Our Favorite Beers from SF Beer Week’s Opening Gala

And where to find them this week.

(Don Bernal)

I’ve always said that by itself, the SF Beer Week Opening Gala is already the finest beer festival of the year in the Bay and 120 breweries from the greater Bay Area were pouring their best at Pier 35 this past Friday night. This is a hard place to contain yourself, and I definitely drank too much, too fast, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. (I’ll take the Pepsi challenge on the Bay Area area beer scene versus anywhere else in the country.) We’re spoiled here and it’s a fantastic time to be a craft beer consumer.

So, in the spirit of the week of events that lies ahead, these were my five standout beers from an eventually hazy evening — no pun intended — along with where you can try these selections for yourself during SF Beer Week.

Temescal “Summer Somewhere” Hazy Lager
While the “hazy” designation can come across like it’s trying to ride the prevailing beer wave, this beer is actually done really well, with Southern Passion hops as its backbone. It’s a strong lager at 6.6 percent ABV, it tastes clean, and the nose is immaculate. Gonna give this the “I could drink a million of these” award.

Where To Drink It: Beer Talk, by Womxn: State of Craft Beer Panel Discussion + Party at Temescal: Beer, DJs, pickles, an important panel moderated by the Good Beer Hunting podcast’s Alyssa Pereira and dumplings, too! 
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 5 p.m. at Temescal Brewing, free.

Barebottle “Parallel” Dry Pilsner
I went to Europe last summer (#humblebrag) and while in Prague, I had the best beer of my life. It wasn’t one in particular; it was all of the incredible Czech pilsners. Something’s in the water over there, and ever since I’ve been back, I’ve been on a quest for that perfect Pilsner. I’m not sure anything will ever stack up, but Barebottle’s Parallel Pils on Friday night has been among the closest. Fresh, as dry as its name suggests, and lip-smackingly crisp, it has no skunkinness whatsoever on the finish. We need more respectable, locally made pilsners — and damnit, this one is sure scratching the itch.

Where To Drink It: Barebottle Tap Takeover at Richmond Republic Alehouse: Shout out to a fine beer hall on Clement St. Also, it’s Taco Tuesday. Go.
Tuesday, Feb. 5, all day.

Almanac & Local Brewing “Grissly Bear Grisette”
You may ask yourself, what is a Grisette and how did it get here? Welp, it’s a Belgian farmhouse ale of sorts, brewed with wheat and some folks have even come to consider it a “cousin” of the saison. I’ll say this, Almanac and Local Brewing’s collaboration was the best beer of the night, cause who the fuck else is making a Grisette these days? (Let alone one you can get in a can and let alone one that’s this damn good.) The tartness was well-balanced, and it has a really complex flavor profile, especially on the finish, coming across grassy and mouth-watering. It’s also made with 100-percent California ingredients. So put that in your pipe and smoke it — er, in your glass and drink it!

Where To Drink It: Beer is Agriculture: A Grain To Glass Tour, Tasting And Discussion at Almanac/Admiral Maltings. Head to Almanac’s taproom (The Rake) in Alameda on a Saturday and get to know more barley, hop, yeast and malt producers than you can fit in a barn.
Saturday, Feb. 9, 1:30 pm, $15-20.

Armistice “Pilly” Haze
Of all the hazy IPAs that I took down — and there were a lot — this one from Armistice shined above the rest. Mind you, I drank this late in the game, when flavors weren’t making as much sense anymore, so double kudos to Pilly and Armistice for managing to stand out in spite of this. Dry-hopped with Citra, Mosaic, and the unique Wakatu hop, it’s one of the best expressions of the Hazy IPA I’ve had the pleasure of canoodling with.

Where To Drink It: A Very Viking Valentine’s at Armistice.  The infamous V-Day celebraish is back for another year at the Richmond brewery. A five-course “Viking Meal” with beer pairings and “pillaging.” The best part about it is that it’s not on Feb. 14, so you can skip the crowds or double up the festivities, depending on what kind of lover you are.
Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8-9, at Armistice, $85.

Cellarmaker Bourbon Barrel “Blammo” Coconut Stout
I found the most perfect chocolate flavor ever — and I found it in a beer, no less! I had a second pour of this 15-percent ABV goodness and it’s likely what put me over the top for the evening, but I can still taste the coconut-y, chocolate finish lingering on my palate. It was like a frozen, chocolate-covered Oreo filled with coconut creme inside of a Heaven Hill bourbon barrel that it had been in for a year. You’re crazy man. I like you, but you’re crazy.

Where To Drink It: Cellarmaker Tap Room on Howard St. The big Blammo event came and went at Cellarmaker’s new House of Pizza in Bernal on Friday night — you’ll probably want to go there soon too, — but you can still get Blammo at the Brewery. For now.

A full SF Beer Week events listing can be found at sfbeerweek.org.

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