Less militarized than Fleet Week and way more fun than Cholera Awareness Week, San Francisco Beer Week is a 10-day festival devoted to the city’s mushrooming craft-beer industry. With dozens of breweries having emerged as significant players in less than a decade, the scene is crowded and the hunt for commercial real estate is tightening — but Fort Point Beer Company has managed an impressive degree of ubiquity in three short years.
Founded by brothers Tyler and Justin Catalana in 2014, this Presidio operation already produces 20,000-barrel runs, and they’re planning an expansion from the Bay Area into Greater Los Angeles. A $3 million cash infusion in 2016 went to new production equipment, but Justin Catalana tells SF Weekly that Fort Point isn’t looking to grow at the fastest possible rate: “If we were, we’d probably be trying to turn on distributors left and right.
“We own and operate all the trucks in San Francisco that deliver Fort Point beer,” he says. It’s something that provides “a level of customer service that’s missing with traditional distribution. For us to keep doing that at a high quality, that holds back our growth a little bit, but we’re happy at the rate we’re growing.”
In the interim, Fort Point’s easily recognizable packaging can be found everywhere from the Riptide to the Ferry Building kiosk the brewery opened last year. (A proper brewpub is forthcoming, although final details are yet-to-be-determined.) The company’s latticed graphics, accented with Art Deco curvilinearity, were designed by Dogpatch design firm Manual and grace the microbrewery’s cans and cases — particularly on its core beers,
KSA (a Kolsch-style ale), Westfalia (a Nuremberg red ale), Park (a hoppy wheat beer), and Villager (a San Francisco IPA).
“They captured a certain sense of San Francisco without hitting the person over the head with it,” Catalana says. “We wanted to extrapolate the Golden Gate Bridge into the design but not necessarily, ‘We’re the Golden Gate Bridge Brewing Company.’ ”
Fort Point — the national historic site, a Civil War-era masonry structure underneath the bridge that once defended the entire Pacific Coast from naval attacks and where Kim Novak’s character attempts to commit suicide in Vertigo — isn’t the most visited spot in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. That hidden-in-plain-sight quality appealed to Catalana, who adopted it for his beer, as “something people discover on their own, and hopefully it turns into their favorite beer.”
Together, the four core beers constitute more than 90 percent of Fort Point’s total sales, spread as they are over the spectrum of light to dark and hoppy to not-so-hoppy. And there are plenty of others, such as Manzanita, a collaboration with Freigeist that has a unique campfire taste, owing to beechwood-smoked malt. There’s charred manzanita in there, too — something that grows in abundance in California, although state law governs how it may be foraged. (You can’t harvest it from the tree; you have to find it naturally, on the ground.)
During the Doyle Drive reconstruction, crews uncovered a species of manzanita that was presumed to have died out decades before, which tickles Fort Point’s head of marketing, Colleen Fredericks.
“It’s ironic that the one thought-to-be-extinct species was found half a mile down the road from us, and we make this beer,” she says. “I think most people associate manzanita with the variety we use, but there’s actually thousands.”
And while the 10 days of Beer Week have dozens of events to choose among, Fort Point works hard at building a full calendar in its own right.
On Saturday, Feb. 11, 1:30-4 p.m., the brewery will pair once again with Hong Kong Lounge in the Richmond for a Dim Sum Beer Brunch. It’s not a formal, one-to-one pairing of bites to brews, Catalana insists.
“It’s great to connect with a restaurant that’s kind of a San Francisco staple that people don’t necessarily think of as a traditional place to do a beer pairing with,” he says. “This has more of a fun social aspect to it.”
Later in the week, the brewery will join National Park Service rangers for tours of Battery Godfrey (Sunday, Feb. 12, 4-7 p.m., with Boccalone, Guittard Chocolate, Firebrand Bakery, and others) and the actual Fort Point (Wednesday, Feb. 15, 5-8 p.m., with Del Popolo Pizza), as well as a guided, three-mile hike led by the Presidio Trust to explore the Andy Goldsworthy sculptures scattered throughout the Presidio, with a beer tasting to follow (Saturday, Feb. 18, 2-4:30 p.m.).
“We’ve had a lot of fun working with the National Park Service,” Fredericks says.
In keeping with the nontraditional Beer Week events, they’ll take over the Sun Terrace at 101 First St., a privately owned public open space (or POPO), and turn it into a beer garden on Thursday, Feb. 16, 5-8 p.m., along with music, art, and a special manzanita ice cream from Humphry Slocombe. Plus, they’ll pop up at the Botanical Garden as the magnolia trees flower on Saturday, Feb. 11, for Blooms + Brews, and during an evening of glass-blowing demonstrations at Public Glass in the Bayview on Saturday, Feb. 18.
In other words, what powers Fort Point’s rise is this relentless drive to build relationships with bars, restaurants, and cultural institutions all over the city. From manzanitas to masonry, Beer Week is just a natural extension of it.