Pliny the Younger at SF Beer Week's Opening Gala
When the doors to SF Beer Week's Opening Gala opened, the crowds literally sprinted toward the Russian River table to snag a taste of this year's Pliny the Younger. That potent hoppy beer smells and tastes pretty amazing, but folks who spent the whole gala waiting in line missed an impressive assortment of other local brews...
Rare Barrel Gose at the Opening Gala
The opening gala featured about 80 breweries around San Francisco, the East Bay, and both south and north of the city. While the Rare Barrel's 'Gose Without Saying' was made without the traditional salt addition, it was a deliciously crisp and refreshing beer, now available in bottles.
Anderson Valley Brewing at the Opening Gala
Many bourbon barrel-aged beers are huge Imperial offerings, but Anderson Valley's stout aged in Wild Turkey barrels is nearly sessionable at 7% ABV. We loved this super-smooth beer, as well as their Mendonesia, a Pediococcus-soured farmhouse ale made with fresh peach purée.
This TED talk-inspired event organized by the Almanac Beer crew was without question one of our favorite parts of the week. The topics ranged from the technical side of brewing with Brett and barrel aging to a philosophical discussion of the similarities between the worlds of beer and music. Collin McDonnell of HenHouse Brewing in Petaluma (pictured above) took the opportunity to chat about a few of the questions beer folks should be asking, including how to grow into a less homogeneous (and more sustainable) community, and how to address both the benefits and dangers of alcohol. Other highlights included a lesson on pairing food with IPA from Master Cicerone Rich Higgins, and a great look back at the history of Anchor Brewing's Liberty Ale from Anchor's Mark Carpenter, complete with photos of the bearded crew in the '70s. You can listen to the audio from the talks online here.
Cervecería de MateVeza Bi-Rite Salted Caramel Ale Release
Cervecería de MateVeza brewed 40 gallons of this beer in homage to neighbor Bi-Rite's awesome salted caramel ice cream, cooking sugar and malt extract into a deep brown caramel, and adding salt to the wort near the end of the boil. It's remarkable stuff: rich and luscious in texture, and dry enough to serve with a pork chop (but sweet enough to sip with its namesake ice cream.)
Oyster Stout at Magnolia
Magnolia's Oysterhead Stout is made just once a year, with 20 dozen oysters (half shucked, half whole) adding calcium and brine to the boil. The rich, creamy beer, made with lots of dark-roasted Marris Otter malt, was served on both cask and draft—both versions were delicious with a plate of fresh Beausoleil oysters.
United Sours of America at The Monk's Kettle
On Saturday the 8th, The Monk's Kettle turned over their full tap and bottle list to funky and sour beers, including an array of vintage beers they cellared. Co-owner Christian Albertson was particularly excited about an array of bottles (from as far back as 2008) from Portland's Cascade Brewing. Albertson explained that he believes that sours especially shine with a little aging, pointing out the 2009 Cuvée de Tomme from The Lost Abbey available by the bottle (with current vintage on tap for the day.) The aged version, he said, "is super mellow, all integrated, with everything deeper and concentrated." It wasn't all aged beers, though: in addition to offering The Bruery's Marron Acidifié from 2011 by the glass, they were serving the 2013 Rueuze, as well as Prairie Artisan Ales' Puncheon, and Avery's Bad Apple, Crooked Stave's Batch 60, and tons more.
Almanac Pairings at Craftsman and Wolves
We didn't act fast enough to get tickets to Almanac Beer Co.'s instantly sold-out dinner with Lazy Bear, but we did grab a few à la carte offerings that Craftsman and Wolves paired with Alamanac's brews. The best match of the bunch: a slightly spicy and vinegary Buffalo chicken madeleine, served with blue cheese dip and Almanac's peppery-tasting Sourdough Wild Ale. The beer was made with barley, oats, rye, spelt and lemon, fermented in used wine barrels with a blend of Brettanomyces and sourdough yeast from Marla Bakery.
Linden Street Dinner at Bar Tartine
We don't need an excuse to have dinner at Bar Tartine, but we do think that their Eastern European-influenced food is one of the best options for beer-pairing around the city. Tuesday night they offered a prix fixe and à la carte options for pairing with a selection of Linden Street Brewery's beers. Both the black saison and sour Baltic porter we tried were amazing with an order of chicken wings coated in rice flour and brightened with lime.
Age Old Friends: Cheese and Barrel-Aged Beers at the Cheese School of San Francisco
This event showcased six barrel-aged beer and cheese pairings. Led by Master Cicerone Nicole Erny and Farmshop cheesemonger Emiliano Lee, each pairing was presented with a little history. In addition to showcasing some awfully special beers—the very last run of Firestone Walker's Reserve Porter, 2011 brandy barrel-aged North Coast Old Stock Ale Reserve—Erny and Lee dug into their thinking behind each beer and cheese matchup.
Cabot Creamery Clothbound Cheddar and Firestone Walker Walker's Reserve Porter
One of our favorite pairings at the Cheese School of San Francisco event showcased the just-retired Reserve Porter from Firestone Walker Brewery. Aged in bourbon barrels, the beer has a robust dark malt flavor, with a background hint of wood. Notes of chocolate and delicate char pair perfectly with the sharp, fruity cheddar—the clothbound cheese is aged for 12 months and has a big, concentrated flavor and crumbly texture. The combination is an English classic, but Erny tied the match even closer to home. "It's a comforting and familiar combination for me," she said, citing the warm, toasty notes of the beer and the cheese's richness. "It tastes like a grilled cheese sandwich!"
Ferment.Drink.Repeat CrowdBrewed Launch
Eleven homebrewed beers on tap and a big group of supporters make for a great party! Shea and Kevin Inglin are opening a nanobrewery, taproom, and homebrew shop called Ferment.Drink.Repeat in San Francisco in 2014. It will act as a brewery incubator, with talented area homebrewers invited to brew there. The launch event for their CrowdBrewed fundraising campaign featured lots of excellent homebrew.
Beer Cocktails at Alembic
Even the cocktail bars got in on the Beer Week action: Alembic on Haight featured a different beer week cocktail each night, including one with Ransom Old Tom gin, Nocino, and Jolly Pumpkin's La Parcela, another with milk stout and Chartreuse, and our favorite, the "Sex Type Thing", a drink inspired by the idea that many cocktails with racy names are peach flavored. This was a beautifully balanced upgrade, made with Drake's Hefeweizen, reposado tequila, Massenez creme de peche, fresh lemon, and a few dashes of peaty Islay Scotch.
Calicraft Dinner at Rich Table
A pairing dinner at Rich Table featured four ample courses served with Calicraft's small-batch beers. Brewmaster Blaine Landberg was on hand to delve into the inspiration behind the brews. First up was a spread of Rich Table's snacks, paired with Calicraft's Buzzerkeley. The beer is made with California Starthistle honey (fermented almost completely dry). Landberg used to homebrew out of his dorm room at U.C. Berkeley under the name Buzzerkeley, which almost got him kicked out of university.
The food spread included chicken liver mousse, hearts of romaine dressed with a smoked dijon vinaigrette, and Rich Table's famed sardine chips, porcini doughtnuts, and the 'Dirty Hippie' buttermilk panna cotta with hemp seeds. Each dish brought out something unique and interesting in the beer. The Hippie was a favorite: the creamy richness of the buttermilk and toasted, grassy flavor of the hemp seeds enhanced the honey notes and bright refreshing side of the beer. Plus, a Dirty Hippie is kind of made for Buzzerkeley.
Steak at Rich Table with Calicraft's The City IPA
At the Rich Table dinner, a deeply flavored New York Strip Steak was nicely complemented by Calicraft's special-release IPA—The City was created for this year's Beer Week, and is inspired by cocktail culture. "I was at a cocktail bar in San Francisco and saw all of the handcrafted bitters they had," Landberg explained. "It got me thinking... how could we use a bittering agent other than hops in an IPA?" They ended up adding blackberry root from Sebastopol, dried Cara Cara orange peel, and chervil; hops add a citrus note to the mix.
Hops for Housing Homebrew Showcase at the SoMa StrEat Food Park
Organized by the Sirwisa Brewing Collective, this charity event raised money for the San Francisco Tenants Union. Dozens of taps flowed with homebrew made by talented brewers from all over the Bay Area, plus donated kegs from a number of local pro breweries. Live bluegrass music and bites from the SoMa StrEat Food Park food trucks made for an excellent evening.
SF Homebrewers Guild Annual Beer Week Homebrew Share
The SF Homebrewers Guild's annual Homebrew Share for members features dozens of beers from some of the city's best homebrewers. It's a great chance to show off new beers, soak up fellow brewer camaraderie, and compete for the People's Choice ribbon. Our contributor Chris Cohen (along with brew partner Tom Tripp) took it home this time for '10% Milkshake,' a bourbon barrel imperial stout fermented with British yeast. Ribbons were also awarded for the guild's Barleywine Competition.
BeerByBART and Cerveceria de MateVeza Collaboration Beer Release Party
Gail Williams and Steve Shapiro, creators of BeerbyBART.com teamed up with the good folks at Cervecería de MateVeza, namely co-owner Jim Woods and brewer-beertender Sam Gill, to brew up an SF Beer Week collaboration beer. The dark and luscious brew, named Carob Calloway, featured figgy fruit flavors from generous additions of Lebanese Carob Molasses. Dry and tasty, this big brew proved dangerously easy to drink for everyone who got to try it at the release event at Cerveceria's location next to Dolores Park.