It's always a great day to be a craft beer enthusiast in San Francisco. But Saturday, Oct. 18th, is an exceptionally awesome one for suds in the city. It's the debut of the SF Craft Beer Festival at the Fort Mason Center and with an emphasis on regional breweries and fall-inspired expressions, the organizers hope to make it the event of the season.
[jump] Nowadays it seems as if every weekend offers some variation of a beer-centric festival—not that there's anything wrong with that. But the folks responsible for Saturday's two-session extravaganza have taken notable measures to distinguish themselves from the rest. Ken Weaver was tasked with curating a collection of 75 breweries and he's certainly the fella for the job. Weaver is editor-in-chief of Rate Beer — the internet's most visited site for malt hops and yeast — and also wrote the book on Northern California craft beer, literally. Or at least a book on the subject. His focus has been on bringing in regional standouts from smaller producers.
“I'm very much looking forward to showcasing some of our favorite breweries from The Northern California Craft Beer Guide: lesser-known spots like Dust Bowl, High Water, and Knee Deep,” says Weaver. “It's been great to see [these] breweries growing — ditto for spots like Magnolia, Drake's, and Heretic — and the goal is to just bring in a ton of those top-tier breweries and their most interesting releases.”
Just because they haven't risen to mainstream prominence, however, doesn't mean these upstarts have escaped the admiration of the cognoscenti. High Water, for example, recently took home gold at the Great American Beer Festival for their sensational Campfire Stout. Brewed with the ingredients of s'mores, it is quite simply one of the tastiest specialty beers on the market today. Knee Deep medaled last year at GABF with their Belgo Hoptologist, a hybrid infusing Belgian yeasts with the typical West Coast-style IPA. Speak to any self-respecting ale aficionado in the Bay and they're almost certain to be well-versed in both brews.
And while uniquely flavored offerings such as these will flow readily from the tap, attendees on Saturday can also quench their thirst for knowledge with a series of locally-themed seminars and mini-tastings. Beerbybart.com's Gail Ann Williams, for one, leads a discussion on sour beers. Certified cicerones will delve into sensory specifics, zeroing in on the nuances between taste versus flavor; what enters the nose, after all, profoundly affects what tickles the tongue. These enhanced experiences help make SF Craft Beer Festival more comprehensive than your standard beer pouring. They're also sure to make the passionate devotees geek out — for lack of a better term.
Hand Crafted Tasting, the company responsible for producing the event, has assembled similar events in New York and D.C. with continued success. Saturday marks their first foray into the Bay. $55 tickets include admittance to one of two 150-minute sessions. The first is from 2-4:30 p.m., the second, from 7-9:30 p.m. Also included is a souvenir tasting glass, as well as full access to all the educational seminars. An additional $20 affords you VIP status, with an extra hour of drinking prior to either session. For a complete list of participating breweries, as well as ticketing information, check out their website.