Celebrate craft beer with American Craft Beer Week

Just in case you need another excuse to drink beer, American Craft Beer Week begins on Monday, May 16. An argument can be made that craft beer is the only American beer, since the major industrial beer producers—Budweiser, Miller and Coors—are all owned by global conglomerates. On the other hand, BMC beers are readily available across the country, whereas craft beer for the most part is regional. Nonetheless, it's always a good idea to support your local pubs and brewers. According to The Brewers Association, which is coordinating the event through its Craft Beer site, for the first time all 50 states will be participating in American Craft Beer Week in some way. For the entire list of events across the country, click here.

Craft Beer Week events in the San Francisco Bay Area
Monday, May 16
Porky's Pizza Palace Celebrating American Craft Beer Week
Porky's Pizza Palace
1221 Manor Blvd.
San Leandro, California, 94579 | map
We will tap a new special beer each day of American Craft Beer Week.
Look to our website to see which beer will be pouring on a given day.

Enjoy Weissbierpils at Gordon Biersch
All Bay Area Gordon Biersch Brewers will be serving a "Weissbierpils." It is the latest and greatest of German beer styles, blending the fruity and spicy notes of a Weissbier with the clean, assertive hop bitterness of a Pilsner. Weissbierpils are a refreshing hybrid in the spirit of American Craft Beer and perfect for ACB Week.

Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Palo Alto
640 Emerson Street
Palo Alto, California, 94301 | map
Contact: Andy Breedlove

Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant - San Francisco
2 Harrison St.
San Francisco, California, 94105 | map
Contact: Shane Stevens

Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner
California Cafe - Los Gatos
50 University Ave.
Los Gatos, Calif., 95030 | map
Calling all beer fans. Kick off American Craft Beer Week at California Cafe in Los Gatos for a Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner. Enjoy a wonderful multicourse meal prepared by  Executive Chef Bobby Laggan paired with a fine lineup of beers from Sierra Nevada. Reservations are needed for this event, so please contact us at 408-354-8300.

Craft Breweries of the 831
1520 Mission St.
Santa Cruz, California, 95060 | map
On Monday, May 16, Oscar and his squad of beer fanatics are kicking off ACBW '11 in the 831 by rolling up their sleeves in the kitchen and dreaming up a whole menu of amazing vittles that will both be cooked with and paired with one of each participating brewery's ACBW featured brews! Lots of incredible stuff on tap and a fantastic atmosphere await.
Contact: Quinn Gardner

Tuesday, May 17
Craft Breweries of the 831
Relax! Grillin' & Chillin'
3650 San Juan Rd.
Hollister, California, 95023 | map

The Tuesday night Brewery nights at Relax! Grillin' & Chillin' are already the stuff of legend. But on Tuesday, May 17, Chuck and the Brew Crew are hosting their first American Craft Beer Week event and it's going to be a phenomenal night! Come out an try a bunch of new brews from each participating brewery, ask questions and get to know your brewer (as each brewery will have a rep on hand!). Great food, great people, and fun, laid back atmosphere ensure this will not be a night to be missed.
Contact: Quinn Gardner

Team America Beer School
Zambo, Head Brewer
21st Amendment Brewery
563 2nd Street
San Francisco, California, 94107 | map
Tastings begin at 7pm, $40 includes all beer samples, snacks, tax and gratuity.

Wednesday, May 18

New Belgium Tap Takeover
1520 Mission Street
Santa Cruz
California, 95060 | map
New Belgium Tap Takeover at burger.
Contact: Burgermeister

Red Restaurant & Bar!!!
1003 Cedar St. (2nd floor),
Santa Cruz, California, 95060 | map
The Red has long been a beacon of light in the 831 for craft beer fans. Last year's American Craft Beer Week event there was a blast and a huge success -- and this year will be no different. Miriam, Bobby and the rest of the Red rockers will be cooking up some amazing stuff in the kitchen, pairing some funky and delicious creations with beers from each of the participating breweries on hand! The Red always feels like someone put a top-notch bar in your living room, so adding the electric buzz of ACBW does something really special in this place -- so be sure to invite your friends, family and fellow fans of fantastic frothy and join us on Wednesday, May 18.
Contact: Quinn Gardner

Craft Canorama
21st Amendment Brewery
563 2nd Street
San Francisco, California, 94107 | map
The event will take place on our brewer's loft (mezzanine) from 5-9pm.
We will serve $2 cans of our 21st Amendment beers, as well as guest beers.
Contact: Rob Strasser

Thursday, May 19
Cannery Row Brewing Co.
95 Prescott Ave.
Monterey, California, 93940 | map
Since July of 2010, Cannery Row Brewing has helped to fill a craft beer void in the Monterey Area, bringing 76 taps (and countless bottles) to Monterey. Their staff knows their beer, the kitchen is creative and citizens of Monterey have come to know CRBC as one of THE top places to sample some incredible beers from all over the world ... so it was an obvious fit for ACBW '11. Come join us on Thursday, May 19, for some great food, great music and a celebration of all things craft beer. While you're there, mix and mingle with representatives from each participating brewery and ask every question you've ever wanted to know about them, their beers and their history. Tell your friends, family and fans of the good life and join us.
Contact: Quinn Gardner

Friday, May 20
Brewery Cellar Dinner
ThirstyBear Brewing Company
661 Howard Street
San Francisco, California, 94105 | map

In Celebration of American Craft Beer Week (May 16-22), we'll be hosting another Brewery Cellar Dinner on Friday May 20 from 6-9pm ($60 admission). An intimate four course food and beer pairing in the brewery amongst the fermenters & aging barrels. Hosted by Ron Silberstein (founder and original brew master) and Brenden Dobel (current brew master and certified cicerone). Only 10 seats available.
Tentative menu:
* Roasted baby beets, pickled kumquats, micro basil & goat cheese  paired with Valencia Wheat
* Gulf Prawns a la plancha, grilled lemon & salsa verde paired with Polar Bear
* Roasted Rack of Lamb, Housemade merguez sausage, fava beans, maitake mushrooms & pea tendrils paired with Meyer ESB
* Strawberry-Rhubarb Napolean paired with Golden Hallucination
For reservations, e-mail tim@thirstybear.com or call 415-974-0905 x 207.

99 Bottles
110 Walnut Ave.
Santa Cruz, California, 95060 | map
For almost 19 years, beer fans have been filling their cards of beers they've tried and adorning the walls of 99 Bottles in Santa Cruz with their proud achievements. Throughout the years, it's always been known as one of the best places in Santa Cruz to try something new -- and last year's ACBW event there was a wild success. Drew, Jahan and the rest of Team 99 are poised to make ACBW 2011 no exception! Come out an try some of the fantastic featured beers from each participating brewery, ask that question you've always been curious about that certain favorite brewery of yours and step outside the norm and try something new on tap Invite your friends, family and everyone you know who loves great beer and join us on Friday, May 20.
Contact: Quinn Gardner

Saturday, May 21
Spring Beer Tasting
Pacific Coast Brewing Company
906 Washington St,
Oakland, California, 94607 | map
All right gang. We're doing it again. Our Spring Beer tasting featuring 14 kick ass beers, seven courses of food and more fun than you would think possible.
Bring your appetite for beer, food and zest for life.
We will start listing the beers soon.
Tickets ($60) are available at the pub. Call or come to the pub for tickets! Get them soon as this event always sells out.
Contact: Donald Gortemiller
dg@pacificcoastbrewing.com |

Sunday, May 22

Lagunitas Beer Circus
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
1280 No. McDowell Blvd.,
Petaluma, California, 94954 | map
Join us for a day of circus freaks, entertainment and a whole lot of fun. Benefit for the Petaluma Music Festival featuring Vau De Vire Society, Gooferman, Stilters, Clowns, Moral Minority, Kehoe Nation, Mimes, The Bed of Nails Guy, Swing Band, Neal Barbosa, Plate Spinners, Roller Girls, Sword Swallowers, Sideshows, HotDogs, Burlesque Acts, Contortionists, CornDogs, Trapeze Artists, BlockHeads, Cotton Candy, Jojo the Dog-Faced Boy, Jugglers, BBQ'd Oysters, Snake Dancers, Those Fabulous Fickle Brothers...
21 & Over Only!
Tickets are $40
From Noon-6pm
Puchase Tickets at www.lagunitas.com or at the brewery in our store!

Magnolia Brewery Tour
Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery
1398 Haight St.
San Francisco, California, 94117 | map
We will be hosting a tour of our brewery at 2:30pm on Sunday, May 22.  You will find yourself in very close proximity to our draught and cask ales.  
Contact: AJ Tiras

Beyond pub grub: vegan food at Millennium with organic Bison beer

When it comes to healthy food, beer suffers from an unsavory reputation. For decades in America, beer has been associated with some of the unhealthiest food we could cook up, from spicy hot wings to greasy fries and burgers. Even the occasional veggies that appear on the typical pub grub menu are deep-fried and over-salted—the better to encourage more beer drinking. Craft beer did not start this trend, but it hasn't exactly broken out of this tried-and-true formula, either.
It begs the question, is there a place for good beer among people who prefer eating healthy food?
Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco does not shy away from a challenge. Opened in 1994, Millennium has steadfastly adhered to its vegan roots in its pursuit of high-quality dishes in an upscale ambience. As he says on Millennium's website, chef Eric Tucker is on a mission to demonstrate that, “You don't have to compromise flavor and texture as you cut out harmful, high-fat animal products and oil. At Millennium we definitely dispel the stereotypes and misconceptions held by many about low-fat and vegan cuisine." (You can read more about veganism here.)
Restaurants typically rely on meat, fish and chicken, as well as sauces based on animal fat, cream and butter for much of the flavor of their dishes. A vegan bistro like Millennium, on the other hand, must highlight the more subtle flavors of ingredients that usually play second fiddle to the protein and play to sauces mostly concocted from herbs and spices. Nonetheless, Millennium seems to have developed a loyal following among diners, and not just vegans.
One way to highlight and accent the flavors of a dish is to pair it with a fermented beverage like wine, and Millennium has a well-selected list of wines from all over the world. To spotlight the nuances of the wines with food, the restaurant holds monthly pairing dinners in a special dining room. Once a year, beer takes the place of wine in the pairing menu.
In keeping with its theme of local, sustainable, organic ingredients, Millennium in late April selected Berkeley's organic Bison Brewing to complement Tucker's vegan dishes. Just as the Millennium chef must work from a circumscribed range of ingredients to create dishes using a fraction of the ingredients available to other restaurants, Bison owner and brewer Dan Del Grande also has more limited options than other brewers. Del Grande explained that the colors in his paintbox might be fewer, but they're just as good. Much of the flavor in beer comes from hops, and there are only around 30 certified organic hops. Del Grande favors American Palisades and Bravo, Belgian Cascade and New Zealand Pacific Gem hops in his IPA.
Millennium paired Bison's IPA with an amuse bouche of shredded asparagus, spring onion and lotus root fritter, hoping that the grapefruit flavors of the IPA would complement the grapefruit/IPA dipping sauce. Although the beer was poured before the fritter was served, the pairing, although subtle, seemed to work OK. Bison's IPA is not as hop-forward as many West Coast IPAs and Del Grande's restraint in his use of hops results in a beer that's not overly bitter and thus more food-friendly.
Happily for the second course, food and beer arrived simultaneously. The beer selected was Four, a saison from Upright Brewing in Oregon, which pinch-hit for Bison's Honey Beer. (Honey is not, strictly speaking, vegan insofar as it exploits bees.) The Roasted Abalone Mushroom Grilled Flatbread was an earthy, tangy interpretation of a personal-size pizza, with marinara, saffron-garlic Meyer lemon aioli and toasted nori. Upright's saison may be the answer to the question: What's the perfect beer for marinara-based pizza? The acidity of the Belgian-style farmhouse ale perfectly complemented the tangy tomato sauce and the spicy funkiness of the beer proved a fascinating juxtaposition with the earthiness of the mushrooms.

In the third course, gigante beans, artichoke and grilled radicchio were nestled atop a savory mound of barley risotto. Bitter radicchio can be problematic, and the choice of Bison's Imperial Brown, which is based on the recipe for Pete's Wicked ale, but with twice the hops and malt, fared surprisingly well. In a dish with so many diverse and distinctive flavors—artichoke, radicchio, the reduction of morel mushrooms and dried cherries, barley risotto and crisp smoked leeks—some of the individual combinations worked better with the beer than others. The texture and rich, savory flavor of the risotto itself was satisfying comfort food combined with the beer. Artichokes, which can be a difficult pairing with wine, also matched well with the Imperial Brown.

Unfortunately, the next course, Seared Masa and Pecan Cake with a sweet potato-ancho chile puree, seemed more muddled and the flavors and texture came across as incongruous. The chile puree nicely reflected the raisons that Del Grande used in his Belgian dubbel, but the beer had nowhere to go with the grainy, rather bland and dry masa and pecan cake.
Much more successful was the stout-glazed Tempeh Dengaku perched atop velvety hand-cut noodles dressed in a Korean chile sauce. Tucker matched this Asian-inspired dish with Bison's popular chocolate stout, playing to the beer's subtle organic cocoa powder bitterness and its malt roastiness. “This beer can hang with spices and Asian and all kinds of stuff,” Tucker said. Like the flatbread pizza matched with Upright's saison, matching an Asian-inspired dish with Bison's Chocolate Stout was the sort of unlikely seeming pairing that challenges your preconceptions about beer and food.
Millennium is known for its desserts, and the Hazelnut Layer Cake with a blackberry fig filling, with a scoop of chocolate ice cream and rum pastry cream did not disappoint. Again, the pairing, this time with Bison's Belgian-style Scotch Ale (which is styled after Brasserie de Silly's scotch ale) worked reasonably well. The beer is a little on the sweet side and didn't distract from the rich chocolaty dessert. The figs in particular seemed to play well with the somewhat spicy beer.

Beer pairings are a good idea for the same reason that wine pairings are a good idea. A single beer or wine style will not match equally well with an assortment of dishes, so having smaller portions of beer or wine paired with each dish can accent subtle flavors. It's easier to do when matching with a protein, since the beer has something to easily latch onto. The challenge with vegan food is that without the central protein focus, there are a lot of flavors going on in each dish and the flavor emphasis is often on the style of preparation and the sauce. Including the beer in the preparations, as Tucker did, is a good idea, since it provides a point of reference for the beer in the glass. Despite working through some daunting obstacles, chef Tucker and brewer Del Grande proved that there's more to beer food than deep-fried onion rings and hot wings.

Millennium Restaurant
580 Geary St
(between Shannon St & Jones St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
Neighborhood: Civic Center/Tenderloin
(415) 345-3900

Bison Brewing
2030 5th St
(at Addison St)
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 697-1537