brekle’s Brown beer battered Diver Scallops with Malt Vinegar. The star was the hops dish: Brown Butter Financier Cake with Caramel Buttercream and Hazelnut Toffee. Citra hops were infused into the buttercream and it was heaven! The servers at that station didn’t get to know me by name, but they certainly got to know me by face.
Overall, another great evening at Anchor. Merideth even got a picture with Jane Cunningham, great granddaughter of Gottlieb Brekle. That picture and all the pictures from the evening are in the image gallery below.