Beer Week rolls out the barrel

An Almanac tasting with the SF Brewers' Guild at Beer Week's opening celebration -- yes, please!

With much fanfare, the San Francisco Brewers Guild annual SF Beer Week popped its cork at the Concourse last Friday night, and the Bay Area has been awash in a tsunami of beer ever since.

Unable to attend the grand gala opening celebration, I got the lowdown from beer-tasting buddy Cee Jay, who took a few for the team in his quest for the perfect snifter of suds and got him to wax eloquent on Sierra Nevada’s new line of barrel-aged beers (“The barrel-aged Bigfoot is the tastiest brew I’ve had in a long time,” he gushed) and weigh in on the collaboratively-brewed Brewers Guild malt liquor Green Death -- a brew apparently inspired by one of my secret nostalgic faves Rainer ale, a dubious beverage I have fond albeit very fuzzy memories of. One this subject Cee Jay vacillated between calling it “well-balanced” yet possessed of a “split personality,” code words for “he don’t like it” (decide for yourself at the “Meet the Brewers” event at Speakeasy on February 13).

As I peruse the schedule for the week ahead, all I can say is “thank goodness beer week lasts 10 days”. Because otherwise I don’t know how I’d fit in all the beers that sound too good to pass up.

With over 400 events to choose from all over the Bay, you’d be hard pressed to avoid Beer Week altogether, which makes my strategy of sticking to bars I’d probably be going to anyway but coinciding it with a tap takeover of a brewery I’m keen to further my familiarity with, either sheer genius or maybe just laziness. San Diego night at the Sycamore on Monday was a perfect example of this welcome synchronicity of will to explore and comfortable location. Breweries represented included Ballast Point (whose Sculpin IPA is a big favorite) and Green Flash (whose Black Saison “Friendship Ale” was particularly tempting), and since the Sycamore is within literal stumbling distance of my home, the fact that it was a “school night” did not matter much. Incidentally Sycamore is also hosting a promising-sounding Dogfish Head night on the 12th, which will be a great opportunity to taste some special rarities.

Toronado, naturally, will host two of my real must-do’s, the Russian River ‘Tion night (Tues/12), where some 20 Russian River beers (though ironically NOT the highly-anticipated seasonal release, Pliny the Younger) will be served from 6pm onward, and the not-technically-Beer-Week-but-still-imperative 20th annual Barleywine Festival from the 16th-18th during which over 50 Barleywines will be available on draft. Incidentally, Toronado is also your best bet for scoring the aforementioned Pliny the Younger -- just show up on your lunch break through the 25th, they’ll be serving limited supplies of the scarce stuff until they won’t.

Other Tap Takeovers that look promising to me are a couple at Kennedy’s Irish Pub and Curry House in North Beach (Heretic on Wed/13, and Ommegang on Fri/15), Triple Voodoo and Ninkasi at Rosamunde Sausage Grill also on Wed/13 and Fri/15 respectively, Danish Mikkeller at Oakland’s The Trappist on Thurs/14, and the “Band of Gypsies” takeover of Rosamunde’s Oakland outpost on Wed/13. The “gypsies” -- eight nomadic local brewers including Lucky Hand and Bison Organic -- have collaborated on a Belgian-style Quad (“Belgian Tramp”) brewed with candy sugar, Mission Figs, raisins, and dates which clocks in at a respectable 10.5% abv and sounds like dinner, dessert, and drinks all in one tasty combination.

And speaking of dinner with drinks, I haven’t even touched on all the foodie-worthy events lined up on the Beer Week calendar, but buzzed-about bets include beer-infused Dynamo Donut and Humphrey Slocombe confections, Butchers and Beers on Fri/15 featuring meats from 4505 paired with tasty brews from local “farm-to-bottle” darlings, Almanac Beer Company, Almanac’s special beer-pairing dinner at Central Kitchen on Wed/13, the already sold-out Sau and Brau fest at Drake’s Barrel House in San Leandro, and a Valentine’s Day, four-course, prix fixe dinner and beer pairing at La Trappe Café. Oh la la! In short, life’s short, and beer week is passing by more quickly than you might think. Catch it now while you still can, your liver will forgive you eventually. I promise.

SF Beer Week

Through February 17

Various locations




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