One weekend into San Francisco Beer Week, a couple of harsh realities have become abundantly clear:
- We're in for a marathon and not a sprint, so pace yourself and take a day or two to recover whenever necessary.
- No matter how noble your intentions or how meticulous your plans, trying everything will almost certainly not be possible. There's just too much good beer.
The San Francisco Beer Week Opener last Friday was the beer drinker's dilemma in microcosm: 68 breweries—almost twice as many as last year—and more than 250 beers spread out along the circumference of the cavernous Concourse Exhibition Center (a funkier, more comfortable and spacious venue than last year's Yerba Buena Gardens).
With so many beers to choose from, it was difficult to decide where to begin. As usual, Russian River Brewing seemed to be a safe choice, particularly since they were pouring Pliny the Younger and Elder, Sanctification and a dazzling pre-release of Beatification. This year's Younger might be the best in years, gushing with hops and remarkably well-balanced. Several other beers gave the Younger a run for its money, however, including Hoptimum from Sierra Nevada and Hopocalypse Black Label from Drakes. Another strong contender was the Imperial IPA from Auburn Alehouse, a deliciously well-constructed brew from an underappreciated brewery.
While The Younger is an outstanding interpretation of a relatively familiar style, Beatification is something else entirely: an American wild ale with grapefruit overtones that's a marvel of spontaneous fermentation. The batch poured at the Opener is scheduled to be available in April, according to Natalie Cilurzo. Beatification was delicious with Rosamunde's kielbasa dotted with truffles.
Auburn wasn't the only unexpected overachiever of the night, as Thirsty Bear and Gordon Biersch also came through with some tasty offerings. Clean and stylistically correct, GB's regular beers are not held in high regard by many of today's beer geeks, who deem its lagers to be insufficiently adventurous. And there's probably some truth to that, since the beer is meant to appeal to the palates of the people who eat in their restaurants. However, come Beer Week, Gordon Biersch San Francisco head brewer John Tucci cuts loose with some enticing and exciting beers—he even had a stout on. This year, Tucci brought a saison that was refreshing yet subtly delicious.
Other standouts from the Opener included a complex barleywine from High Water Brewing called Old and in the Way; Evil Twin and Evil Cousin from Heretic, and a bevvy of tasty beers from Moonlight Brewing.
Events during the rest of the week will include the “kopstootje” (beer and a shot) dinner on Monday at Comstock Saloon, featuring Trumer Pils and Bols Genever.
Love (or anti-love), as well as beer, will be in the air on Tuesday, with several romantically inspired events all over the Bay Area.
- The romantic Beer Revolution will be the place to go for a Valentines Day Massacre, featuring a special beer that Speakeasy made for Beer Week, paired with special sorbets, including Frosted Anus.
- Bitter Valentines continues at Beer Revolution with “Stones' Bitter Valentine.”
- At Church Key in San Francisco, “Love is for the Birds,” with Grand Teton (Stranahan's Colorado whiskey barrel-aged Black Cauldron Imperial Stout for starters), scuzz rock movies and a DJ spinning “the best tunes to get bummed out to.”
- At City Beer, Firestone Walker owner David Walker will bring some special beers (including the brewery only "Bravo" and Pappy Van Winkle barrel-aged Velvet Merkin), paired with sweet treats from nearby Pinkies Bakery.
- Jupiter's anti-Valentines festivities will include “live blues and cask beers from several local breweries to help you either drown your sorrows or revel in your singledom.”
- Shotwell's Bar will pair Drake's Brandy Barrel Imperial Stout with TCHO Chocolate.
- Oysters paired with beer will be on the menu at Magnolia for Oyster Extravaganza, Valentines Edition. The shucking starts at 11 a.m.
- If you're single on Valentines Day, don't be bitter, as Public House marks Valentines Day with an anti-Valentine’s Day “Bitter, Sour, Single” Party. The featured beers that evening are Bear Republics Tartar Sour, Cuvee de Bubba Sour & Jack London Bitter.
Also on Tuesday, Pi Bar promises to tap many rare and limited release beers in an evening with Russian River Brewing and Green Flash Brewery from San Diego will take over the taps at Churchill on Church Street.
Mikkeler will be in the house at Amsterdam Cafe in San Francisco, with more than 25 specialties, including the Black Hole barrel-aged series...Tequila, Bourbon, Red wine, White wine and try the limited sour quadrupel Sur Monk. Also available will be the Our Side saison collaboration with Stillwater and on draft is Invasion IPA, a once-brewed beer collaboration with Drake's Brewing.
Don't stress out if you can't make all of these events, or even most of them. Sit back, enjoy your brew and remember how lucky we are to live in these fantastic beer times.