San Francisco Beer Week staggered to the finish line on Sunday, but not before one last highly anticipated blowout: the 23rd Annual Celebrator Party at Trumer Brauerei in Berkeley. Trumer is a somewhat ironic venue for the event, which predominantly features strong ales, many of them well above the relatively modest 4.8% abv of Trumer's sole product, its underrated pils. Trumer is the American outpost of the Austrian brewer, which settled on Berkeley, reportedly, because the local water most closely resembled that of Salzburg.
For the party, sponsored by industry Bible Celebrator Magazine, Trumer was again overshadowed by some of the more extreme elements of today's craft beer scene: Imperial-strength IPAs and barleywines, many of them weighing in with double-digit alcohol counts and smelling boozy from whiskey barrels. Don't sell Trumer Pils short, though, it's an excellent beer.
Some of the breweries in attendence featured beers brewed especially for Beer Week, including Lagunitas, with its FusionSF, Drakes with atypical barleywines and sour beers, and Anchor Brewing with its Breckle's American Brown Ale. 2010 was a momentous year for Anchor, with craft beer pioneer Fritz Maytag stepping away from day-to-day responsibilities. If Brekle's is any indication, Anchor is in good hands with brewmaster Mark Carpenter. Brekle's hearkens back to the brewery's first brewmaster, Gottlieb Brekle, who in 1871 bought Golden City Brauerie, which eventually became Anchor.
Brekle's Brown is a rich, copper brew that derives most of its flavor from malt rather than its subtle American Citra hops. It was a delicious complement to the fine grilled tri-tip steak (marinated in Scotch ale) and sides provided by Emergenscy Barbecue. In the company of so many potent brews , Brekle's seemed downright sessionable at a relatively modest 6% abv. The best complementary beers with food seem to be the brews that don't call a lot of attention to themselves, and Brekle's stands out in a supporting role. Brekle's Brown is brewed in limited quantities, so if you see it on tap, have a taste. You won't regret it.
The Celebrator party celebrates the great folks who make beer as much as it does the beer itself. Heavy-hitters like Russian River Brewing drew a crowd throughout the evening. But lesser-known excellent local brewers like Denise Jones of Moylan's, Arne Johnson of Marin Brewing, Brian Thorson of Drakes and Dave McLean of Magnolia are the backbone of our local beer revolution. Next time you raise a glass, tip it in their direction; we beer drinkers owe them a debt of gratitude. And while you're at it, tip a glass in the direction of Celebrator Publisher Tom Daldorff, who celebrated craft beer before there was much to celebrate and worked the room like a proud papa.