Breakfast beer at Social Kitchen

Beer goes with lots of food, from burgers and pizza to carbonnade a la flamande. But does beer belong with breakfast?
To find out, we visited Social Kitchen and Brewery to sample a beer collaboration between the brew pub’s head brewer Kim Sturdavant and winemaker James Davids of Oro En Paz. Davids makes wine on Treasure Island from organic grapes sourced in Lake County. Last fall he was talking to Sturdavant about his Semillon grapes and the two friends concocted a plan to make a saison-style ale using 600 pounds of Semillon grapes (40 pounds of juice) added during fermentation. As Sturdavant told Brian Stechschulte of the SF Brewers Guild, “The end result is just a combination of two people in two different fields working together to make something.”
Saison has recently become a popular style among American brewers for good reason. While Belgian-style farmhouse ales from breweries like Brasserie Dupont are thoroughly enjoyable in their own right, they also lend themselves well to blending with other flavors.
Saison Du Semillon is bright, golden and crisp, and very easy to drink. It’s a little tart and finishes very dry. Although it’s clearly a spicy saison, the Semillon grapes add subtle notes of honey and fruit, and the 7.7% abv is well hidden. It’s a perfect sipper paired with lighter foods or even fresh fruit on a warm summer day.
Saison du Semillon is also a delightful beer with breakfast, whether you enjoy it with Social Kitchen Chef Chris Wong’s signature pork belly fried rice at Sunday brunch or with fried chicken and waffles or even steak and eggs.
Sturdavant is an adventurous brewer with a deft touch, creating beers that are easily accessible to beer newcomers without being condescending to more experienced beer drinkers. If you know any wine lovers curious about drinking beer, Saison Du Semillon would be a good place to start.

SF Beer Week 2013: I love LA

Such are the vagaries of supply and demand and distribution that we in the Bay Area often have better access to beers from Europe than our own Golden State. Beer Revolution in Oakland reminded us of the great beers brewed in Southern California during SF Beer Week with a total takeover of its nearly 50 taps by beer from such Southern California breweries as Kinetic, Cismontane, Beachwood BBQ, Smog City and The Bruery, along with the welcome addition of Auburn Ale House. Needless to say, Los Angeles is no longer the beer desert it once was.
Beachwood’s Laurel is a fine representation of the West Coast IPA style, suitably hoppy, with some hints of tropical fruit. Smog City’s Groundwork Coffee Porter, meanwhile, smudges the boundaries between coffee and beer. The winner of this year’s gold medal for coffee beer at the Great American Beer Festival, Groundwork is aged on fresh, locally roasted fair trade coffee. A surprisingly easy-drinking beer that I would like to see up here more often.
Pushing 16% abv, the heavy-hitter for the day was The Bruery’s Melange No. 3, which the brewery describes as a blend of White Old Sap (a wheat wine), its Anniversary Series old ale and Black Tuesday Imperial Stout. The Black Tuesday stout seemed to be overshadowed by the other two beers, with the overall flavor resembling a Belgian abbey style ale, redolent of dark dried fruit and toffee, with an aftertaste of boozy bourbon barrel.
Slowly but surely, some beers from the Los Angeles area are starting to make their way up to the Bay Area. The more the merrier.
Beer Revolution is one of the best places to drink beer in the Bay Area, but it can be uncomfortably crowded at times. The nearby Belgian beer bar The Trappist, in contrast, is usually an oasis of tranquility. After drinking West Coast beers at Beer Rev, The Trappist is like a quick detour to Europe on the walk back to the downtown Oakland BART station. In this case, The Trappist offered a brief sojourn to Switzerland with the BFM Abbaye de Saint Bon Chien 2011, aged in merlot, cabernet, whiskey and grappa barrels. This strong (11%), full-flavored sour ale challenges you to re-calculate the meaning of “beer.” Somehow without the addition of cherries this amazing ale manages to taste very much like a Belgian kriek.

SF Beer Week 2013: West Meets East

San Francisco Beer Week was happily invaded on Fat Tuesday by beers from the East.
Dogfish Head from Delaware burst into Noc Noc and The Sycamore with a volley of its off-centered ales for off-centered people. Portland, Maine-based Allagash Brewing, meanwhile, made its own foray into Beer Week at Pi Bar. And Unibroue and Dieu du Ciel introduced a taste of Eastern Canada, along with traditional poutine, to Rosamunde in the Mission.
Such incursions during Beer Week are to be expected. Although beers from East of the Rockies are not by any stretch of the imagination local, they are widely available in the Bay Area and are typically prized by beer drinkers. Who hasn’t enjoyed Allagash White or Curieux, or Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA and Palo Santo Marron?
Moreover, the distributors made available beers that we don’t typically see. Among the more unusual offerings from Dogfish Head were 120-Minute IPA, Birra Etrusca Bronze, Immort Ale, Noble Rot, Chicory Stout, Olde School Barleywine, Positive Contact, Urkontinent, and two of my favorite homages to musicians: Hellhound on My Ale, an Imperial IPA tribute to bluesman Robert Johnson, and Bitches Brew, an Imperial Stout that celebrates Miles Davis’ iconic album of the same name.
For its part, Allagash resurrected its sublime wild ale Avance, which beer site Beeradvocate has listed as “no longer available.” Fortunately, rumors of its demise appear to have been exaggerated. Avance is like strawberry preserves in a glass, but without the overpowering sweetness.
Also making an appearance locally was the legendary and formidable Bourbon County Stout from Goose Island Brewing in Chicago. So far, at least, Goose Island’s acquisition by mega distributor InBev does not seem to have diminished the quality of the beers.

SF Beer Week 2013 Gala: It was a dark and boozy night

In a sense, the Gala opening event is SF Beer Week in microcosm—if some 80 Northern California breweries pouring from three or four taps each can be considered a “microcosm.” The gala is an opportunity for breweries to strut their stuff not only for drinkers, but also for their brewing peers. Keeping in the spirit of the event, many breweries bring special beers.
Indicative of the rapidly growing beer community were the debuts of many new breweries at the gala, including 101 North, Beltane, Free Wheel and Pine Street, to name but a few. Also, breweries that were relative newcomers a year ago have established themselves as an integral part of the Bay Area beer community, like Social Kitchen (with new brewer Kim Sturdavant), Almanac, Heretic and Pacific Brew Labs.
Sampling everything is, of course, impossible, so it makes sense to pass up the familiar in order to concentrate on the new, rare or unusual. Predictably, Russian River’s seasonal Pliny the Younger was on everyone’s hit list and as usual it did not disappoint. Relatively well-balanced for a big triple IPA, it had some tropical fruit notes. But was it really that much better than other big IPAs from breweries like Moylans or Auburn Alehouse’s excellent ZZ Hop Imperial IPA?
A couple of persistent themes of the gala and beer week in general were “sour” beers and beers aged in barrels. Almanac had both in the form of Farmer’s Reserve No. 1, a sour ale brewed with cabernet and muscat grapes; and Farmer’s Reserve No. 2, an aged wild autumn harvest ale made with pumpkins, ginger and persimmons; as well as Barrel Noir, a blend of American-style imperial stout and Belgian-inspired dark ale aged in bourbon barrels. Russian River brought its standout Sanctification wild ale, always a treat.
Bear Republic revived its barrel-aged brew, Old Baba Yaga, a Russian imperial stout named for the witch who guarded the fountain of life and death in Russian folklore. Shmaltz Brewing got in the act with its surprisingly tasty Human Blockhead dark lager, aged in Buffalo Trace barrels. Not to be outdone, Sierra Nevada brought along a barrel-aged version of its imperial stout Narwal.
All in all, it was a dark and boozy night.

SF Beer Week: what’s for dinner (part 2)

The second half of our two-part series on SF Beer Week dinners features the third annual Sau and Brau pork dinner at Drake’s Barrel House, as well as several special Valentine’s Day dinners.
Wednesday, Feb. 13
1933 Davis St., Building 177,
San Leandro, CA 94577

Phone: 510-568-BREW
6-9 p.m.
Third annual whole pig roast with 20 taps of Drakes beer, including small-batch barrel-aged beers. Live music in Drake’s Barrel House Taproom. $50 for a Sau and Brau logo glass, happy hour (6-7 p.m.) with tasting of all regular and strong beers, four tickets for Barrel House beers during happy hour or any beer after happy hour, full pig roast dinner from ChopBar plus dessert. This popular event will probably sell out early.

901 Gilman St.,
Berkeley, CA 94710

Phone: 510-528-9880
6-9 p.m.
Four-course beer-paired dinner and brewery tour with Brewmaster Simon Pesch. Take home a growler of your choice. $45. Limited seating.

3000 20th St.,
San Francisco CA 94110

Phone: 415-826-7004
6:30-9 p.m.
Almanac Brewing and Chef Thomas McNaughton will serve farm to table food with farm to barrel beers. Five-course tasting menu with beer pairings. $130.

150 24th St.,
San Francisco CA 94110

Phone: 415-787-3354
6:30-9:30 p.m.
Wise Sons Jewish Deli and Shmaltz Brewing Co. team up for a night of food and beer pairings. Four-course dinner prepared by Chef Thomas Martinez paired with Shmaltz Brewing beers. Cost: $60, plus tax and tip. Seats are limited.

Brewer’s Banquet with Jennifer Glanville and Seth Adams of Samuel Adams
742 Valencia St.,
San Francisco CA 94110
Phone: 415-626-8700
6-8:30 p.m.
Eight guests total will enjoy four courses paired with a selection of beers from the cellars of The Abbot’s Cellar and Samuel Adams. Brewery managers Jennifer Glanville and Seth Adams will be on hand and special bottles will be opened. Utopia, anyone? Cost: $125, plus tax and gratuity.

Dinner with 21st Amendment Brewery
79 Asilomar Blvd.,
Pacific Grove CA 93950
Phone: 831-648-5774
6:30-9:30 p.m.
Meet and greet reception with 21st Amendment starts at 6:30 p.m., where guests get to sample Sneak Attack Belgian Saison and Hop Crisis Imperial IPA, with passed appetizers. A four-course dinner paired with a flight of 21A IPAs, Fireside Chat (winter seasonal), Hog Island Oyster Stout and Monk’s Blood Ale follows. Admission: $70.

101 North Brewing Company
3129 Clement St.,
San Francisco 94121
Phone: 415-752-5439
5-9 p.m.
A special menu from the Tee Off Kitchen to complement the beers from 101 N Brewing Company.

Brewery Cellar Dinner
 (sold out)
661 Howard St.,
San Francisco, CA 94105

Phone: 415-974-0905
6-9 p.m.
Head Brewer Ron Silberstein and Brewmaster Brenden Dobel will preside over a 4-5 course dinner (menu TBD) with rare bottles and barrel tasting held in the brewery cellar. Only 10-12 tickets available. $70.

Thursday, Feb. 14 (Valentine’s Day)

800 Greenwich St., San Francisco CA 94133
Phone: 415-440-8727
Four-course dinner with beers handpicked by La Trappe’s staff. $65. Reservation times throughout the evening.

563 Second St.,
San Francisco CA 94107

Phone: 415-369-0900
6:30-10 p.m.
Release celebration of Lower De Boom Barley Wine in cans and on draft. Beer Chef Bruce Paton’s special menu will include Lower De Boom as an ingredient and as an accompaniment to his dishes.

A Beer-Lover’s Valentine’s
1410 Locust St.,
Walnut Creek CA 94596
Phone: 925-946-1520
6-9 p.m.
A three-course, beer-paired, candlelit dinner hosted by Pyramid’s executive chef, who will discuss food and beer-pairing techniques. Menu TBD. $30 per person, plus tax and gratuity.

Brewer’s Banquet with Alesmith Brewing Co.
742 Valencia St.,
San Francisco CA 94110
Phone: 415-626-8700
6-8:30 p.m.
An intimate Valentine’s Day beer dinner for eight with Alesmith Brewing, featuring four courses paired with a selection of beers from the cellars of Abbot’s Cellar and Alesmith and special bottles opened just for the table. Cost: $125, plus tax and gratuity. 

Lonely Hearts Club
1 Tillman Place,
San Francisco CA 94108
Phone: 415-373-6341
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Stone Brewing and Hops & Hominy team up for Valentine’s Day with a six-course dinner paired with craft beer from Stone. Price: $85, not including tax and gratuity.

Moonlight Special Featuring Moonlight Brewing Co.
3688 Bohemian Hwy.,
Occidental CA 95465
Phone: 707-874-9037
11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Barley and Hops Tavern highlights Moonlight Brewing Co. with a special three-course menu, all prepared with and served with Moonlight Brewing brews (regular menu will also be available). Brewer Jeff Barkley will be on hand. Special menu with beer samples: $25; without beer samples: $23.

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery Night
3129 Clement St.,
San Francisco 94121
Phone: 415-752-5439
5-9 p.m.
Food pairings and some special menu items for Hangar 24 Craft Brewery.

Friday, Feb. 15
Brewer’s  Banquet with Alaskan Brewing’s Rob Day
742 Valencia St.,
San Francisco CA 94110
Phone: 415-626-8700
6-8:30 p.m.
A most intimate beer dinner with Alaskan Brewing Co. Brewer Rob Day, featuring four courses paired with a selection of Alaskan Brewing beers. Eight guests will sit at the community table and special bottles will be opened. Cost: $125, plus tax and gratuity.

Pacific Brewing Laboratory
1 Tillman Place,
San Francisco CA 94108
Phone: 415-373-6341
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Pacific Brewing Laboratory and Hops & Hominy host a five-course dinner paired with five craft beers from Pac Brew Labs. Cost: $65, not including tax and gratuity.

Beer, Bands and Barbecue with AVBC
853 Valencia St.,
San Francisco CA 94110
Phone: 415-970-0012
Come down to Amnesia for a night of music, food, good times and perhaps some education. Anderson Valley Brewing Co. will bring some small batch brews. Meet the brewer and stick around for live music from Slow Motion Cowboy and Virgil Shaw. $5 for entry or $15 for barbecue, a beer and a pint glass.

Big Sky Brewing Company Night
3129 Clement St.,
San Francisco 94121
Phone: 415-752-5439
5-9 p.m.
Special Big Sky menu from the Tee Off Kitchen inspired by the brews of Big Sky Brewing Company.

Beer and Wild Shrimp
907 Washington St.
Oakland CA 94607
6-9 p.m.
Shrimp, braised pork and other dishes with 21st Amendment beer and Micheladas. Free admission.

Saturday, Feb. 16
Corner of Church and Pacific Avenue,
Santa Cruz, CA


Phone: 813-425-4900
6-10 p.m.
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing hosts a gala event at the Top of the Rittenhouse building, showcasing 40 of the most unique, experimental and unusual beers in the world paired with locally produced, exotic, beer-inspired food. $65 for unlimited beer and food pairings.

942 Geneva Ave.,
San Francisco CA 94112

Phone: 415-469-5508
6-11 p.m.
Three-course dinner (details TBA) paired with four beers from 21A: Marooned on Hog Island Oyster Stout, Sneak Attack Winter Saison, Fireside Chat Winter Warmer and Brew Free or Die IPA. $50; tax is included, gratuity is not.

800 Greenwich St.,
San Francisco CA 94133

Phone: 415-440-8727
Anderson Valley Brewing will bring in some old favorites and some hard to finds to pair with the kitchen’s first Belgian barbecue. Free admission.
BBQ and Bridgeport Pairing
3149 Mission,
San Francisco CA 94110
Phone: 415-896-4250
5-9 p.m.
All during Beer Week, Baby Blues BBQ will feature special pairing menus. On Feb. 16, Bridgeport Brewer Jean Luke Alexander will be on hand to launch Bridgeport’s spring seasonal, Smooth Ryed. $25 pairing menu includes a flight of four beers.

Sunday, Feb. 17
From the Seed to Kernal, Part 2: “Points North” Dinner, featuring Marin Brewing and HenHouse Brewing
1270 Valencia St.,
San Francisco CA 94110
Phone: 415-285-1200
5:30-10 p.m.
The second of a two-part series, this six-course dinner, hosted by Certified Cicerone Sayre Piotrkowski, features veteran brewery Marin Brewing and budding brewery HenHouse. Cost: $85 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Seating is limited.

Samuel Adams Specialty Beer Dinner
1707 Powell St.,
San Francisco CA 94133
Phone: 415 529-2237
6-8:30 p.m.
Chef Dane Boryta pairs a four-course dinner with four special Samuel Adams brews: New Albion Pale Ale, New World Tripel, Norse Legend Sahti and Grumpy Monk Belgian IPA. Certified Cicerone Ross Shepard guides you through the pairings and a beer cocktail awaits upon your arrival. Cost: $48, plus tax and gratuity. Space is limited.

It’s About the Ingredients: A Night with Pac Brew Labs and Almanac
2491 Mission St.,
San Francisco CA 94110
Phone: 415-681-7150
6-10:30 p.m.
Join Patrick Horn of Pacific Brewing Laboratory for two dishes paired with beers from Almanac and Pac Brew Labs. A la carte pricing.

Trappist & Haven Beer Dinner
44 Webster St.,
Oakland CA 94607
Phone: 510-663-4440
Haven hosts The Trappist for a pairing of some spectacular and rare beers to complement Chef Kim Alter’s specially conceived menu. Two seatings. Cost: $80.