BEER Even if your hankering for a beer paunch pales in comparison, say, to your desire to fit into your Valentine's Day party dress, you have a responsibility to indulge during SF Beer Week. It's not just a gustatory pleasure — consider yourself stumping for a burgeoning local industry. From Feb. 10-19, the fest will stage everything from urban beer hikes to beer-and-chocolate pairing events, beer-and-cheese couplings to a showcase of the finest in local bitter ales. Recently, the Guardian had the pleasure of a one-on-one (via email) with David McLean, the mastermind behind the superlative suds at Magnolia Brewery. He is also a member of the SF Brewer's Guild, the organizing entity behind Beer Week. McLean shared with us his can't-miss picks for hobnobbing and hops during this year's festival. And yes, they include an stout made with Hog Island oysters.
SFBG: How has the beer scene changed over the past year in the Bay Area? Has there been a profound expansion?
DM: Here and everywhere. We started in 2011 with about 1,700 breweries in the country. We are creeping up on 2,000 a year later and there are something like 800 or so known to be in planning. It's safe to say craft beer is exploding right now. In the Bay Area, some notable highlights are Southern Pacific, Elevation 66, Dying Vines, Pacific Brewing Laboratories, and Heretic Brewing. There are plenty more on the way in 2012.
SFBG: Anyone new on the scene whose brews you're excited to sample?
DM: After many delays (all par for the course) it is super-exciting to have Southern Pacific Brewing Company open just in time for Beer Week. As the first new brewery built in San Francisco in many years — close to 10 — that one leads the pack in terms of excitement level. Another SF company just getting off the ground is Pacific Brewing Laboratories, which is starting to get its Squid Ink IPA and a couple of other beers into bars and restaurants. Almanac's latest seasonal release, Winter Wit, should be hitting the streets just in time for Beer Week too, and it's worth hunting down.
SFBG: A food-beer pairing event you think is a can't-miss?
DM: Some pairings are just so perfect as to be timeless. They're less about being creative and more about flavors that need no help fitting together. A personal favorite is oysters and beer, particularly oysters and certain kinds of stout, especially dry stouts. We go a step further at Magnolia with an oyster stout we make using Hog Island Sweetwater oysters in the beer. The effect is subtle, and maybe it is gilding the lily, but a few freshly-shucked Sweetwaters and a glass of that beer, Oysterhead Stout, is about as good as it gets. We'll be spending all day on Valentine's Day shucking a variety of oysters and serving them with that stout and some other good oyster-pairing beers until the oysters run out. If I were free on Mon/13, you might find me at the "Butcher and the Beer at the Beast and the Hare" — it's a dinner with [4505 Meats butcher] Ryan Farr and Almanac Beer.
SFBG: Your tip for making it through Beer Week — how do you survive such a strenuous schedule?
DM: The well-timed vacation waiting on the other side of Beer Week helps maintain my sanity during Beer Week. With multiple events to work everyday, it's a definitely a marathon and not a sprint. But it is also one of the premier celebrations of craft beer in the country and the sense of enthusiasm, camaraderie, and support from the beer community is more than enough to help us all get through the week. It's energizing, actually. But don't forget to hydrate.
SF BEER WEEK OPENING CELEBRATION
Fri/10 6-10 p.m., $65
Concourse Exhibition Center
635 Eighth St., SF