Something to celebrate: 4 local standouts from SF Beer Week's opening pours

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Almanac brewer Damian Fagan pours at his fruit-focused brewery's first SF Beer Week opening celebration.
ALL PHOTOS BY CAITLIN DONOHUE

The first drinkers to make it into the SF Beer Week opening celebration on Friday, January 10 had the run of the taps, and with over 50 breweries pouring two to six beers apiece in this year's more spacious Concourse Exhibition Center venue, that counted for a lot. Yet, for some reason, the two guys at the head of the line were still speed walking. Maybe it was a preemptive strike against beer gut. 

Sorry gents, but it's a losing battle. Calorie counting was a loser's game on Friday, but for anyone interested in the best and brightest of San Francisco suds, it was a can't-miss situation. Here were some of the standouts -- all local SF brews:

Almanac: SF's fledgling Almanac brewery poured my first beers of the Week, and subsequently walked with my heart. The gypsy brewer (so named because it still doesn't have its own facilities) makes small batch beers with fruit from featured Northern California farms -- after the batch is made, it may never come back. It was pouring three of its fruit-based beers on Friday: the Belgian golden strong blackberry, farmhouse pale ale plum, and the winter wit orange and ginger. This week, the upstart is pairing with some of the city's foodie flocking points to create some incredible limited edition products made with its beers: Dynamo Doughnuts,Humphrey Slocombe, and Wing Wings. Plus tonight (Mon/13), the brewery will be pairing up with Speakeasy and Pacific Brewing Laboratories to provide drinks during the hog butchering lesson and feast at the Beast and the Hare for all you carnivores. 

SF Beer Week at the Concourse Exhibition Center. It really was a sausage fest. 

Pacific Brewing Laboratories: "It's been so amazing," said Pacific Brewing Laboratories' Patrick Horn. Horn -- who Guardian readers will remember from his local snack-beer pairings in last fall's Beer Issue -- was talking about his nanobrewery's recent transition into non-nano -- a.k.a, the SoMa outfit's appearance in stores and bars around the city. Horn says the only trouble his outfit has been having is keeping up with the demand for its Squid Ink and Nautilus saison, which as it happens were the two brews he was pouring on Friday. 

Shmaltz: I was partial, as always, to the SF-born Shmaltz's Albino Python, with its notes of ginger, sweet orange peel, and crushed fennell. Another recent happening: the brewery's developed a new recipe for its Genesis dry hopped session ale, which it hardly ever does. Once a cross between an amber and a pale ale, Shmaltz employee Leah Harmatz says the new recipe was created so that it would be "more crisp." I had to agree. Shmaltz's mega carny food beer dinner on Wed/15 is probably going to be the most decadently weird night of Beer Week -- set at Elk Lodge No. 3, attendees will enjoy their comestibles with performances by sideshow wackos as a garnish. 

Southern Pacific Brewing: This brand-new brewery's recently opened brewery-pub-restaurant in the Mission has to be one of the neighborhood's most exciting new spaces -- vast and airy, the multilevel seating is going to be a place to beat in the Indian summer months when everyone wants to kick back with their favorite uber-local microbrew. On Friday, it was pouring its extra India pale ale and black ale, only two of a wide array of beers it makes on-site in their warehouse building. 

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