Suds on sea legs: A photo journey through Brews on the Bay


All photos by Allen David

"Fuck the wine industry! I mean, I drink wine like everybody else." Brenden Dobel, brewmaster at Thirsty Bear Brewing Company may be tipsy -- but then again, we are on a boat.

A bigass boat in fact -- the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, one of the mere two Liberty ships still afloat from the batch of 2,710 that were constructed during WWII. But we were pretty far from Normandy on Saturday; the O'Brien was hosting Brews on the Bay, a celebration of San Francisco's alcoholic beverage of choice.

At least, that's how Dobel would have it. "Our entire civilization is based on beer -- and I'll stand by that statement," said the brewer from behind his aviator glasses and cigarette, hanging out by the cask ale at his brewery's tasting table, perched on a platform atop the 441-foot boat. 

But for too long California wine producers have been outhustling brewers in terms of public relations, even in the food pairing arena ("wine cannot handle heavy cheeses, spicy food -- beer has much more dimensions," he says). Dobel and other SF brewers' answer to the problem was to form the SF Brewer's Guild in 2003. The associationa has been holding Brews on the Bay for eight years to celebrate San Francisco beer -- suds from "the birthplace of the American craft brewery revolution," as Dobel puts it. 

This weekend, 50 beers from eight breweries were on offer to the exuberant crowd of mostly-young people swilling on the O'Brien's deck. Thirsty Bear's brewmaster was excited about the possibilities of adding more guild members in the years to come, possibly from the ranks of the nanobreweries that have begun to make their mark on the San Francisco scene. 

"By 2013, we should have 11 breweries here," he shares -- although from the look of the crowd swerving down the gangplank at the end of the day (your author definitely included), Brews of the Bay's beer selection left nothing to be desired. 

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