Slideshow: Highlights From SF Beer Week 2014

Pliny the Younger at SF Beer Week's Opening Gala
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...

[Photo: Wes Rowe]

Rare Barrel Gose at the Opening Gala
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.

[Photo: Wes Rowe]

Anderson Valley Brewing at the Opening Gala
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.

[Photo: Wes Rowe]

Cervecería de MateVeza Bi-Rite Salted Caramel Ale Release
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.)

[Photo: Maggie Hoffman]

Oyster Stout at Magnolia
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.

[Photo: Maggie Hoffman]

United Sours of America at The Monk's Kettle
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.

[Photo: Maggie Hoffman]

Linden Street Dinner at Bar Tartine
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.

[Photo: Maggie Hoffman]

Age Old Friends: Cheese and Barrel-Aged Beers at the Cheese School of San Francisco
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.

[Photo: Lauren Sloss]

Cabot Creamery Clothbound Cheddar and Firestone Walker Walker's Reserve Porter
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!"

[Photo: Lauren Sloss]

Beer Cocktails at Alembic
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.

[Photo: Maggie Hoffman]

Calicraft Dinner at Rich Table
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.

[Photo: Lauren Sloss]

Steak at Rich Table with Calicraft's The City IPA
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. 

[Photo: Lauren Sloss]

SF Homebrewers Guild Annual Beer Week Homebrew Share
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.

[Photo: Chris Cohen]

BeerByBART and Cerveceria de MateVeza Collaboration Beer Release Party
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.

[Photo: Chris Cohen]