San Francisco Beer Week seems to start earlier every year. Even though the “official” kickoff to Beer Week is the Opening Night Gala on Friday, Feb. 10, some Bay Area breweries have already jumped the gun. The first was Russian River Brewing, with the much-anticipated annual release of its triple IPA, Pliny the Younger. Even before the pub in Santa Rosa opened last Friday morning, Younger seekers were lined up for the limited-release beer.
Not to be outdone, East Bay up-and-comer Drakes Brewing held a coming out party on Saturday at its beautiful barrel house in San Leandro for its double IPA, Hopocalypse. The real star of Drakes' Hopocalypse release party, however, turned out to be the Black Label version of Hopocalypse, a triple IPA brewed along the lines of such legendary beers as Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA and Pliny the Younger. Like those well-known triple IPAs, Black Label Hopocalypse executes the delicate balancing act of overabundant hops (100 IBUs) and almost syrupy sweet malt in a potent 12.5% brew. Drakes has a winner on its hands and despite a two bottle per customer limit, all of the 22 ounce bombers (between 700 and 800 bottles) sold out on the first day. You can still find it on tap at Drakes, at least for the moment. Black Label Hopocalypse is a worthy entrant into the triple IPA pantheon and worth seeking out.
It would have been interesting to see how Black Label holds up against other triple IPAs at next week's Double IPA Festival at The Bistro in Hayward. For the first time, triple IPAs will be judged in their own category. Unfortunately Drakes didn't brew enough of this wonderful ale to pour at The Bistro, so people won't be able to compare it side by side with other triple IPAs. Black Label might not be the best triple IPA, but it can certainly hold its own in the best company.
Beer Revolution in Oakland also got a jump on SF Beer Week as it celebrated its second anniversary, with vegan chocolate cake, of course. It seems strange to think that Beer Revolution has only been around for two years; it already seems like an Oakland beer institution. Beer Revolution might already be outgrowing its downtown Oakland location, though, and the pub was bursting at the seams for its birthday party. Happy Birthday, Beer Revolution, and many happy returns.
Tomorrow we'll highlight some useful strategies for SF Beer Week. But let's be honest here. One week isn't enough for SF Beer Week. How about we just call it a fortnight?
note: updated to correct that Black Label Hopocalypse will not be poured at the Double IPA Festival and is only available at Drake's Barrel House.